A Barman’s View

May 4th, 2005

As a member of one of the first groups of students to attend University under a Neo-Labour government, I was a pioneer in the now common phenomena of crushing student debt. I grudgingly took a bar job, securing a place at one of the most happening nightspots in town. Fellow Countdown addicts were actually jealous. After all, I was listening to music and getting to chat to some of the fittest birds in club land, and getting paid for it, right?

Wrong! My workplace began its life as an elitist establishment where the cream of Manchester's clubbers would rub elbows with footballers and soap stars. Customers were polite and generous in the tipping stakes; you could easily double your wages by ingratiating yourself to the right people. Unfortunately, the in-crowd is a fickle lot and soon moved onto trendier haunts.

Plummeting takings encouraged my employers to transform the place into a 'multi-music venue', this meant it was willing to put on anything from student nights dripping in cheese to UK Garage events populated by gangland bastards. As long as they brought the punters in, we were happy to host them. Teenagers insisting on buying single vodkas with credit cards, or crack smoking gangsters demanding bottles of Remy Martin at the price they pay in their local KwickSave. Both made the space between rocks and hard places look appealing.

Things got even worse when I left the confines (and safety) of the bar. Whilst collecting glasses, you will find people go out of their way to be as unhelpful as possible. Upon spying you carrying a stack of glasses, people, who until then have been dancing in a very conservative manner, will suddenly become Britain's answer to John Travolta. Every attempt to pass them will be met with an extravagant lurch in your direction. They find this really funny, even funnier is when they are brandishing a cigarette that they seem to want to extinguish on your eyeball.

The dancing was almost as dangerous as the fighting, both occurred with similar frequency. The aforementioned garage nights were predictably the worst for this. If you stick 6 different breeds of warring Mancunian nutcase under one roof, douse them in brandy and fumigate them with crack the results are unlikely to be cordial. So it proved, tellingly, the ranks of the bouncers were swelled from 20 to 35 for such occasions. Even then, they were hopelessly outnumbered as the gangs joined force to combat them. I was pretty blasé about it, until one super-chav launched a sizeable, angular ash tray down the length of the bar which came within millimetres of decapitating me. I was happy to hide in the kitchen with the women from then on.

It's not all bad to be honest. Blokes who have overdosed on loud-mouth soup are pretty easy to out-manoeuvre on the pulling front, leaving a bevy of beauties up for grabs. You also get your own mini-army of bouncers if you're willing to chat shit about wrestling and Lucozade with them. After hours' drinking is the cherry on the cowpat though; getting wonky always proved more attractive than going to the lectures I was using the job to pay for.