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 this instalment, we hear from a 27-year-old Manchester-based barman who has worked worked more Valentine’s Days than you’ve had Tinder matches.
I’ve worked every single Valentine’s Day from the age of 16 and I’ve been in bar work for 11 years now. You see a completely different side to people—they act like they’re madly in love when in reality, they can’t stand each other. I’ve seen some X-rated things to the downright odd, like when a guy came in three years in a row with different girls that looked exactly like each other.
The two incidents that really stick out in my memory though are when my workmate got hit on in this suburban bar-restaurant just outside Manchester. We had one guy walk in with a girl and my mate goes, “This guy’s gay, there’s no way this date is going to work.” I said, “How do you know?” He just says, “Trust me.” So halfway through this date, the girl goes to the toilet and the guy comes over to the bar and gives my mate his phone number saying, “As soon as this date’s over and you’re finished your shift, let’s go for a drink.” The couple go off in a taxi, so I assumed it must have been a joke, but then the guy comes back in alone an hour later. Although my mate never said anything, I’m pretty sure something went down because the next day, he came in looking rather disheveled.
Another time, we had a guy come up to the bar and go, “Have you seen my date? She’s been gone awhile.” I hadn’t but we were particularly busy that night. I’d completely forgotten about this by the time I was walking back from the kitchen a bit later, so when I heard a couple of bangs and crashes coming from the disabled toilets, I thought, “Shit, this isn’t good, obviously someone’s in there and they’ve fallen over.” I asked if they’re OK but didn’t hear anything, so I barged the door to find this very girl, one leg on the disabled bar, being humped over the toilet by the busser. I didn’t want to break the news to the guy back at the bar, but she must have come clean as he stormed out a few minutes later. The busser got sacked, which is probably for the best as she was back the following week with another date.
Then over in a bar in Liverpool, we had a guy who came up to the bar and said, “I don’t know what to do, she’s overboard and I don’t want to break her heart but I need to get out of this.” Next thing, he goes back over to the table and literally slumps down, his head bouncing on the table. We run over, check his chest, check his pupils. They’re not dilated but he’s completely dead-weighted, so we call an ambulance and they take him away. About five hours later, we get a phone call as we’re closing down and the guy goes, “Hi, I’m the guy that passed out in the bar earlier.” So I go, “Right, glad to hear you’re OK, what’s the hospital said? Is there something we should be aware of?” He says, “No, to be honest, I pretended to pass out to get out of the date.” Words escaped me but I got him barred not only from our bar, but every bar in the surrounding area.
You see a completely different side to people—they act like they’re madly in love when in reality, they can’t stand each other.
The best story though is when we had this couple. They’d been coming in for a while and before the date the guy came in and said, “I’m going to propose to her, can you make a cocktail to put the ring in?” We go, “Yep, we can do that, no worries.” So, he gave us this ring and the rock on it was huge, it was a big-ass ring. After the meal, the Pornstar Martini gets to the table but at that moment she stands up and says, “I want to dance,” grabs him, grabs the drink, and nails it in one go. We just saw this look come across her face like, “What the hell was in the bottom of that glass?” So, she’s there, choking on her engagement ring, turning blue, the guy’s flipping out, not just because he might have just killed his now-fiancé, but also this is quite an expensive ring and he doesn’t want it to come out the other end. If that happens they’ll have to wait three to four days to let everyone else know that they’re engaged! So, this woman is flailing around like one of those inflatable tube man things, going an even deeper shade of blue, and I’m trying not to laugh because it’s the sort of thing you’d see on a cartoon. Finally, this ring pops out of her throat, sat in this passionfruit-y globule and he turns round to her and says, “Well, I’m not putting it on your finger now, but I still wanna marry you.”
The best bit is they kept how they got engaged a secret all the way up to the wedding and then played the CCTV at the reception. Because there was no sound, it was like watching a Charlie Chaplin movie and there was not a dry eye or a or a dry seat in the house. Everyone was pissing themselves laughing.