Welcome back to Restaurant Confessionals, where we talk to the unheard voices of the restaurant industry from both the front- and back-of-house about what really goes on behind the scenes at your favourite establishments. In our latest installment, we hear from a 22-year-old bartender who spends the ski season working at La Grotte Du Yeti, a popular après-ski bar in France.My friends tell me "Your job must be amazing," about every other week. In their minds, they have this pretty picture of working in a seasonal town like this. Being on my snowboard every day before work is pretty great, of course, and sure, I make a really nice living, but I work six days a week, ten hours a day in a bar that smells like beer, vomit, and stinky armpits in exchange for all that. Being a bartender in a town like this is very different from doing the same job back home. We don't even have time to skim excess foam off a glass of beer; that's how busy it gets. It's all about selling a lot as quickly as possible, and the morals are a lot looser than most people are used to. If you make a list of all the sexual adventures and other escapades that take place in front and behind the bar at La Grotte Du Yeti, you'd have something way juicier than a TV show like Jersey Shore.
Almost every day, I work the après-ski shift first. Then I take a short break before the evening shift starts. The bartenders are done at 3 AM, and depending on how drunk we are and how much fun the people at the bar are, we either go clubbing or have an after party at someone's house. Around noon, I'm on my snowboard, and then I work the après-ski. When I don't have to start work at 4 PM, I have my own après-ski. This year, management is much stricter when it comes to that due to employees falling asleep from drinking too much and not waking up in time to start their evening shifts. Anyone who shows up for work drunk is sent home. So far, that's happened to me twice this season, and I was really angry at myself for it. You have to be able to handle the "eat, snowboard, work, party, sleep, repeat" lifestyle if you want to work here.I sometimes try to take a break from drinking, but it's always very difficult to maintain. Both locals and tourists are pushing our bartenders to do shots with them, and if they're paying, we're not allowed to say no. Sometimes I only pretend to do the shot, but most nights, I end up drunk. Luckily for me, the pure mountain air is a great antidote to hangovers.My co-workers went nuts when we had fraternities from Amsterdam come by one week. You always hear that frat guys can hold their liquor but apparently, that's a myth. We had to deal with way more vomit than usual. On their last night, we told a fraternity from Groningen that they would have to leave if any of them puked one more time. We had already cleaned the bathrooms four times that night.
Since booze is more expensive than usual in a seasonal town like this, people try all sorts of things to get a free beer. I've laughed at so many people who take pints that clearly belong to other people from the bar. What's truly annoying more than anything else are the people who help themselves to more beer while I turn my back to prepare Jägerbombs.Jägerbombs are selling like crazy this year, because one of the bartenders found a way to drop the shot into the glass with Red Bull using only his penis. He makes a row of ten shots, and by knocking one over, all the other ones topple over into their glass like dominoes. Once he does that once, all the guys in the bar want to try it and show the crowd how manly they are. As a result, I'm seeing a lot of small dicks.We sell shots with fire in them. They're very popular, because breathing in the alcohol fumes looks cool. Drunk women make a habit of climbing onto the bar to hit on the male bartenders by doing body shots.An unwritten rule for sex with tourists is: only sleep with them on Wednesdays—the night before they leave. Otherwise, you'll have to entertain your hookup buddy all week long. At the start of the season, things got pretty wild, but by now, most people have a regular hookup buddy who also lives and works in town.
Even though we're very liberal, we still have a Wall of Shame in a place that customers don't have access to, listing the sexual conquests of everyone who works at the bar. All of our names are on the list, followed by a vertical line for when someone got laid, a star for a special sexual adventure—our DJ once got a blowjob while he was in the booth—and an "F" for conquests who were fat.
The bartenders and barbacks used to live right above the bar, because half the rooms were permanently empty. Back then, it was very easy to take someone home. These days, a staff member sleeps with a customer only once or twice a week. It usually happens after the shift is done, but sometimes we have sex at the bar. We do have to ask permission from the manager if we want to do that, but he's very laid back, so as long as he thinks it's funny, it's all good.A seasonal ski town is a bit like a small city: you know everyone, and when you're out and about, everyone knows everything. You need to be able to handle the amount of gossip that goes on.Despite everything, I still think seasonal work in a bar makes for good life experiences that broaden your perspective of the world. I've seen a lot of really disgusting things—last week I had to clean shit off the walls in the women's bathroom—but doing this job means not taking life too seriously for a few months out of the year. When I spend the winter season pouring shots and beer, cleaning smelly floors, and snowboarding in the powdery white snow, I know I don't have to grow up just yet.As told to Stefanie Staelens.This post previously appeared on MUNCHIES Dutch language site in March 2016.