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Waterfront Festival

A Bartender in Notts

20 July 18 illustrations: Alex McDougall

"I’ve learnt that you have to take your time with it, especially if you're pouring ales." 

July 5, 2014 was the date that I pulled my first pint. I’ve made sure to remember the anniversary. I think the guy ordered a Peroni or an Amstel, and at first it was a bit of a monstrosity; it had quite a head on it. I was quaking in my boots because I didn’t want to mess it up. I’ve learnt that you have to take your time with it, especially if you're pouring ales. Don’t rush it. Pour it nice and slow, because ale drinkers can be quite the connoisseurs.

I was a regular for years before I started working at The Maze. My first proper introduction to the family involved me beatboxing at their open mic night. I got chatting to the owner, Gaz, and eventually started hosting the event. I’d just left my job at Poundland and was in and out of the Job Centre, which sent me a bit doolally, and luckily Gaz ended up giving me a job on the bar after I put out an S.O.S Facebook status asking for work.

Sometimes you have to deal with rude customers; that’s what I dislike most about the job. You ring last orders, which gives everyone fifteen minutes to get a final drink. When it gets to twelve o’clock: bam, we’re done. But people still come up and ask for a cheeky pint when I’m trying to clean up, so I just tell them that there’s a 24-hour shop down the road. Recently a guy came to the bar and asked for a “f**king Corona.” My colleague told him that he didn’t appreciate being spoken to like that, but ended up serving him after the bloke explained that he was Australian, and that’s just how he talks.

Bad customers can be a bit of a bummer, but it is rare, and all just part of the bar game. As long as you keep calm, professional and diplomatic, nothing can go wrong. It’s about being nice to the people serving you; we’re the ones with the power to give you what you want.

Shifts are typically about eight hours on weekdays; weekends can sometimes be ten or more hours if it's a drum ‘n’ bass night. When it gets really busy on the bar, stuff like changing barrels, sorting out misbehaving customers or trying to get hold of late staff members can be a real challenge. But it’s nothing we can’t handle. If it’s been a crazy hectic one, we usually have a staff drink and a ciggy before we go over the cleaning duties as a team.   

The job is all about connectivity; being able to be part of an amazing night and knowing you’ve created a comfortable environment for people to let their hair down and enjoy themselves. It truly is a great feeling. On one of my first shifts, an older lady asked me to recommend her an ale that was sweet and dark like me, so I poured her a pint of Castle Rock's Midnight Owl.

When I was a kid, I really wanted to get into acting to be a comedy actor. People like Jim Carrey and Eddie Murphy were my heroes. I was a bit of a class clown at school, so I went to drama classes, but when I was thirteen I was worried people might make fun of me for taking them, so I stopped that and started getting more into music.

All I knew was that I wanted to be something like an entertainer. I guess I’m one of those people who’s never really known what they want to do. Apart from plot for world domination, of course. If someone was to tell me I would be working at The Maze in 2014, and would be promoted to supervisor within a year before eventually moving in upstairs, I wouldn't have believed them.

Each bar has its own story, its own kind of feel. I’d like to encourage bars to give customers more of a local insight, so more venues are giving local artists a platform to perform. Where I work is a communal cornerstone for both local acts and acts outside of Nottingham; we've got people from all over the UK coming down, even if it's just an open mic night. They really appreciate what we’re doing and how we do it. I’d love to see that spread out more across the bar industry.

This job is without a doubt the best I could ever ask for, and I’m eternally grateful that this opportunity came my way. I have met some of the most amazing people and had some of the most golden nights here, both on the bar and on the stage.

Recently, a really energetic, fiery ska-punk band called China Bull Shop were playing, and I’d bought one of their t-shirts to wear especially. I was really low on energy that night, ready for bed, but when they started playing their penultimate song, they pointed me out to the crowd and invited me to join them on stage. I did a bit of beatboxing with them, and ended up stage diving and crowd surfing. After that, I just went back to the bar and thought, “Yeah, I needed that.” There’s never a dull moment.  

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