I'm a New Year's Eve Bartender, and These Are The Craziest Things I've Witnessed

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For six years, I tended bar at a popular, midsize music venue in San Francisco, and every year, I signed up for the New Year’s Eve shift. That's right—willingly. There was never anywhere else I’d rather be.

Bartending on Amateur Night—what restaurant and bar workers often call New Year’s Eve due to the number of once-a-year maladroit merrymakers flooding their establishments—was, surprisingly, the best. Almost any NYE rager will be attended not just by your average club kids but also by people who'd rather be at home watching a movie, eating fancy food, with their kids, in the woods, anywhere. Why people who haven’t gone out for months will take the plunge to socialize in an overcrowded club on the last night of the year is beyond me. But watching it happen from other other side of the bar is pretty fascinating.

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For most of the time I bartended, I had the good fortune to work with my sister, my amicably-split-with ex-boyfriend, a childhood friend, my brother’s ex-girlfriend, and other assorted strangers who worked at the venue and quickly became close friends. Our particular establishment was a close-knit family of randoms, united in our mission to keep the drinks flowing and the customers happy, even on the most sloppy night of the year.

On that note, there are some memories that stand apart from the rest. Ask any New Year's Eve worker, and they'll likely have a similar trove:

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New Year's Eve is without a doubt bizarre, chaotic, and sloppy. But I always came back. In part it's just a well-paying gig (there’s nothing like making half of your month’s rent in one night). But I'm also guaranteed a great New Year's Eve myself.

I may not always have a date to kiss at midnight, and I have spent the first few moments of a new year cleaning up vomit (but who hasn't, am I right?). But I got to hang out with my fellow bartenders, bouncers, sound technicians, house managers, coat checkers, and club owners, all without the pressure of planning or the cost of buying a NYE-priced ticket. I always hear of New Year’s Eve stories characterized by loneliness or inevitable let-down, while my New Year’s Eve work parties always satisfied.


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