Thursday, 18 August 2016

Don't Serve Warm Drinks...and other Bar Preventables.

A couple of years ago at a friends wedding, I arrived to find myself in a massive line up for drinks. I don't mean the typical few minute wait, giving you enough time to get your tickets/money out, chat with the couple ahead of you in some nonchalant attempt to pass the time or change your mind, at least once, about which poison you were going to pick...I mean, the line did not move for at least 15 minutes. I wondered if they had run out of liquor (oh the horror!) or if they were having issues turning away an over intoxicated patron, but when I finally got to the front of the line I saw the issue, clear as day. At an event with well over 200 people there were 2 bartenders. Whom I recognized as friends of the groom. Whom I also never knew to be bartenders by trade. 

They were clearly in over their heads, overwhelmed and unorganized. Empty cups were strewn about the bar top, money was falling off the edges, people were huffing and puffing and I'm pretty sure one of the bartenders was about to cry/in the midst of a mental breakdown/about to pull the fire alarm in an attempt to thwart any plans of the bar getting any busier. Just then two members of the wedding party, who were obviously intoxicated, came to help behind the bar. This posed all new risks to the event that I'm sure they weren't even aware of. Legal risks. The line began moving again, I ordered my rye and ginger, received it and took and sip. Warm. El Nino warm. If you've ever had a warm rye and ginger when you were expecting a cold one your probably as horrified reading this as I was sipping it. The bartender, noticing, my less than subtle reaction, advised me they had run out of ice and "someone" was going to go get some "when they had a chance." Knowing this was not her fault, I thanked her, the empathetic server in me tipped her, I took my drink and reminded myself to order a beer next time. 

This was the bar situation ALL NIGHT. The wedding was beautiful, the music was great, don't even get me started on the heartfelt speeches (I'm a crier, I'll admit it) but it was brought up on more than one occasion how horrible the bar situation was. A year later at a mutual friends Jack and Jill, the bride confided in me that her now husband had said his friends offered to get their smart serves and work the event for free, just collecting tips and she thought nothing of it at the time but to that day, harboured regret and even embarrassment about the decision. 

The bar aspect often gets overlooked but in truth, it's a pinnacle of your event. It's where people culminate to chat, catch up, where you provide your guests with drinks to celebrate your big day, where your Uncle Jerry gets the liquid courage to do Russian kicks on the dance floor, even when he has no business doing Russian kicks in the first place.

Here are a few mistakes to avoid in regards to the bar aspect of your event.

Paying Less and Expecting More. There is a saying that ‘you get what you pay for’. It's a coined term for a reason..because a lot of the time, it's true. The same applies to hiring bar staff.  Sure, it's great to throw your sisters-best friends-brother a bone and hiring him at 50% of the cost of a professional company but consider the work you are getting. Is he experienced? Is he certified? Does he have insurance? Will he care about the 'review' you give him on his non existent website? Will he feel the need to work within the AGCO and Smart Serve guidelines? Does he have a float? Bar utensils? Backup liquor? Is this his passion or his 'bread and butter?' Quality bar staff may cost more but they are the better option if you are to end up with a successful event. 

Taking too much time in deciding. Event planning takes a lot of time, energy, organization and everyone has areas they put more and less into. Don't let the bar aspect be the latter. I say this for a variety of reasons, one being my own experience with being a hired professional bartender. I often have brides contact me only mere months from their wedding, saying either their "bartenders" fell through, they forgot to hire a bartender or thought their venue or caterer supplied them, only to find out I am completely booked for that weekend. I feel bad turning people away knowing the importance and necessity of needing a licensed, experienced bartender. There are only so many 3rd party bartending companies and so many weekends for weddings and events. Make the bar a priority, your guests, wallet and sanity will thank you for it. 

Leaving out the details. No drink menu? It happens more often than you think. Your guests should be aware of not only what you are serving, but what you aren't and the costs associated. Most importantly...I cannot believe the amount of times I have been to events with a heavy bar presence where there is no information on safe rides home. This, as a licensed bartender, makes me cringe. There is not only legal responsibilities but those of your conscious as well. Leave cab company cards or a notice with info for safe rides home on your bar, this is especially important for your out of town guests who do not know the area or the cab companies. 

Doing it ALL yourself. DIY is great. I'm a sucker for Pinterest'ing well...everything. But some things are just out of reach and that's okay. Especially when your planning an event. Handle what you want or what you can and let the professionals do the rest. One thing I was adamant about when starting Alewife was that I was going to make customer service and client relief a top priority. I don't charge my clients for the 'extra's'-if they need advice on how much ice to buy for an event of 150 people, I gladly supply it, instead of allowing them to spend hours on Google trying to siphon the good advice from the bad and still ending up serving warm drinks.  Don't be afraid to reach out to your event vendors and ask for a little help, advice, etc. It's what you hire them for after all!

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