February 19, 2021
When you’re trying to take a break from booze, an obvious starting point may be to avoid the bar scene altogether. Sounds easy enough, but what about when you’re a bartender?
The open-late bar industry is a beast of its own. Fast paced nights often turn into an after shift knock-off while cleaning up with co-workers. Which can lead to several more. It’s not uncommon to be finally tucking into bed after 3am.
When I first started working behind the bar, this became a slippery slope. Bartending felt as though I was the gatekeeper of fun. Occasionally when we wrapped up the shifts, there was a desire to play catch-up and join in the nonsense with all the familiar faces we had just served.
Alternatively, sometimes after one heck of a shift, I was so exhausted that I couldn’t possibly imagine partying after. BUT, still, the free beer post-shift began to act as a reward for all the hard work. And oh boy, did it taste good.
It was hard to break free of these habits and rituals that seemed to come with the gig. One thing that acted as a motivator to take a break was money. On this side of the bar, you get a first hand look at how much cash people are willing to spend on a night out. Instead of being jealous of how much fun they were having, I began to think about it as getting to be a part of the social outing but not having to spend a cent. In fact, I was MAKING money.
I also began to realize that drinking wasn’t necessary to have a good time. After rocking hundreds of weekend shifts sober, I found myself coming out of my shell socially. In previous years, having a drink in my hand was sort of a security blanket. A small taste of alcohol allowed me to let loose and feel more comfortable in a party setting. When I began bartending, I quickly realized that you have to essentially put on a show for the customers, even when you aren’t necessarily feeling like a social butterfly. And stone cold sober. With this experience, I feel so much more at ease walking into a new environment substance free.
I also began looking for good substitutes for beer. Thankfully, the brewery I work for released an amazing non-alcoholic beer that tasted delicious with absolutely none of the regrets that came with a regular old pint. It was no coincidence that the slogan for Libra is ‘Find your Balance’ which is exactly what I feel like I’ve learned from working in the industry.
Balance is absolutely the one thing that has stuck with me. No, I haven’t cut out alcohol completely. But I have found many ways to incorporate it into my life in a much healthier way. I have a much easier time saying nah to my knockoff pint, a much easier time saying pass to a late night party after I clock out. A much easier time choosing to stay sober. Now I can enjoy the vibrant craft beer community and the wonderful people that come with it.
Grace Gormley is a bartender, DJ, and content creator for Upstreet Craft Brewing on Prince Edward Island.