Food News

Tales From the Table: The Bleeder

Oh, the things bartops in Denver have seen....
Oh, the things bartops in Denver have seen.... Molly Martin
Hospitality workers have stories. Lots of them, from bad guest behavior to pranks that became legends to mishaps that are still talked about years later. In our new series, Tales From the Table, we're sharing some of the most memorable stories from bar and restaurant vets, as well as the lessons they learned along the way. Their identities have been withheld to protect the innocent (and sometimes guilty).

The place: A busy South Broadway bar that catered to the rockabilly crowd

When: 2010

Who: A then-thirty-year-old bartender who'd moved to Denver a few years earlier

The tale: I'd been training at the bar for a couple of weeks and was finally ready for my first real shift on my own at my first bartending job in Denver. The owner scheduled me for a Sunday, since those were typically slower days. It was a nice, sunny day, and I got there at noon. The place opened at 2 p.m., and I was going through the regular opening procedures, pulling out mats, pulling down the chairs and mopping. I go in the back to get the mop bucket, and I'm really excited — this was a place I'd been going to for years, and I was super-excited to be a part of it.

There was a jukebox on wheels, so I pulled it out a bit to mop behind it, and when I did, I heard some glass tinking against the mop. I swept it out, and it was the jagged end of a pint glass covered in blood. It was rough-looking, and I was scared — I didn't expect to find that.

So I text the owner, "Everything's good, but I just found this behind the jukebox."

"Oh, yeah, something happened Saturday night," he replied, and told this story:

There had been some drunk jerk walking around the bar all night, grabbing people's pint glasses with one or two sips left and finishing off the scroungy ends of warm beer. In those days, the place was super-hopping on weekends, and there's only one door guy working. He's been trying to find the beer-stealer, but the guy keeps slinking through the crowd.

Finally, he makes his way to the bar, where a regular, this soft-spoken cowboy type (pearl snaps, cowboy hat), was sitting with a lady friend. The guy reaches between them and grabs the cowboy's beer. "Can I help you?" the cowboy asks.

"I'm gonna drink this beer and take your lady home because you're not man enough for either," the guy replies. He goes to take a sip, and the second the pint glass hits his lips, the cowboy throws an elbow. The glass shatters, and the guy falls to the ground, bleeding.

The security guard sees it and ends up dragging the guy outside. That's when I noticed that there was still a little blood by the front door and outside. He ended up stumbling off, and we never saw him again.

The cowboy asks for forgiveness and says something like, "That's not what I expected to do on a date night, but he said something really offensive, and I didn't know what else to do." He was so soft-spoken, the staff was really surprised that he did it. He wasn't 86ed, but they told him to take a month off, then he could come back.

The lesson: Don't let a worrisome first day deter you from working somewhere you really love. I ended up staying at that job for two and a half years, and it turned out to be the greatest bartending job of my life — and I never saw anything that violent go down after that.

And don't mess with a cowboy's beer, or his lady.

Do you have a memorable story from working at bars or restaurants in Denver? Email [email protected] for a chance to be featured in Tales From the Table.
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Molly Martin is the Westword Food & Drink editor. She’s been writing about the dining scene in Denver since 2013, and was eating her way around the city long before that. She enjoys long walks to the nearest burrito joint and nights spent sipping cocktails on Colfax.
Contact: Molly Martin