Returning Ornaments to Bars

I saw this story on Belfast Live where a drunken reveller stole an ornament from Sweet Afton in Belfast and it reminded me of a tale from my Whites Tavern days. Above the fireplace we had a stuffed animal… honestly, I don’t know if I could accurately say what animal it was… maybe a Stoat? We told people it was a Lagan Rat – the thing was huge. Somebody took it home with themselves after a drunken saturday night. The thing was gone for weeks! To be honest, things get stolen all the time… glassware, cutlery – random things. It just becomes another thing to deal with, but this Stoat was iconic to us. Tourists asked of it all the time, locals too – our wee Stoat. Then one morning I turned up to unlock the building and under the shutters was a thick envelope… no Stoat, but wait… Inside were pictures of the Stoat from locations all around Belfast and the wider area. Someone had taken it to the Castlereagh Hills, to Stormont (the bottom of the hill), Scrabo Tower, Samson & Goliath… even Belfast Zoo (which seemed a bit morbid to me…). How someone took the time and energy to do all this was incredible! It had a note attached that simple said, “We wanted to show him more of the world.” The Stoat never returned home… but we know that he saw more of Belfast than he ever would have from atop a soot covered...
Behind The Bar Tales: The Ninth: Bomb Scare Special

Behind The Bar Tales: The Ninth: Bomb Scare Special

The date was December 20th 2013. I had been managing Whites Tavern for nearly 7 years at this point, recently though I had also taken up managing The Point Bar & Grill in Ballyhackamore. The last Friday before Christmas, in the bar/restaurant trade, is almost as mad as it gets. Most people have finished work that evening for the winter break and to celebrate, they hit the bars like a tonne of bricks. We were fully booked in both bars, I had only been managing The Point for 3 months and had a team in Whites who had survived many christmas seasons, so I decided to spend the working evening in Ballyhackamore. What could go wrong…? I saw on twitter that there was a bomb alert in Belfast City Centre. Just around the corner from Whites. So I did exactly what every non-sane person would do, I got in my car and drove towards it. I’m sure this is common practice for emergency services, journalists and the like, but it definitely doesn’t fall into the “job responsibilities” of bar management… at least not the advertised ones anyway. Here is a crappily drawn map – The red circle is Whites Tavern. The Black Square is the suspect device, the blue crosses are police barriers and the green arrow is the only open route to get to Whites. I had spoken with staff who said the police had advised them that they were safe and that we didn’t have to evacuate as it was far enough away from the premises, so the staff were valiantly battling on. I arrived and the...
Behind The Bar Tales: The Eighth – The Engagement

Behind The Bar Tales: The Eighth – The Engagement

Saturday night after a busy shift, I’m sweeping the floors and I find a purse, in the purse are the usual stuff, some bank cards, store cards, receipts, money and an engagement ring. Quite an expensive looking engagement ring too… although to most men, I think all engagement rings look expensive. There’s no contact information other than linking the woman’s name with her Boot’s Advantage card, that kinda thing. In situations like this I normally give it a few days and then contact the banks and tell them the card has been found and could the contact the account holder and tell them where they can pick it up. I probably should report the cards as lost straight away, but I always think they might come in the next morning, at which point I’ll have cancelled their bank cards and will have to through that whole fuss of getting new cards. So I wait. Sunday morning and I’m in getting set up for the day, I get a phone call from a woman who says she was in the night before and she thinks she lost her purse in the bar, I ask her name and it checks out so I tell her yeah, it’s here, she can come and collect it at any point. A couple of hours pass and then the woman and a guy come in, introduce themselves, he is her fiancé and she was out for the night with some friends when she lost her purse. I hand over the purse and say “I checked it when I found it, it looks like there is...
Behind The Bar Tales: The Seventh – Celebs

Behind The Bar Tales: The Seventh – Celebs

The nature of running a touristy historic bar like White’s Tavern is that from time to time, you’re going to get celebrities coming in. I’m not a fame-chaser, it’s kinda interesting when you see someone you recognize from TV or film or sports but unless it’s someone I’m a fan of, or they’re in something I’m a fan of, it’s just anecdotal. Here’s a few celeb anecdotes from my time in White’s. John C. McGinley This guy, I’m a fan of! I’m a huge fan of Scrubs, I would regularly binge watch series for days on end, Dr. Cox was a bit of an idol (if you’re not used to my writing, I’m a big fan of sarcasm…). If you don’t recognise the name, you may know him from films like The Rock, Any Given Sunday or Wild Hogs. So, being the Scrubs fan that I am, I was standing serving away on a busy Saturday night shift, I spotted John C. McGinley standing at the end of the bar, chatting away to someone. Not gonna lie, i was a bit starstruck… I mean, this is DR COX! So I threw all queue etiquette out of the window and went to him next, I didn’t want another server getting to him first! I stood by him, this iconic actor from my favourite show, this king of sarcasm, he was talking away to someone and I didn’t want to be rude so I politely waited for him to finish his conversation. He must have spotted me standing there, he turned to me and said “hey man, you looking for me...
Behind The Bar Tales: The Sixth – The Baby Guinness

Behind The Bar Tales: The Sixth – The Baby Guinness

My first ever shift in a bar was in White’s Tavern, when I was over visiting Belfast on half-term. I’d done glass collecting in pubs before, I’d helped in kitchens as a KP, but I’d never served a drink in my life… I used to tell this story regularly to new bar staff, partly to let them know that everyone makes mistakes, partly so that I was in control of the story, instead of them hearing the story from somebody else that could paint it even worse than it was. It wasn’t a particularly busy shift, and after a couple of hours, the shift supervisor, let’s call him Wayne, went upstairs to sort something out, leaving me on the bar alone. A guy came up to the bar and ordered a round which included a Baby Guinness. I’d never heard of this before and thought “that’s a bit of an odd one… but ok, whatever.” So I grabbed a half pint glass, filled it 2/3 of the way up with Guinness and left it to settle. I got the rest of the order together and set it up for the guy. The customer then saw the half pint of Guinness waiting to be finished and said “I didn’t order that,” I said “you asked for a Baby Guinness,” he replied, “No, a Baby Guinness… a shot!” I thought “that’s even weirder… but I guess if that’s what he wants, then that’s what he wants…” So I grabbed a shot glass, cocked it at a 45 degree angle and poured about half a seconds worth of Guinness into the shot...
Behind The Bar Tales: The Fifth – The Rasta & The Goth

Behind The Bar Tales: The Fifth – The Rasta & The Goth

This one goes back about 8 years, to when I was working in a cocktail bar in Waterloo, London. It was one of the more challenging bar jobs I’ve had, I can do cocktails and enjoy the innovation but back then it was just a chore to me, it was mojito after mojito after mojito after mojito… It was relentless! Within the bar, I was the only native English speaker who worked there, the owner and a couple of staff were Indian and the bar manager and all of the other front of house staff were Eastern European, if there was a problem or a situation developing, I’d be shoved to the front because I had better language skills than the other staff. This was normally fine, having to explain to a customer why it is in fact NOT impossible for us to run out of mint and have to take the mojito off the menu for the evening. Occasionally though, it would be to talk a situation down from a point of conflict. Most issues can be talked out, but when the staff member intervening didn’t perhaps have the right words or understanding of the argument in question, it can be more difficult. Waterloo, for those that don’t know, is on the south bank of the Thames in London, there’s a lot of… I’m thinking of the nicest way to put this… let’s say “tough areas,” there are lots of gangs, there’s a lot of crime. On one busy weekend evening, balls-to-the-walls, the owner came to the bar and pointed out a guy who was clearly absolutely wasted,...