On the job: The hazards of being a host

Restaurant work can involve unexpected hazards.

Last Thursday was the third installment of the Riverfront Fashion show, a series held at the foot of the Millennium Bridge that's become a real hit in town. But one former host at a nearby restaurant is still recovering from the hit she took after one of last year's shows.

Like a lot of hostesses, Elvira (as I'll call her) is young, good-looking and working for $10 an hour. At about 9:30 p.m. that night, as the show ended, the restaurant was flooded with customers. The bar was packed, standing room only; the wait was long. But that worked in Elvira's favor, since a few customers palmed her twenties to get ahead. What did not work was the sheer number of people.

"It seemed like the group was so L.A., everyone dressed to the nines, but they're not in L.A., they're in Denver," Elvira remembers. "That was their mentality, kind of posh." It was hard for her to seat people; she had to part the crowd with her customers trailing behind her until they reached the table. And on the way back, she'd grab cups and glasses from fashion-show attendees who'd snuck in champagne and vodka from the catering venue outside. "All I could hear were glasses breaking every twenty minutes, people were really drunk."

Elvira was dealing with the crush of business when, she says, "A man grabbed me by my shoulders, pulled me in, and started kissing me. He tried to put his tongue in my mouth, but I pushed off him and asked him what he thought he was doing. He just mumbled under his breath."

Just then, Elvira felt a hard snap and her head went flying backwards. "Luckily, I didn't fall down because there were people everywhere packed in tight," she says. At first she thought a co-worker might be playing around, but no: It was his girlfriend. The girlfriend pulled on Elvira's ponytail, yanking her away from the mumbling man, caveman-style. "She just started yelling at me: Why are you making out with my boyfriend?!"

Fortunately, Elvira's G.M. was present, and he kicked the lovely couple out while they bitched at each other. Elvira went into the office for ten minutes to calm down. "I was shocked...the night was so chaotic with people everywhere messing things up, and I needed time to get the situation out of my head," she says. One of the chefs came in to check on her. She did manage to calm down, but not to forget.

"I don't know what he was thinking," she says now. "I don't wear a uniform as a host, so I guess I blended into the crowd. It was so packed it was hard to tell who was with who; maybe he thought I was a friend of his." And who knows what his girlfriend thought.

"It was a pretty bunk situation," she concludes. "I am just trying to do my job and I get harassed."

Elvira was not on duty last Thursday night.

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