Life behind the bar can provide an individual with many important lessons, say two local bartenders.
And those lessons can come in handy in aspects of life on the other side of the bar, too.
Knute Beckford of St. Charles knows that good bartenders have to have a great personality, an innate ability to interact easily with anybody and they must be quick on their feet.
“You have to be very attentive,” says Beckford, who has been a bartender at The Beehive Tavern and Grille in St. Charles for the last four and a half years. “If you look down the bar and somebody has an empty glass, you want to be sure in a couple of seconds … you say, ‘You want another one?’”
“[As my general manger always says], ‘Your head always has to be on a swivel,’” he adds.
Beckford, 36, who also works in construction, says he enjoys bartending and wishes he had started tending bar earlier in life.
“I do enjoy it — it’s a lot of fun,” Beckford says. “You get to interact with people, pour people drinks ... that is what it’s all about, making friends, enjoying people.”
Beckford says his main job as a bartender is to make sure everybody sitting at the bar is having a good time.
He has learned to be a quick study of people and to know what his regulars want to drink the moment he sees them walk through the doors. He has that drink on the bar before they hit the stool, he says.
Bartending also has taught him to be accommodating to all people and always to have a positive attitude, “No matter how your day is going,” he says.
On the flip side, being a bartender also has taught Beckford how he does not want to behave when out drinking at someone else’s bar.
“I’m sober sitting on [my] side of the bar ... [and I’ve seen] some who tend to have a little too much to drink ...” he says.
In those moments of seeing poor behavior — the result of someone drinking too much — he thinks of what he won’t do.
“I just hope when I’m on the other side of the bar, I don’t act like that,” he says.
We’re all the same
Since 1998, Mike Maridis, 44, of Algonquin, has been a manager and part owner of Rookies All American Pub and Grill sports bars in St. Charles and Elgin. At times, he helps out behind the bar when things get hairy.
Having worked his way up in the business in other local bars and restaurants — plus establishments in California and as a manager at Alexander’s in Elgin — Maridis has seen a wide spectrum of people.
What he has learned is that all human beings are actually quite similar.
“Everyone is pretty much the same,” says the married father of three young children. “[They’re] just trying to pay their bills, trying to work and, you know, just come here sometimes just to release some pressures of life and go back to their routine.”
He has seen people of all walks of life.
“I’ve seen lots of interesting people ... different people from different areas, backgrounds, jobs, families ... you see a lot of kids grow up,” he says of life inside the family-friendly sports bar.
He says he likes working at the bar because he enjoys the people, the sports atmosphere and watching Sunday football at the bar with the customers during the fall. But when work is done, he prefers a more low-key way of spending his time.
After watching others make poor choices, he is reminded to not drink and drive, and he has little interest in hanging out in bars in his off time.
Maridis has made many friends over the years at the bar and has learned to be more patient with people, he says.
He says the real job of the bartender is to make people feel comfortable and happy.
“You have to have a personality behind the bar,” Maridis says. “To just pour drinks and leave would be kind of boring.” kc