Friday, May 3, 2013

Bartending: What does it mean to be 'Stung'?

In the world of bartending, bartenders have a responsibility to themselves and the business they represent.  One of the key responsibilities of a bartender is by carding people who order alcoholic beverages.  Now, no one likes to do this task, not because we dont want to be responsible, but because of the crap that people say to you when you card them.  As though, this requirement is a recent development and its their first time getting carded.  My least favorite people to card are women.  They always have to make a spectacle of themselves and the act of getting carded.  No matter the age, no matter how old they look-its at least a 10-15 second production EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.  And because I work off tips-I dont get to say what I want to say (can we just get this over with? I know you're of age, the scrunchie and stonewashed jeans have you dated at 54, but you have a decent complexion-so I'm only carding you to flatter and get a better tip).  As opposed to whats appropriate <forced grin>.

What many people don't know is that there are systems in place to check to make sure all liquor licenses are carding anyone who looks about 35 and younger.  It's called a Sting operation.  I have been stung many times and have passed every time.  But one time I was working with someone who didn't pass.

It was working an incredibly busy Friday night and I was splitting the arena-style bar with another bartender.  Around 7pm I heard people on the other side shouting at me for drinks!  My co-bartender, no where to be found.  Now the bar was 3-deep, people were shouting drink orders and I was working as fast as I could before a manager came back to help.

"What happened to (co-workers name)?" I asked.

"She got stung and failed." replied my manager.  All the confirmation I needed to know that I was in it alone for the night.

To be 'stung' (in the alcohol world), is an exercise the police perform to make sure local bars are checking for IDs.  They send in a person (often someone doing community-service) who is under the age of 21 and have them come in and order an alcoholic beverage alone.  If the bartender asks them for ID, the underage person says they forgot it and leave.  That is when a police officer comes in to tell the manager-the establishment has been 'stung' and they passed (there is some variation to this, but that is the jist).

If the bartender doesn't ask and brings the under-aged the drink the under-ager pays for the drink and leaves (and the bartender becomes confused and nervous).  A police officer then comes in to inform the manager that the bartender failed the sting.  The business then fires the employee (on the spot) and the police then fine the business and the employee.  In addition, the amount that business is 'stung' significantly increases for an unsaid period of time and due to it being public record-the establishment is also written up in the paper for failing.

If the establishment fails a certain amount of 'stings' over a specified course of time (often dictated by the municipal government)-their liquor license can be suspended or revoked.  So it is important all around for businesses to pass these tests.

I find it SO incredibly important for bartenders to protect themselves in this line of work.  While we may be subject to work for tips, more importantly we work for ourselves and a large part of safe bartending requires the use of your brain and instincts.  It is SO important for you to know how to handle situations that come up and how no matter how drunk the individual, or how demanding the manager-when push comes to shove, you have to protect yourself behind that bar by being aware and knowledgeable.  Because the first thing the business is going to do if something happens-is fire you.  So if you trust your instincts and act within the parameters of the law-you are fireproof.

For more information I have found this resource published by the Illinois Casualty Company to be an excellent resource and a quick read (this link is not sponsored).  In addition, if you have any questions about your rights, I encourage you to contact your local Alcohol Enforcement Police Officer and see what kind of training programs you can take.  They even offer them for doormen, so they can know their rights and how to handle themselves in the event of a conflict.  

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