Being a bar owner, you get used to certain things. For example, people think that you are rich, and expect you to buy drinks for them. They have no idea that you make 7 cents on every dollar that you sell, if you’re lucky. They think that anybody can be a bartender (how hard is pouring beer, right?) They think that your entire life is a party, and you have it made. You get used to people seeing your life as this fantasy that they’ve built up in their heads; used to people saying that they want to own a bar someday. What is really interesting, is that they never think about the—admittedly rare, but noteworthy—days when it really comes home that you are a bar owner.
Your day starts off just like any other “normal” day. You have absolutely no idea what is going to happen. Maybe people are going to show up in-force to watch the game. Maybe your bar will have a maximum of 15 people at a time. Maybe your “favorite” crazy lady will show up today. Maybe you’ll get to meet someone who you never thought you would meet, like a CEO or something. All you really know, is that you are hoping that the bar is full, and there are no major issues. You know there is going to be something wrong. A beer tap not pouring, someone calling in….Whatever it is, as long as it’s small, it’s a win.
You live your life expecting the “worst” to happen and being pleasantly surprised when it doesn’t actually happen. Most of the time, you are pleasantly surprised. Other times, things go about as bad as you imagine they can be—though you know that it can always, ALWAYS be worse than it was. Today, is one of your unlucky days. A day when you question what was in the water, if there was something in the air, or if it was simply the proverbial and enigmatic negative influence of a full moon.
The story that I am about to tell is based on an actual event. It is not exactly what happened, but it does contain the essence of what did happen. You will be introduced to characters that represent real people. Their backstories are largely made up, and their motivations, habits, and thoughts are based on assumptions. I only hope to show you the bar scene through the eyes of an owner. To transport you to the side of a bar that you don’t know, and to give you better insight as to what happens when the carefully crafted atmosphere that we—as owners—create becomes too real. Welcome to a rare, but dramatic, day in the life of a bar owner.
Everything was business as usual in the kitchen for Sam, the owner and operator of The Kraken—a popular local “dive” bar. There were no major issues, and a decent amount of food for him to cook; though nothing overwhelming. Sam was expecting Ari—the bartender—to do last call at 1:30 am as usual, but today he was thinking that he should probably help out because it was a little busier than usual, and there were more new faces than he had seen in a couple of weeks. Sam didn’t necessarily think that anything was going to happen, but after 5 years of owning his bar, he had developed a very finely tuned “gut” feeling that told him when something was a little…off. He never quite knew what “off” meant, but he had learned to trust his gut when it told him, “tonight is the night to expect the unexpected.”
Sam mostly shrugged off his gut feeling tonight, after having spent some time in the bar and seeing that everyone was simply having a good time. He figured that this time his gut was only telling him that someone was going to do something strange; like confess that the flying spaghetti monster had revealed itself to them at an EDM festival, and they were now an ordained “al dente” priest. So, he went about his business as if nothing serious were going to happen. When things finally started happening, Sam was very aware that his gut was warning him of something far more serious than an “al dente” priest.
During the course of the night, Sam had noticed that a couple of people that he didn’t recognize had been having an odd conversation. These guys were talking about large amounts of money, and travelling to different parts of the country. It sounded like they were discussing some sort of business dealing. People are always discussing business in bars, but this conversation sounded different from all other business conversations that are generally had. When discussing business, most people don’t casually discuss tens of thousands of dollars in sales.
This piqued Sam’s interest. The whole conversation (had in a corner with both men standing very close to each other) sounded fishy. Like a drug deal. However, Sam wasn’t able to hear everything that was being discussed, so he couldn’t pin it down. Regardless, he decided to keep an eye on these two men.
Sam tried to listen in on specific conversations, but between the cracks of expertly shot billiard balls, the lively music coming from the speakers, merry calls for shots, and various regulars trying to speak with him, he was unable to pick up anything useful.
I’ll just have to let that one go, for now, Sam thought. He went back to his duties in the kitchen. It was nearly closing time, and Sam was just finishing up his cleaning duties. Well, we made it through the night without anything happening. Hopefully I was just wrong about my feeling.
All of a sudden, over the racket of the compressor of the cooler, the fan that wafts smoke away from the grill, and the steady hiss of the gas-powered toaster, he heard someone yelling.
People are always yelling in here over the music, or just because they can’t control their volume after a few drinks, was his first thought. He listened more intently for a second longer. Though the words were indistinguishable, the tone of the voices were clearly angry. Sam stepped out of the kitchen to find to women yelling at each other while Ari stood behind the bar looking unamused.
Sam had no idea what was going on, but he knew that these things tend to escalate out of control if the arguing parties aren’t separated. The screaming was over about as soon as he stepped out of the kitchen. He continued to watch, just to make sure that nobody came back to continue the argument. Hopefully Alexandra doesn’t come back for more. Things never go well when one of them won’t let it go.
He thought that was the end of it. People were going about their business. The pool sharks were continuing their game as if nothing happened. The patrons at the bar were finishing their drinks, beginning to ask what had just gone down, as they usually do when there is an argument. There was nothing that led Sam to believe that things were going to get worse.
As he was talking to Ari, he discovered that Alexandra’s ex, Daniel, was there with a new girl.
Sam said to Ari, “That is an incredibly immature thing to do. Bring another girl to the bar that you know your ex is at? Why would you want to invite that kind of drama in your life?”
“I don’t know. You know how it goes. He is probably trying to make her jealous. I’ve been through these kinds of things myself, and it never goes well. The only thing that you accomplish when you do that is make both of you feel like your heart is bleeding.”
“I just don’t get it.”
Sam had not noticed that one of the guys he was trying to keep an eye on earlier had wandered over to Daniel. Why this guy wanted to talk to the Daniel is anybody’s guess. They didn’t seem to have any connection.
“Hey man, I just wanted to talk to you real quick…”
“What the fuck do you want to talk to me about?!”
“Hey man, I’m just trying to say that I wasn’t trying to get involved in any of this.”
“Then why the fuck are you over here talking to me?!”
“Fuck you man, you don’t fucking talk to me that way. If you want to throw down, let’s go outside!”
This was not going well, and things don’t usually escalate this quickly. Something was seriously wrong here, but Sam didn’t have time to think about what the issue was.
Sam got between the two and said, very matter-of-factly, “Hey, this isn’t happening guys, this needs to stop.” The guy that Sam had been trying to keep an eye on—who’s name turned out to be Gary—was determined to fight, so he was trying to push through Sam to get at Daniel. Sam could only hear what Gary was saying:
“Man, don’t throw that Mexican Mafia shit at me, I will fucking smoke you! I don’t give a fuck man! I got my shit outside locked and loaded, I don’t give a fuck, I will fucking smoke you!”
This is a new one. Usually they just scream at each other and try to throw some fists around. I really have no idea what the hell is going on here, but this needs to end soon, before someone ends up dead. This guy sounds serious.
“Hey! This is over, let it go!”
Gary continued to yell over the growing mass of people between him and Daniel, “Man fuck you! I don’t give a fuck, you don’t fucking talk to me that way! This shit is real, I don’t fucking play that game! I will fuck you up!”
Sam was doing his best to keep Gary from getting at Daniel. The problem was, that Gary was about 6 inches taller than him, but he wasn’t as solid as he looked. Between Sam and three others, they were able to keep him away from Daniel, while four other people kept Daniel away from Gray.
“Hey, you have to let it go, man. It doesn’t have to be this way, just let it go.”
Gary looked Sam in the eye and slowed down from 100 to 10.
That is the strangest transition that I’ve ever seen. Nobody ever calms down like that.
Gary went to shake Sam’s hand. “It’s all good man, I was just trying to talk to him.”
Again, there was a major shift in mood. Immediately after finishing that sentence, Gary went back to 100 miles an hour.
“Man fuck you! I will go to jail for this shit! I don’t give a fuck about her or you!”
The majority of the bar was watching as this went on. As long as it felt, the entire thing happened in less than four minutes, and Sam was able to get Gary out of the bar, while Daniel was pushed into a bathroom to calm down. As soon as Gary was gone, things essentially went back to normal.
Again, people were discussing what had just happened, but they continued to drink, joke, and finish their pool games.
Ari called last call, and Sam jokingly asked if anyone wanted shots. The whole thing seemed to be over.
Okay, that went differently than I was expecting, but nobody got hurt and it seems like it’s over. That should be the end of it. Better keep an eye out, just in case.
Sam had learned that it’s best not to assume that things are over. On more than one occasion he had seen someone leave the front doors, disappear, and come back to start everything all over again. He kept his guard up.
Gary looked like he was going to get into his car and leave, however, he was standing in the middle of the parking lot speaking to one of Sam’s semi-regulars. Sam kept expecting that conversation to end and for Gary to get in the car and leave. Over all of his thoughts, the sound of people gossiping, and the ever-present crack of billiard balls, he heard Ari talking to Daniel.
“I just need you to stay inside until he leaves.”
That’s good. Thank you for keeping him inside, Ari. Things will get way out of hand if Daniel goes outside right now.
Just as Sam had expected, Gary started walking back toward the door, but stopped just outside. Sam went out to see what was going on. He found Gary and his regular talking.
“I was just trying to tell Daniel that I wasn’t trying to get involved! That was it! then he came at me like he did, and I don’t fucking play that game man!”
“Listen, you don’t know what’s going on…”
“Man, I don’t give a fuck what’s going on, I was just trying to tell him that I wasn’t trying to get involved, but he started saying that he would call his crew, and I don’t fucking play that game! I will fucking smoke that dude!”
The conversation went on like this for a good five minutes. The same couple of sentences were stated over and over again. Finally, Sam decided that Gary had probably said his peace, and it was time to make a definitive statement.
“Hey man, Daniel was in the wrong. I get it.”
“Do you get it? I’m not fucking playing man, I got my shit in the car right now, I’m not fucking scared to end this shit man. You don’t fucking do that. You don’t fucking disrespect me.”
“I get it man, so look, give me this respect. Call it a favor. Just get in the car, and call it a night.”
“Alright fine. I can do that. Look man, nothing is going to happen inside your bar. I do respect you. But if he comes out in this parking lot, I will end him, I don’t care. You better let him know that.”
“I will let him know that.”
I have no intention of saying any of this, but I’ve dealt with someone else like Gary, and I said the wrong damn thing last time. It’s all about respect to these guys. I think that ‘respect’ line worked. This guy is way too serious about killing Daniel right now. Hopefully his sense of honor is enough to get us through the next few minutes.
The conversation ended there, and Gary started walking toward his car, while Sam went back inside to make sure that everything was still going smoothly. When he got back inside the bar, it was apparent that things were not going smoothly. Daniel was trying to leave, while patrons were trying to hold him back.
Sam heard Ari pleading with him to stay inside the bar.
“Just give it five minutes, Daniel! Don’t go outside, he’s about to leave, just stay in here until he is gone!”
Daniel didn’t seem like he was looking for a fight, in fact, he was wearing the face of a man who was emotionally drained and defeated, but he was persistent in trying to get outside. Apparently the girl he was with wanted her purse out of the car.
I can’t believe that this chick is so determined to get her bag. Didn’t she hear everything that just happened? Doesn’t she know that Gary is serious about killing Daniel right now? Some people’s priorities….
Despite all of their pleading, Daniel went outside. Gary hadn’t left yet.
“Should I call the police?” Ari asked, phone in hand.
“Yes call the police.” was Sam’s response.
Ari called, but because of all of the excitement going on, she couldn’t remember the address of the bar. Her solution was to hand Sam the phone. As he was giving the dispatcher all of the information that was being asked he thought,
Hopefully they get here soon. Everyone is on edge. Hopefully Gary just leaves already. It’s making me really uncomfortable that they are both here and in the parking lot. What would I do if he did pull out a gun and started shooting at Daniel? How can I keep everyone here safe? What if a stray bullet came by? What if Daniel gets shot… I don’t know. At least the police are on their way.
All of these thoughts raced through Sam’s head, and he saw Gary pull out. It almost looked like Gary was trying to run down Daniel with his car, but he just raced away into the night.
He got off the phone with dispatch while they all waited for the police to show up.
I picked the wrong damn week to quit smoking, didn’t I? This is my life, isn’t it? Never know what’s going to happen. That gut feeling never let’s me down. Thankfully nothing actually happened. I don’t know what I would have done if it had gone the way that it looked like it was going. These nights are the reason that I tell people you have to be half insane to own a bar. Good thing I’m 75% insane.
“Ari, let’s get a shot in before 2. I think we could use it.”