Ten days ago, bartender Melissa told Jim that owners Steve and Lenny, jointly known as Stenny, were about to unveil their new ideas to increase bar revenue. They did so at an after-hours staff meeting, to reactions ranging from indifference to horror. Tonight, a Monday, what Stenny feels is their most brilliant idea is being put into action.
It’s 5pm, and Stephen and Tara are behind the bar, cutting fruit and stuffing olives in preparation for the evening ahead. The only bar patron is Champagne Mike, who is reading “Love in the Time of Cholera” as he sips from his champagne flute.
“This is going to be a disaster,” Tara says.
“It may not be too bad. Maybe people will surprise us.”
Tara looks at him in a way that the word askance was invented for.
“You don’t have many faults, but your faith in humanity is one of them.”
Stephen says, “I do agree the idea is ill-advised.”
“I’ll-advised? Never in the history of bars has this idea been tried. There’s a reason for that.”
Stenny had done an analysis of the bar receipts and determined that, on a typical evening, the bar isn’t in full swing until 7:15pm and there’s a significant drop-off in revenue after 8:45pm. Their solution, as posted on their Facebook page, is a happy hour from 6pm to 7pm and what they are calling “Happy Hour Times Two” from 9pm to 11pm.
Their reasoning is that customers will arrive around 6pm and drink for 5 hours straight; if so, Stenny calculates that the average per-person bill will be $37, compared to the current average of $18. And that doesn’t even factor in food purchases, which Stenny (probably rightly) assume will increase as people get more and more sloshed.
At 6:05pm, a group of six twenty-somethings arrives and situates themselves around three bar stools. They are not regulars, nor semi-regulars; in fact, neither Tara nor Stephen has ever seen them before. New blood at a bar is not a bad thing, but there’s something about this group that Tara does not like.
“They look like they’re armed for bear,” she says to Stephen at 6:06pm. “Just looking for trouble.”
“Oh come on,” Stephen says. “You can’t possibly know that.”
“Just wait. I’ll be proven right,” she says.
She and Stephen are so busy over the next 5 hours that they barely have time to make eye contact. At 11:45pm, in the aftermath of an evening that was, as Tara predicted, a disaster, she says to him, “Well, was I right? About everything?”
“Mea culpa,” Stephen says. “I’ll never doubt you again.”
There were a number of things that contributed to the disastrous evening, not the least of which was the ingenious scheme concocted and superbly enacted by the gang of six, as Tara had come to think of them. Three of the six were either teetotalers, or agreed not to drink on this particular night. But they ordered drinks, which sat innocently on the bar among the drinks the other three ordered.
From 6pm to 7pm, there were 9 drinks ordered, which meant that the 3 drinkers consumed 3 drinks each, or stockpiled them for when the first happy hour was over. From 7pm to 9pm, with prices at full-freight, and perhaps with a leftover cache of drinks, 6 additional drinks were ordered. The drinkers’ thirst not yet slaked, 9 more drinks were ordered from 9pm to 11pm. So the drinkers, on average, had 8 drinks each, 6 at happy hour prices.
Tara, smart and cynical as she is, didn’t figure this out. One of the non-drinkers, name of Adam, explained it to her after one of the drinkers, a pretty redhead named Jess, fell off her bar stool and cracked her head open on the slate floor.
With Jess safely carted off in an ambulance, and the scheme explained, Tara asks Adam, “So the point was to hoodwink us into serving more drinks than we normally would? And for the 3 that were drinking to get totally bombed?”
“Yes,” Adam says. “And cheaply.”
“So the 3 of you who weren’t drinking still paid for the drinks you ordered?”
“Yep. It works out in the end. We’ll be the drinkers at the next happy hour we go to.”
“Ahh,” Tara says. “I get it. But isn’t it tough to be in a bar for 5 hours and not drink?”
“It’s good for my liver to take a night off once in a while. And it is fun to watch people get drunker and drunker while you stay sober.”
“The fun wears off, believe me,” Tara says.
The night was not a success for reasons aside from the cracked head of pretty young Jess:
- Many of the regulars, fearing a mob scene, did not come in.
- Most of those who did left at 7pm after buying one or two drinks.
- Several did stay until 11pm, a few even ordering food. Their checks were nice and plump, but the extra revenue was eaten away by the cost of the cab rides that got them safely home; neither Tara nor Stephen was going to risk going to jail by unleashing their drunk patrons on neighborhood roads.
So now, with everyone gone, and Stephen agreeing that Tara was 100% right, they add up their tips from the pooled tip jar and the credit card receipts.
“No better than an average Monday night,” Stephen says.
“Yep,” Tara answers. “The really good tippers, like Matt and Joanna, didn’t come in. The gang of six tipped about 10%. The people who stayed until 11pm were too drunk to calculate the correct tip.”
“We got a great tip from Bullshit Billy,” Stephen says. “$20 on a $40 check.”
“Trust me. If and when he remembers, he’ll ask for half of it back. He’ll have some story about the pen malfunctioning, or supernatural forces guiding his hand.”
They hadn’t yet locked the side door, and they both look up as they hear it open.
“Hey guys,” Billy says as he approaches the bar. “Can I check my receipt? I think I was distracted by all the blood when that girl fell off her bar stool and may have written in the wrong tip amount.”