Recently, a Quoran asked “What’s it like running a pub?” Fortunately, I have some experience in this category. Here’s my reply:
I ran bars for a few years back in my early 20s/drinking days. It had its upsides and its downsides.
- If you’re behind the bar (which when you run a pub, you usually want to be here unless you’re better at cooking), you’re the star, which can be great for your love life.
- You get to build a micro-community and get to know a lot of cool folks.
- If you like to drink (which I did back then), you’re always around booze. While most laws prohibit you to drink while you work, I’d guess that 95% of all pub-owners drink on the job
- You get to brag you own a pub!
- Your hours are opposite the rest of the world. Your day starts in the mid-afternoon and doesn’t end until late late late in the evening, typically 3–4am. Your days off are usually either Monday or Tuesday (or Sunday if you’re lucky) so you don’t get to go out when everyone else does. And holidays? Forget ‘em.
- Being “in the weeds”—so busy that you can’t see straight—is common, as no matter how much staff you bring on, sometimes things just don’t click. I still have nightmares about being in the weeds.
- Your health turns to shit as you mostly eat bar food and drink copiously
- Human waste is all around you. Vomit, piss, shit, all kinds of gross stuff comes out of people when they drink, and it’s usually your job to clean it up. Even if you’ve got someone who’s going to do that, inevitably you’re going to get a few gross ones. Here’s some highlights from my tenure:
- A good friend of mine was on a date. Towards the end of the night, he handed me a pint glass full of his date’s vomit, shrugged, “Sorry” and wandered off to dance with her. Yum. Funny story: they ended up getting married and having a kid together.
- One time, we’d purchased a pool hall to add to our bars. The pool hall was open for nine years before we took it over. I think during the previous owner’s entire tenure, they’d never once cleaned it. And it had a pretty big kitchen. The grease trap was overflowing. The hood and fry pit was so caked with grease, you could literally scrape it up with a spoon. Keep in mind that this place served a lot of food to a lot people for a very long time.
- Bugs. So many bugs. Doesn’t matter how clean your joint is, you’re getting bugs. Big ones. MEAN ones.
- Belligerent drunk people love to piss on/in/over/under things that aren’t toilets. A lot.
- And the worst thing I ever had to do: St Patty’s Day circa 2007 I’m working as back up for one of our bars. A bouncer comes up with a smile and says, “You’re needed in the lady’s room.” I arrive to discover a mountain of toilet paper coming out OVER the lid. Apparently, it’d been clogged a while back and the women just kept pissing on it. I had to pull it all out by hand (sure, I had gloves on, but it kept seeping in). It wasn’t the smell or appearance that bothered me, but how warm—nay! hot—it was. GUH-ROSS.
- Fights. So many fights.
- Oh yeah… and your margins are shit. There’s always exceptions, of course, and you’ll make money with tips, but don’t hold your breath making crazy profit.
So if you can take the good with the bad, you’ll be okay.
I’ve been sober for six and a half years, so my bar days are over.