Service workers feel lack of respect at closing time

William Moore, Contributor

Let’s set the mood.  Imagine it’s Friday afternoon.  The clock has just struck five!  You’ve put away that last file, made that last call, and tidied your desk. You are completely ready to leave, except your last client is hanging around the office. You cannot go until they do. 

You’ve been nice, and you’ve dropped some hints that you’re ready to leave, but they just will not leave, begging for five more minutes or one more Excel spreadsheet.  That sounds pretty annoying, right? It is. Especially when instead of 5 in the afternoon it is 2:30 in the morning, and instead of one client there are 20, and each one is drunk and happy right where they are. 

This, my friends, is what bartenders, bouncers, and servers deal with many nights when bar time rolls around.  Having worked as a host, busser, server, bouncer, bartender, and bar manager, I can honestly say closing time is my least favorite part of the shift because kicking everyone out is like herding cats, intoxicated ones.  To make this tough time a little easier, patrons should leave before the clock hits closing time.

Those who have not worked in the service industry may not be aware that, when a bar closes, it does not mean the staff gets to stop working.  Once the door locks behind the last guest, the process of cleaning and dismantling the bar begins.

“Breaking down” the bar can, depending on the spot and standard operating procedures, take hours.  Trash needs to be taken out, tips need to be split, floors need to be cleaned, and so on.  You probably want to hear about it as much as we want to do it.

Here is the kicker: the staff cannot start many of these closing tasks with people still in the venue.  We aren’t going to mop around folks just for them to stomp their dirty shoes on the floor on their way out of the door.  Therefore, the longer the guests try to stick around, the longer the staff has to be at the bar. 

Going back to the hypothetical situation I began with, who would want to be at work longer than they have to be?  Not you! We feel the same way!

Not only do service industry folks not want to work longer than necessary, but they want to be shown some courtesy. Trump’s recent jab at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for being a “young bartender,” brings to light a certain disrespect that service industry members face.  We are used to it, but that doesn’t mean we like it. 

One of the times we feel this disrespect the most is when people stay after being asked to leave.  It tells us that our time is not as valuable as theirs. By ignoring our requests, it can feel as though we are being told, “You’re just a bartender, so just shut up until I need another drink.”

Leaving at bar time is not just a matter of respect, it’s a matter of law.  According to Wisconsin’s law for alcohol beverage retailers, all customers must leave an establishment by its closing hour.  This means customers legally have to be out by the time posted on the door, not just starting to leave by then.  Having customers in the bar after closing is literally criminal!

I truly enjoy my job.  I meet interesting people, have great conversations, and love helping guests have a great time. However, each night I close, anxiety creeps up as the end of the evening draws nearer.  I worry about how late I will have to stay, if I will be legally jeopardizing my bar, or if I will be treated like a human being.  The solution to this fear lies in my customers exiting the bar when asked, because, while they don’t have to go home, they can’t stay here.