Jamie MacBain has a pretty classy gig over at the lounge at Bourbon Steak, Michael Mina’s restaurant in Georgetown’s Four Seasons. Make that two classy gigs—he also does a weekly shift at the Passenger. In his younger years, however, he put in some time slinging beers to college kids in Worcester, Massachusetts. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day this weekend, MacBain shared the story of his worst shift ever, which happened to go down on one of the drunkest days of the year.
“It was my first bartending job, and it was St. Patrick’s Day. It was at this steakhouse, Cactus Pete’s Steakhouse & Saloon. One side was a steakhouse and on the other side was a bar separated by swinging saloon doors. Worcester loves its St. Patrick’s Day. The parade would go by the restaurant and we’d take out all the stools; all the bar tables would come out. We opened at 10 AM. So it’s, like, 2 PM, and the parade has gone by already. We’re packed, and we have police on the exit and entrance on either side. It’s standing room only—some of the people have been there since 10. And this fight breaks out at my end of the bar.
"I say fight, but the room is so packed you couldn't even throw a punch if you wanted to. It's more like two guys grab each other and start doing the pushing back and forth thing. And so the cop from the back, who was closest, comes up. And I see it, and the other bartender working sees it, and we're up on the bar just about to jump in and break the two guys apart--this was back in my younger days when I thought I could jump over a bar. Now, not so much.
"As I'm going over the bar, the cop pulls out his mace and just lets loose the mace in this crowded bar. I mean, he totally overreacted. I get a faceful of it because I'm blocking the guy fighting behind me. We get the two separated, and I go back behind the bar, and I am just, like . . . head in the trash can, throwing up. People are yelling at me like, "Hey, hey, can I get a beer!" And I look up and I'm crying and all the mucus is draining out, and I'm like, 'Yeah, as soon as I'm done,' and then it's back to the trash can. All I'm thinking is, Make this end. We closed the bar shortly after that.
"Everybody has stories about computers going down, and it is the worst feeling. But I think getting maced while you're working--that has to be on the top of my list of really bad bar shifts."
Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone, and remember to tip your bartenders well. Who knows what manner of shenanigans they'll be putting up with this weekend.