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Searching For The New Normal

Where once they were behind the bar, now most bartenders can be found behind a keyboard, and as Charlie Lehmann points out, that’s even more frightening.

By: Charlie Lehmann|April 18,2020

When I was 14, I pulled back my slingshot and shot the girl that lived next door in the leg with a small rock (no shit). She wailed (snitches get stitches) and my mum gave me a swift kick up the bum and I was grounded from going to the world-famous (in Australia at least) Easter Show (google it, it’s a 14-year-old wet dream).

That meant no hanging with friends, no dropping $100 cash on rides and no acquisition of the coveted Easter Show bags (ayyyyyy) that every kid and adult that attends must obtain. I sulked, I begged, I cried crocodile tears all in the name of not missing out on the social event of the Easter holiday season… “the GODDAMN Easter show Ma’!!!!” but, alas, my mother was a tough but fair woman who did not budge.

So, in my infinite wisdom, I decided to have my own Easter show, the highlight being a bike jump that would attempt to launch me over the back fence. If I wasn’t going to be able to experience the drop on the Rainbow, an Easter staple of a ride, then I’d recreate some thrill myself. After all, I was going to need some sort of wicked story when I got back to school, to explain why I did not attend the Easter Show and boy did this go down a treat … not the concussion but the story sufficed.

PIN IT

As we enter our 700th day in quarantine, our humble industry has resorted to a safer, less dangerous method of coping with social isolation than my 14-year-old self. It seems this Easter, we’ve taken to the internet on mass and drunkenly stumbled into the rabbit hole of video meetups.

From the immediate lockout of bars and restaurants, some ingenious bartenders created “A Group Where We All Pretend To Work As A Waitress In The Same Cocktail Bar” AGWWAPTAAWITSCB or as I like to call it V.B. (virtual bar) … not to be confused with the delicious Aussie beer Victoria Bitter.

You see, bartenders, waiters, waitresses, servers, porters, sommes, hell … even the line cooks are social creatures. Our lives constantly intertwined with one another, not to mention those we serve. And going from the ferocity of slinging a beer on a Saturday night to suddenly being locked in your house was something for which none of us were fully prepared.

The thing with V.B. is that while it’s not the environment we’re grown to love, we can still fuck with HR protocols and throwdown epic challenges to barbacks like polishing kegs. The banter hasn’t been lost, it was now just behind a keyboard instead of hiding in a cool room to bitch about the supervisor on shift.

And basically, these groups have provided some sort of normalcy to something that is definitely out of the ordinary. Calling backs and looking for a missed place bar blade is still a thing on V.B. and don’t worry we still have those missed timed cold calls from brand reps coming down on Friday to spout the details of their competitions that will now stretch to 2025 so it won’t be beaten by COVID-19.

“69 ingredients only, you’re allowed to make it on the moon as long as your mum approves, MUST be on your menu every 2nd Friday and the whole back bar has to have streamers…Let me know if you or your team want to get involved?!”

The hospo coping mechanism was to immediately recreate what we miss and crave most, our beautiful industry that includes all the monotonous tasks with the ridiculousness too. We are by nature gregarious and are drawn to anything that resembles a bloody good time more than the rest of them so creating such a digital, social platform was the perfect evolution that we all picked up on.

Our first thought was how can we still interact with one another while not being able to physically be there. It was to spend time with those like-minded troubadours we interact with almost daily, our extended hospo family. I don’t know any person from any other industry that would try and attempt this unless you’re Joe Exotic and trying to pet your tigers while flipping off Carol.

For me, half the posts still give me the odd smirk and eye-roll because I’m able to picture such a scenario in my head from the comfort of my computer screen. Hopefully, we’ll be able back into a real bar sooner rather than later as the shine will wear thin, personally, before I go insane.

It is a testament to our industry and just how much we love what we do, to still want to bitch about bosses, the Karens, imaginary hens and bucks parties, doing shots BOH and trying to swap opening shifts on the roster because staffies are getting out of hand. It’s a hell of a lot of fun and is keeping those of us who rarely keep still somewhat sane.

It’s almost as fun as drawing dicks on Ryan Chetiyawardana, of Silver Lyan, Super Lyan, CUB, Lyaness and Dandelyan fame, while he presents a Masterclass.

Stay strong and catch you at the bar. Hopefully a real one soon.

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