Tales of cocktails: the fired bartender… a story of unlawful sips

Tales of cocktails: the fired bartender

A story of unlawful sips

The bartenders are the ones who know all the cocktails, who always have a good story to tell, a new cocktail to try or know exactly what your “usual drink” is. The one friend when you sit at the end of a bar deep in thought. Discrete enough to give you space yet present enough when to engage you in a causal chat. I have been there – behind the bar, I mean serving drinks – done that, and I loved it.  Yet in my world, I also come across court decisions where our “trusted” bartender was a bit too casual about the rules and overstepped his boundaries, and ended up getting canned. In this week’s column, I will share a story or toe about our friends, the bartenders, and how their employment ended and ended in a less glorious name. So, here it goes.

The job

A head bartender or mixologist is usually in charge of designing a bar and the cocktail menu. He is also in charge of managing the bar regarding purchases, training the other bartenders, leading by example, and also responsible for cost control. I would say that the balance between what seems to be the fun and cocktails-filled life of a bartender and his core duties is the cost control element. Any food and beverage operation will either make or break if they have a tight leash on cost control. If you have employees leaving a restaurant with food items, bottles of liquor, or wine or not recording sales properly, the business will have a problem eventually. The same goes for the employees who engage in this type of behavior.

The mystery shoppers

From time to time, hotel chains may bring in mystery shoppers to keep an eye on the bartenders and servers of their food & beverage operations. These mystery shoppers stay (or not) in the hotel and hang out day in and day out around the premises and the pool bar. While they are getting tanned and (seemingly) drunk, they observe the movements behind the bar with hawk eyes. They look for anomalies in the behavior of the bartenders and waiters. Sooner or later, bingo!

Here is one example

One afternoon, some mystery shopper approached the pool bar and sat down. They ordered a couple of cocktails. The order was taken, prepared, and delivered. The mystery shoppers placed $40 on the bar indicating an immediate cash payment. The order was punched in, the receipt was produced, and the change of $10.40 was placed in front of the mystery shoppers, indicating a sale of $ 28.57. 


To the innocent bystander, nothing was out of place here. Still, if we go back in slow motion – or rather, if we read the judgment in question – we would see a few things that might well indicate a carefully planned and thought-out scheme:

  • (1) The guests are not given a copy of the check
  • (2) The actual check was punched in and assigned to a guest staying with an “all-inclusive” (“AI”) package, meaning the drinks at the bar were included in the package. It was not recorded as a cash sale.
  • (3) The check was allocated to the room number of an AI guest, but the scribble used to sign the check did not match the AI guest’s signature.(4) The $ 28.57 cash payment was not recorded as received by the hotel
  • (5) The mystery shopper didn’t carry an AI wristband indicating that he was an AI guest.

The hotel concluded that the cash paid for the drinks was recorded on the correct check, but the cash was not correctly recorded as cash received and instead marked as if the All Inclusive Guest of room X had ordered and signed for these drinks. The hotel confirmed the amount of US $ 28.27 was not received by the hotel.  In short, the hotel found that the bartender had acted fraudulently and embezzled company monies. The bartender wasn’t much help for his case.  Not only did the bartender suffer a sudden loss of memory – he couldn’t remember details anymore –  and he also suddenly became sick – you know, the famous AO – and could not attend a 2nd confrontation with the facts with the HR department. It will be no surprise to you that the bartender was fired with immediate effect.

The court case

Subsequently, the unhappy bartender went to court and challenged the dismissal. He has the right to go to court, but given the facts, it seemed like either a brave attempt or a hail mary. He demanded his job back and argued he merely, or at best, made a clerical error that day because he had a lot on his mind. He didn’t convince the court. The court considered this not a mistake but a plan to commit fraud, embezzle funds and take home extra cash in addition to the (tax-free) tips he earned that day.  So did our friend, the bartender, lose his job for over $28.57? No, he lost his job because he violated the rules of the pool bar and diverted funds from the hotel to his pocket. The ruling doesn’t mention if there were any other incidents, but one could assume that this wasn’t the only time this was done. This was the only time he got caught, and in one strike, he was out.

A recent case 

Just a few days back, there was a judgment in a similar case. In this case, the Court had observed video footage of an incident in a restaurant in the hotel area on December 12, 2021. In the footage, one could see the bartender grabs a plastic/paper cup, then grab a whiskey bottle, pour part of the contents of the whiskey bottle into the plastic/paper cup, put the whiskey bottle away, leave the poured plastic/paper cup unattended and then clean up a customer’s drink. A moment later, the bartender picked up a box on the counter and left his workplace with the drink in his hand. Again one or a series of smooth actions that seems pretty innocent and ordinary.

The problem with this scene is that he neither recorded nor paid for the drink in question. He wasn’t otherwise authorized by any superiors to pour or take away that drink either.

So, in this case, also, he was caught in the act of taking the property from the restaurant against the rules and casually walking away. Perhaps we can call this:

the case of unlawful sips

See, this is a problem because if a bartender (or waiter) doesn’t comply with the rules & regulations of the restaurant and walks away with booze, this is considered an urgent reason for terminating the employment. If you cross this line and you get caught, my friend, you will be out on the street looking for a next gig at the next bar, restaurant, or (cigar) lounge. Except your next boss isn’t going to be too eager to hire you if you have a history of “dipping in the bar’s honey”, nor will he be too happy if he finds out after the fact. A bartender is trusted by the patrons but must also enjoy the absolute trust of the boss. So beware, our friends, beware…

A toast to the bartenders

This week, I will end the column with a toast to all the bartenders out there:

Bartenders, our friends behind the bar,

With a smile and a twinkle in their eye,

Always ready to pour us a drink,

And help us escape from life’s climb.


With a listen to our tales and a nod,

They know just what we need,

A simple escape from reality,

A drink that’s both smooth and free.


They make us laugh, they make us smile,

And lift our spirits high,

With their easy jokes and funny style,

They make us feel right at home, by and by.


So here’s to the bartenders of the world,

Those who serve us night and day. 

May they always have a drink on hand,

And a kind word to take our stress away.


For they are the ones who make us feel,

That no matter where we roam,

There’s always a place to call home,

At the bar where the bartenders roam.


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