A Bartender’s Guide

Kenny rang the bell and shouted, “Last call! Drink ’em up! You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here!”

It had been a good night. He would walk with around $200 in tips and need every penny of it for his annual trip to Lake Powell. Plus, money was always tight for his girlfriend, and he liked to help take care of her baby whenever he could.

A thirty-something regular named Mark staggered up to the bar with a middle-aged woman in a red power dress. They were laughing at some inside joke and planning where to go next. Mark wasn’t wearing his wedding ring. He handed Kenny a credit card and slurred, “And you, sir, are the best, as always. You know exactly what you’re doing. You’re a great person, Kenny.”

Kenny didn’t see himself as a great person. He knew he had gotten most of the people in the bar drunk that night. Maybe a few of them would get DUIs within the next hour or two. Several regulars were problem drinkers or alcoholics, which meant Kenny was also contributing to health problems, mental breakdowns, depression, work-related struggles, and domestic violence situations that would probably lead to physical harm and expensive and humiliating legal challenges. Almost everyone in the bar would have been better off spending their money in smarter ways. Some were living such desperate lives that their bar tabs were adding to inescapable, ruinous debt.

Kenny ran Mark’s card and handed him his tab. Mark tipped Kenny $20, finished his drink, and said, “We’ll see you soon, buddy.” Then he left arm in arm with the woman in red. Kenny poured himself a double shot of Jack Daniels, slammed it, and stared down the length of the bar. “I don’t force the booze down their throats,” he thought, and poured himself another shot.