I was a bartender, things got fucked up, and then I got sober. That was about a year ago, and now I’m looking to get back behind the bar again. How much of this should I disclose to potential employers? And should I tell my customers? Please help me out here.
Good on you for getting sober, and for your determination to stay that way. And also good on you for planning ahead for when you go back to work. There really is no place like a bar, is there?
So for your question: Yes, you should absolutely disclose to any potential employer that you’re sober. You don’t have to make a big deal about or share all the circumstances that got you to where you are. Just say it: “I’m sober.” It’s a point of information, like that you have a day job or can’t ever work on Thursdays. In your case, they’ll know not to ask you to take part in tastings or cocktail testing. (And if they do, they’re total ratbags and you shouldn’t want to work for them anyway.)
As for the customers... Yeah, people get weird when they’re drinking and the people around them are not. That’s something you’re probably already getting used to. As you probably already know since you’ve worked this gig before, in some states it’s illegal for bartenders to drink while they’re working, so if you live in one of those states, you’re already covered. If not, there are a few ways you can go.
If someone offers to buy you a shot, you can politely decline. You can remind them that you’re at work, and that it’s your job to provide drinks and hospitality and make sure everyone is having a good time, and drinking makes it harder for you to do that.
You can also choose to be direct. The Pin Project, an organization in the Bay Area, sells pins that bartenders can wear to signify that they’re sober. It can help start a conversation about sobriety—again, you don’t have to tell your whole life story, but it’s a way of letting people know. Or you can wear a t-shirt with “Nosebag” on it, and see where the conversations lead you. (For those of you who aren’t Nosebag, it means a person who drinks water in a bar.)
However you decide to play it, sweet pea, keep taking care of yourself. I’m proud of you, and, more importantly, you should be proud of yourself.
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