Q Magazine - - Q Life -

More Trick than Treat: Work­ing as a Bar­man on Canal Street As a stu­dent, hav­ing fin­ished my dis­ser­ta­tion and with some time to spare I went look­ing for a bar job on Canal Street in Manch­ester’s gay quar­ter. Walk­ing into one bar I asked if there were any avail­able open­ings. Bill, one of the two gay own­ers, looked me up and down, turned to his col­league and asked ‘what do you think? Is he a top or a bot­tom?’

‘Looks like a to­tal bot­tom to me’ said Rey­nash, the man­ager. ‘I think I recog­nise you from your on­line pro­file. You’re the guy pos­ing with his bum on the beach right?’ I nod­ded. Turn­ing to his boss Rey­nash said ‘yes, def­i­nitely bot­tom!’

‘Bot­tom, no. Power bot­tom, yes’ I re­sponded, play­ing along. Per­haps it was my sass they liked, or my ass, but I got the job. ‘Come in tonight’ said Rey­nash.

There were no RSA cer­tifi­cates to com­plete, no train­ing, no pro­cesses. I just went to a bar and in­stead of pulling pun­ters I was pulling pints. On my first night were just two of us man­ning the bar. It turned out to be the busiest night since Pride. I was a to­tal dis­as­ter: rushed, un­knowl­edge­able and clumsy. Just like my first time. I didn’t do a good job. My disco may have needed me. My lo­cal gay bar didn’t.

‘A Snakebite please’ or­dered one pa­tron. ‘Where do we keep our snakes?’ I asked Rey­nash who gave me a look that said #WTH #SMH.

Two gay men owned the bar. Dave was a big, buff man who tow­ered over us. When he met me he shock my hand so hard he seemed to pull it out of its socket. It was a warn­ing. Over­time he grew to re­spect me be­cause of my strong work ethic. The other owner was Bill; he was a close re­la­tion of Jabba the Hutt and had an in­sa­tiable drink­ing habit. The only thing worse than a tee­to­taller in a gay bar is an al­co­holic bar man­ager.

‘Come and meet my favourite bot­tom’, Bill would drunk­enly tell clients, much to my em­bar­rass­ment. If I made an er­ror Bill would shout. ‘You un­der­charged them by a pound! You’re eat­ing up my profit’ he would say stamp­ing his feet.

‘Wrong. You’re drink­ing up your profit’ I wanted to shout but held my tongue. His be­hav­iour be­came in­creas­ingly loutish as he got in­creas­ingly drunker. For­get the devil wears Prada. At that bar, the devil drinks lager.

From flirt­ing for drinks I was flirt­ing for tips. I made min­i­mum wage, be­ing paid around GB£50 per shift but mak­ing dou­ble that in tips. What pay­ment I lacked in cash I re­ceived in com­pli­ments.

‘You look like one of those Greek stat­ues’ said one reg­u­lar. He must have meant it since he was only on his sec­ond drink. He couldn’t have had his beer-gog­gles on yet.

‘Thank you’ I smiled. ‘I am Greek… but hardly like the stat­ues.’ In one gulp he downed the rest of his pint then gur­gled. Beer gur­gling was the new beer-gog­gles.

Other reg­u­lars in­cluded an older straight, het­ero­sex­ual cou­ple. The wife al­ways wore marginally trans­par­ent tops. As I was serv­ing her I no­ticed that her left breast was hang­ing out of her top. I made in­tense eye con­tact and didn’t men­tion any­thing. What could I say? ‘Ex­cuse me ma’am but your boob is hang­ing out of your blouse?’ It hap­pened the fol­low­ing week. And the fol­low­ing. By then I got used to it and as­sumed she en­joyed ei­ther shock­ing young gay men or flaunt­ing what she had. If only how to man­age that was in­cluded in the RSA train­ing.

One mole-like look­ing man in his 50s al­ways has an en­tourage of twinks around him who car­ried heaps of shop­ping bags. He got into a fight with one twink af­ter he re­fused to show him the text he re­ceived.

‘Let me see who that is’ screamed the mole try­ing to grab the phone. When the boy re­fused he said ‘give me back those train­ers,’ which trig­gered a bout of tug-and-war over the twink’s shop­ping. It was funny. It got me through my shift. But I felt sorry for the twinks.

‘Don’t feel sorry’ my said Rey­nash as he pre­pared their third G&T ‘those twinks make more money than we all do com­bined.’

I change my mind: The only thing worse than an al­co­holic bar man­ager are drunk subur­ban house­wives let loose in a gay bar while their hus­bands were at the soc­cer match. It was Des­per­ate House­wives meets Girls Gone Wild. The house­wives or­dered the most os­ten­ta­tious, com­pli­cated cock­tails as if they were try­ing to get drunk on the gay­ness of it all.

Dressed up as sexy nurses or as scary fairies they would be­have out­landishly by grab­bing our crotches and ask­ing rude ques­tions.

‘Are you the man or the woman in bed?’ they asked Brent, the Aussie bar­man. ‘I’m ev­ery­thing. And I like to mix it up. In the kitchen’ he said.

‘Mix it up? Like a blender?’ asked one house­wife whose in­ter­est was whet­ted with the talk of kitchen ap­pli­ances.

‘Like a whisk… be­cause you got to work for it!’ purred Brent.

When it came to drinks Drag Queens tor­tured us with their in­de­ci­sion over which cock­tail to or­der and then com­plained they were be­ing over-charged. Bears, usu­ally in cou­ples, came in on Sun­days for brunch and Bloody Marys. Gym Junkies were pre­dictable: they or­dered Vodka Soda (64 calo­ries). Twinks or­dered a Rum & Cola (248 calo­ries) and were as ir­ri­tat­ing as the sugar that gets stuck in the straw of a Mo­jito drink. Straight men came in ask­ing ‘you boys serve beer? Or is it just cock­tails?’ em­pha­sis­ing the ‘cock’. We couldn’t help but roll our eyes. My favourite cus­tomers were the les­bians who were as cool as the cu­cum­bers in their G&Ts.

But it was the bar­men who were the wack­i­est char­ac­ters of all. Brent, the Aussie moved to Manch­ester as a bar­man ‘for as long as it was fun.’ They par­tied all night af­ter work and went on more dates than there were dates in the cal­en­dar. And Nick, one of the bar men did nude oil wrestling in a club nearby.

‘You should come check it out’ said Nick, hand­ing me a flyer. To be con­tin­ued…

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