Every year hundreds and thousands of our LGBT+ community and our straight allies go to Pride events up and down the UK and around the world. But what’s it like working these events? Over Manchester Pride 2019, I took the opportunity to work over the pride weekend in Manchester’s Gay Village to see what pride is like the other side of the bar.
Bar Work In General
Like all jobs in the UK, bar work pays the minimum wage. This is currently set at £8.21, which I guess compared to some counties is not bad. When you look at bar servers in America who earn only a few dollars an hour and have to rely heavily on tips!
In the UK tipping at bars is rare, I mean it’s not unheard of, but it’s nothing like they do in America for example. In the US a bartender would normally get a dollar or two per person they serve, that can soon add up to much higher than the minimum wage currently offered in the UK, but the customer paying higher costs for the drink.
Manchester Gay Village
Manchester Pride 2019, was busy, in fact, it was rammed and I am guessing the busiest Manchester Pride on record. This year it had the new Mayfield area for Manchester Pride Live and the Gay Village Gathering. I would call it a bit more than a gathering, the streets in the village where all busy from mid-morning into the early hours of the morning the following day.
Working The Bars
Having had previous experience working in bars 8 years ago, I had a rough idea of what to expect. You know the sticky shoes from drinks being spilt, sticky hands from Sambuca shots and the odd drunk customer. But this was the first time I would be working in a gay bar and the first-ever pride I would be working and not partying.
I went in on the Thursday for some induction and basic training and to get used to the tills whilst it was quiet and the pre-setup was going on. One thing I love about bar staff is how social they can be, my supervisor for that weekend and I just clicked, which is good as I was going to be working behind this tiny bar with him and several others for most of Pride.
Walking into Work
Walking through the packed bustling streets of Canal Street into the bar was the first challenge, I arrived in Manchester’s Gay Village a few hours before my shift started to catch up with some friends and get to experience a little bit of the pride celebrations of my own. Walking into the bar it was a very different site from the quiet bar the night before, it was chocker! The bar was already 4 deep and it was only 6:45 pm. I dropped my bag in the staff area and was immediately put on the bar and the same till I worked on the night before.
What surprised me first about the other staff members is most of us didn’t work at the bar full time and were brought in as extra staff. I mean that made sense as on a normal weekend the bar could easily operate with two or three bar staff but during pride, they definitely needed 6 or 7 of us at time. People trying to earn a little bit of extra cash from their main jobs. We had people who worked in offices, hairdressers and my a part-time flight attendant to name a few.
Serving The General Public
We all know how annoying loud drunk people can be, more so if we ourselves are not drunk. With the frustration at wanting to get served quickly at the bar, manners sometimes go out of the window. I remember not long after starting my shift a man at the end of the bar not in my zone clicking his fingers and shouting OI whilst I was trying to serve to ladies beside him, at first I ignored him as I was dealing with the ladies in front of me. By the time I had finished again, I was shouted “OI” followed by a click of the fingers. Now even if this man was in my section of the bar he was most definitely not going to get served by me. I think people forget their manners a lot when out, after a stern word of “don’t OI me and stopping clicking or you will be out” the man followed with a torrent of swear words. It’s safe to say none of the bar staff served him and he soon left the bar after another 5 minutes.
On the flip side, the man above some customers can be really friendly and it’s nice when they buy you a shot, a drink or leave a tip at the end of their order. Although the bar was packed and busy 95% of the customers were lovely its a shame the 5% of idiots that make a hard tiring job worse.
Drinking On Duty
I guess this depends on the bar you are working for but the one I was in let you have shots with the customers if they brought them and also the manager was very shot happy more so near the end of the night with the shots.
The bar I worked over had a promotion of 3 bombs for £10. We pushed this promotion as we got an extra £1 per 3 bombs we sold, also most people were in groups of 2 so nine times out of ten they would give the spare shot to us. Which made no sense as it was still cheaper to buy just two, but that’s drunk people for you over a pride event.
By the end of the night on both the Friday and the Saturday that I worked, I was defiantly a little bit tipsy during the clean down. It’s a good job I got the train into work, after being warned on Thursday that we might be having drinks.
Breaks few And Far
During Pride, it is not always that easy to get off the bar, I mean you have people expecting to be served next and if you leave at a busy time the rest of your team have to pick up the slack. During the quieter times later in the night and early in the morning, the supervisors would give you your 20-minute break. It’s not until you take your 20-minute break that you realise how much your feet and back hurt. The saying is true it catches up on you when you stop. being on your feet serving takes it out of your body. The bar I was in also had no seating area to rest, I used the time to get some fresh air and find a quiet stop on a step to get soon late-night food for one of the street vendors. That 20-minute break goes so quickly and before you know it your back on your feet and back serving at the bar.
I remember on both nights I only got one 20 minute break. The first night I did 7 pm till 4 am and the second night 7 pm till 6 am.
Working the bar was not the only duty we had to do, restocking the bar fridges, getting ice for the cellar, taking out the rubbish, collecting plastic glasses, mopping spilt drinks on the dance floor. trying to mop an area of floor in a packed bar is nearly impossible, people won’t move and they will bump into you.
At the end of each night is the huge task of the clean down. Picking up all the plastic glasses and paper straws that have melted into the sticky floor. Wiping all the tables and furniture down, mopping the sticky, sticky floor with bucket after bucket of bleach and water. Then the worst job! Seeing the state people can leave a toilet. The ladies toilets had toilet roll everywhere all around the toilet bowl, how can you miss the bowl, it’s a big hole. The gents toilets well the smell of stale pee was overpowering to the sober nose.
What Keeps You Going
I have to say although your legs hurt, your back is killing and all you want to do is go out and party with the rest of your friends. The people you work with keep you going. You have a laugh, you look after each other and you get through it together. On both days the closedown team, we all went to a club and had a few drinks to unwind, but if I’m honest I was too tired and had no energy to first of enjoy my drink and second have the energy to bring the drink to my lips!
Did It Open My Eyes ?
YES, YES, YES and YES… Working in a job that pays minimum wage for long hours to drunk people who can be rude is a hard job and it does make you open your eyes working the other side of the bar. More so at a Pride event. During Pride, the staff are serving a hell of a lot more customers than they would at any weekend and that’s hard work.
Would I do it again… not for minimum wage! The British public are not know for tipping like the Americans. I think the whole weekend I earnt £17.60 and I think that was higher than most of the other staff members. So for giving up the whole of Pride 2019 I had £164 in wages, £17.60 in tips and about £61 in ‘bomb shot sales’. So in total before tax £242.60 for working hard for 20 hours, with the drunk general public and giving up my Pride!
So the next Pride event that you attend, be kind to your bar staff, they work hard to make your pride a good one and they do it for very little reward and gain.
Did I make new friends from my Pride bar experience? Yes. Did I learn a lot about bar work? Yes. I am glad that I got the opportunity to do it, but I think 2020 I will be taking part once again the other side of the bar with a large vodka and coke.
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