Being a bartender is pretty fun — you get to make interesting small talk (yes, there is such a thing!), learn how to make some pretty snazzy drinks, and know a heck of a lot more fun facts about alcohol and hangovers than your friends. It’s a kind of party trick, really.
The only time bartending isn't so fun is when the rules aren't followed. It means bad news for everyone involved.
Most of the time when I have to refuse alcohol to one of my customers, I receive a confused reply. They don’t know why I can’t serve them more than two drinks, or why I’ve refused to serve them at all. Despite the very many “IT’S THE LAW” posters created by the Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission, most people still don’t understand that when it comes to liquor, the customer definitely isn’t “always right.” Here’s why:
No drink will get you drunker faster than another.
When I serve you a shot of vodka and a glass of red wine, you’re getting the same amount of alcohol when I serve your friend two beers. This is because everything is reduced to a “standard drink,” which contains the exact same amount of alcohol. Besides, the term “drunk” is subjective; everyone reacts to a standard drink in different ways, and there are a host of other factors that determine your Blood Alcohol level.
Liquor cannot be served or sold between 2 a.m. and 10 a.m.
Bars can stay open until 3 a.m. to let you finish your drink, though. The “last call” isn't just some cool thing a bartender says in a movie — it’s actually a real thing.
You cannot leave the premises with your drink.
All liquor must be consumed on a licensed premises, which does not include a sidewalk.
I’ve told many people that they must leave their drinks inside while they go for their smoke, and many of these people are confused by this rule. The public sidewalk is not licensed, so find a trusted source to hold your drink for you if you have to step out.
We can refuse to serve you liquor. We also have the right to ask you to leave. If you cause a disturbance, you can be charged.
Trust me, no one likes doing this, but sometimes it has to be done. If you’re obviously drunk or under the influence of another substance, it’s against the law to serve you liquor. This is probably the worst part of being a bartender, because I never know how a drunk person will react to the word “no.”
The greatest part about bartending, though, is the conversations I get to have with my patrons; even if I may not be well-travelled or a world-class musician, I’ve certainly met my fair share of them. Bartending has shown me the vastly colourful population this world has, and I’m all the more thankful for it. Take this as an invitation: if you’re waiting alone at a bar, start chatting up the bartender!
Despite the one or two bad cases I may have had as a bartender, for the most part people are understanding and super cool about following the rules. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing: to return home safe and happy.
Resources You Might Want to Check Out Yourself:
"Liquor Laws and You: An Operating Guide for Licensed Premises"
"Low Risk Drinking Guidelines"
Relationships are a big part of the student life experience – from friends to food, a large portion of our adult associations are formed during our university years, and this includes our relationship with alcohol. In our latest series of stories, YouAlberta has partnered with the Healthy Campus Unit to explore a variety of student-alcohol relationships.
Rachel is always up for a good adventure, as long as it doesn’t involve spiders. When not snuggled in a corner connected to headphones and attached to a good book, she’s spending her last year at the U of A tracking down as many quirky people and events as this campus can offer. She would willingly and gladly roll down more hills — and believes this is a valid pastime — if not for her allergy to grass.