Women in the bar business

I had planned on writing about Super Tuesday today, but I came across an article that struck a chord with me in Class Magazine, an industry publication.

Believe it or not, I am actually in the bar business, not politics or economics; although those are two of my favorite hobbies. It’s a demanding, yet rewarding, job/career that I rather enjoy.  The booze, the people, the art: what’s there not to love?

And in my opinion, it’s a profession that doesn’t elicit the respect it deserves.  Anyone who’s done time behind the stick knows how difficult it is to remain congenial and hospitable while faced with the drunken masses.  It definitely requires immense amounts of patience, study, professionalism and a good deal of athleticism, not to mention acting as a poor man’s therapist.  The hours are long, the work is hard, and we bartenders depend upon the kindness of our patrons to make a living.  To be honest, it’s downright stressful.

But the piece by Jamie MacDonald and Sam Fish highlights a trend that is prevalent across our profession: the lack of female bartenders, especially within the craft cocktail scene.  Jamie makes an argument that women should be ‘nurtured’ in our work environment.  The sentiment seems to (and I’m sure somewhat unintentionally) lend credence to women needing what Sam refers to as a ‘crutch.’

Personally, I’m totally with Sam on this one.  The women in our business should be celebrated and treated as equals in our work environment.  Now that I just read that last sentence, I can’t really believe that even has to be said in this day and age.  But that certainly doesn’t mean they need to be coddled.

If one looks at some of the leading people in the bar business, you come across names like Julie Reiner, Charlotte Voisey, and Aisha Sharpe.  And maybe we’re a bit better at promoting this than the guys across the pond. Point in fact: Speed Rack.

Some of my favorite bartenders I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with have been female.  The dynamic behind the bar can be completely different with a lady tending alongside me.  And at Manifesto, the bar I currently run in Kansas City, we prefer having females on staff alongside the fellas.

But work ethic, creativity, attention to detail, endurance, and hospitality know no gender.  These are the aspects we celebrate at Manifesto; and be it man or woman, if you exhibit those qualities, how far you go or what you do with them is up to them.  I can only hope the same could be said at every other joint in the biz.

I’m not so naive to think that all things are equal everywhere.  And I’m not going to speculate as to why more ladies don’t enter our field.  But the ones that do should at the least be offered a fair shake by the rest of us, be it competing in cocktail competitions, or just slingin’ beers on a Friday night.  Show some respect.

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