Bartender Life Lessons and Shocking Stories

Some people assume that bartenders’ jobs are all fun and games. And honestly, at times it’s fun as hell! Until poo starts getting thrown on the ceiling mid-shift. Yeah, it’s happened.

Today, you’ll hear firsthand some of the most shocking, outrageous, and downright disgusting stories from behind the bar. We’ve asked our team of industry veterans at Local Bartending School to share their weirdest, wildest stories. They’ve seen it all and they’re ready to spill the tea.

So whether you’re a new bartender waiting to start bartending school, researching for your first day on the job, or have years of experience, we hope these tales and horror stories from behind the bar make you feel a little less alone when you inevitably have a horrific shift of your own and shit hits the fan. Literally.

Wildly Shocking Bartender Stories

“I used to work at a hotel with a strict last-call policy. They had some issues in the past, plus (and more importantly) local laws prevented any more drinks from being poured. A rewards member checked in super late while I was doing closing paperwork. Ya know, cash drops – all the fun stuff. He walked over to my closed bar and insisted I pour him a nightcap. I explained to him that I legally couldn’t pour him one. But he didn’t care! And because he was a rewards member (the highest tier), he threatened my job over and over again. After almost an hour of bantering with this man, I gave in and met him near his room with the drink he requested, like a drug deal. I wasn’t about to lose my liquor license, but I wanted to go home! Moral of the story: screw rewards members.”

“We had an insanely rowdy crowd in our downtown bar one busy night. And the only way to get them to listen to our last call was to play the ukulele and sing to them. It worked! They were in a trance-like state listening to our freestyle last call song. Shortly after they paid up and went home. Why did we have a random ukulele? We may never know…”  

“I was working in a busy downtown Chicago cocktail bar and a European rugby league was in town for a conference. They. Can. Drink. We were getting our asses straight handed to us for hours. The crowd was growing to be a bit too rough and it was about 10 minutes from last call. So we called it. No one in that bar heard a peep. So, one of my coworkers stood up on a table to get their attention. Major fail. The entire crowd jumped up on all the tables and started to sing their national anthem. Honestly, it was awesome. And terrifying.”

“I worked at a bar that had a patio. It was also a part of the sidewalk where anyone could walk. One time, I was serving a table outside and came across a random lady passed out drunk on one of our chairs. Like, out cold. She was starting to cause a scene, we were a higher-end bar. It was a bad look for us! I wanted to help her up, but I wasn’t allowed to move her in case she was injured (it’s a legal thing). That left my bar manager with one option. Call the cops. But if you’ve ever lived in Chicago, you’ll know they’re extremely understaffed. So not surprisingly to us Chicagoans, the police never showed up. She sat with us until she woke up, called her man, and got picked up. Where’s a bouncer when you need one?” 

“Some bars in different states allow kids to sit down at the lower tables. I was serving a mom and her kid, things were going normally. Until the kid asked me for a refill by saying, ‘I need another drink, slave!’ Expecting his mom to fully smack him upside the head like my mom would have done, she looked me directly in the eyes and said, ‘Oh honey, she’s not a slave. She’s a beer wench.’ I told my manager to finish closing them out before I poured a margarita on that kid and his mom.”

“While tending the bar on a slow winter’s day, a lady made eye contact with me and straight-up asked me, ‘So how do you actually make a living?’ Lady, we all put our pants on the same way.” 

“Instead of a tip, I got a whole leg of prosciutto.”

“Some swingers were at my bar the other night. They totally accosted me, then I hooked up in the bathroom. AT WORK.”

“Second night working at my college bar, some girl pooped on the floor, picked it up, and threw it up on the ceiling. Third week of work, every girl decided to shit in the same toilet for five straight hours while adding new layers of toilet paper and tampons without flushing it in between. Those were some dark days.” – Fick Darkus

Credit: pepe nero via Unsplash | When the drinks are so bad you’ll drink the mop water...

“A patron at my work a few months ago grabbed a mop that we used in the toilets and on the dance floor and sucked the mop juice from it.” – septicdank

We hope that you, new or experienced, never have to go through those horrifying situations behind the bar. We hope your Saturday nights are full of normal drunk guys.

But we do know there are a few things you’ll learn from bartending that actually can be quite useful in your everyday life. Sure, some of them are totally weird. But some come in handy! And yeah, this one deals with poo, too.

10 Random Life Lessons You'll Learn from Bartending

How to hold a million things at one time. When you go to the back of the house, you gotta make every trip worth it. No hand empty, no bar tool left behind. Grab everything!

The worst pickup lines. You’ll learn exactly what not to say when you’re hitting on someone.

The trade of eating in less than 5 minutes. Food is fuel. And without it, you won’t work very well. The time for savoring each bite is over. Your dinners will be consumed at work, in the corner, and under five minutes. 

Total control of your digestive system. Your body will get so used to not being able to relieve itself, you’ll have a routine bowel movement every night shortly after close. It’s a phenomenon, really. 

Basic cooking and prep skills. Those limes don’t cut themselves! You’ll be volunteering to cut produce for every family dinner to show off your new knife skills. And your parents told you to get a “real job.” Well, let’s see his limes!

A more efficient way to do dishes at home. Who else can clean hundreds of stemware and beer pints in thirty minutes? Bartenders and barbacks can crank out dishes like a well-oiled Amazon warehouse.

Ways to talk to many different humans, from all types of backgrounds. If you want to be a great bartender, you need to be a chameleon and talk to people how they want to be talked to. So, you’ll learn to converse with all sorts of people.

Counseling skills. Bar guests come in all shapes and sizes, especially concerning their emotional state. You’ll console people coming from funerals, divorce court, and custody battles. But you’ll also celebrate weddings, plenty of birthdays, and big wins at work. 

Tricks on de-escalating any drunk situation. Getting people drunk comes with a sense of responsibility. You’ll know how to help any drunk rando on the street, even when you’re not at work.

 A high tolerance for grabbing hot things. You’ll be sticking your hands in scalding hot water and putting away dishes that could melt the ozone layer faster than cow farts.

Credit: Yu Heng via Unsplash | Have you ever grabbed a glass fresh out of the dishwasher? How’d it go?

Reach out to Local Bartending School so we can prep you for everything you might experience behind the bar. The good, the bad, and the ugly – we’ll get you ready!

Carrie Jean Lipe

Carrie Lipe has been writing creatively since childhood but jump-started her professional writing after college. She's an Indiana native, Ball State Hospitality graduate, and a bartender with over 10+ years in the industry. You can find her making basil Moscow mules when she's not writing. Follow her professional journey on Instagram! @contentbycarriejean