How I Saved the Bar

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

Usually, one worries about killing a bar for his friends.  You can do this by getting belligerent and being thrown out, throwing up on the floor, or, most egregiously, dating (and subsequently breaking up with) a waitress or waiter that works there.   I wouldn't recommend doing any of these things, though the later has the most chance for a learning experience, as you pit your needs (aka sex with the server) against your friends' needs (continuing to frequent that bar).

When visiting Seattle, I was in no significant danger of killing any bars (since i wasn't looking for a long term bar solution).  I was in danger of overbooking our group-night-out bar get-together.  The wife and I, we have a bunch of people in Seattle (so many that I am just now realizing people I forgot to see).   In hopes of bringing all these wonderful people to one space, we chose an amazing beer bar/Belgian food establishment for the group drink up.  A group of nine.

Here's the thing with the bar we chose.  It is *extremely* first come first serve.  The downstairs is a wide open bar hall space with movable square wood tables.  You get enough of those tables in your possession, and you've got yourself a party.   Along one wall was a row of booths, which comfortably seat six.  They uncomfortably seat eight.  They do not seat nine.  Opposite the booths is a long, amazing bar, two-tops aplenty.

There is also an upstairs.  The upstairs is a wrap around balcony with more wooden tables, same premise as down below, with the addition of a "back room" parlor area which is perfect for large groups.  It also has two leather loungers to add to the swank index.  It's the poo.

When my party first arrived, it was wifey, her friends who we stayed with, and myself.  The only table open was a booth, and we slid right in.  Once we were slid, I was informed of the rules of this particular bar.  In stark contrast to my last blog on Seattle driving, the bar had a cut-throat and firm "everybody for themselves/first-come-first serve" policy.  As the four of us surveyed the space, we saw the problem.  We had an additional 2 seats available, and five more people coming.   Before we could work out any semblance of a solution, my five friends entered in a chaotic clump of love and hugs.  Shortly thereafter, however, we are squished and uncomfortable, and our overflow (3 people) have moved across the room to the "overflow lounge" where a side conversation has begun.  Our waitress, by the way, is not loving what's happening.  A full table in one location with a constant rotation of people.  Not ideal.  I, stress-case that i can be, am watching my imagined happy gathering crumble into a small table massacre.  I have already interrupted the middle-aged men sitting at one of the wood tables next to us to request that they alert us before they are getting ready to go, so we can "get down on that" before one of the door scavengers swoops in.  And yes, the competition is that fierce.  If you wait for the people to gather their belongings and take leave of the table, it will already be too late.

So, when I saw a group of 3 wood tables pushed together getting up to leave on the balcony, I didn't waste any time before making a bee-line for the stairs.   And that's when shit got real.

As I crest the stairs, I see the parlor is emptying out.  I also see a couple on the balcony grabbing their stuff to head in the parlor's direction.  I fast walk.  Yes, almost a speed-walk.  I walk-sprint like I would during a middle school game of eraser tag.   This is why I am surprised to encounter a young woman pulling up alongside me, headed in the same direction.  An interaction is unavoidable.

Me: (feigning surprise) Oh, are you guys headed for the parlor?
Girl 1: Oh, YAH!
Me: (more forcefully) I'm headed there too! (what a coincidence, no?)  We have nine people squished into a booth downstairs and we are looking for a space that actually fits all of us.
Girl 1: (pulling her ace from her sleeve as we reach the parlor) Oh, my friend (seated in parlor) is holding it and we have a large group 'coming'.

Ok, I do some quick calculations.  Do I believe she has a large group? No.  Were they there first? Yes (she's seated at the parlor table).  Do I think that I can convince them to give it to us?  Yes, but the clock is ticking and the 3 wood tables are still free . . .   time is of the essence.   I decide to cut and run.  I figure getting those tables across the way solves my problem and, while the parlor is the bomb, having seats all together is the primary goal.

I fast walk away from the parlor towards the 10-top.  I am now physically closest to the table, but there are two women, young twenties, who I just passed who seem to also be claiming the space, albeit a bit further away from the table itself.  I am now standing on the balcony opposite our downstairs booth, and my peeps are watching.  It is time to make a stand.  I will say, that the young women I was about to converse with was about as nice as she possibly could have been given the conflict in front of us.  I give her much props.

Me: Hey, so we've been waiting for this table for awhile now downstairs (i motion to friends).
Woman 2:  Oh (all sentences start with feigned surprise during conflict), we have a large group too & we've been waiting by the door (motions to door).

I pushed.  She pushed back.  I try to barter.

Me:  You guys can have our booth down there . . . (I waive to friends, friends waive back dutifully)
Woman: (she considers)  We actually have nine people too, sooooooo.  

I pushed again.  She pushed back again.  Much respect.
Now we are at a true impasse.  As much as either of us would like it, neither of us has a firm claim to the table.  We were both there early.  We are both there now.  We both have big groups (and I believe that her group exists).  Short of having some iocane powder, I only know one fair solution to problems such as these:

Me: Rock-Paper-Scissors for the table?
Woman 2:  Seriously?!?

Her reaction to my suggestion was the most surprising part of this entire interaction.  I thought RPS was a somewhat universal sign of fair play.  She was reacting as if I had purposed anal.

Me: Yah.  It's kinda the only fair way.  1 out of 1?  Best out of 3?  I don't care.  I swear I'm no RPS champion or anything.
Woman 2:  Look you can have it if you really want it that badly.  We'll take the booth . . . 

Now, my RPS suggestion had nothing to do at all with the amount I wanted that table.  But I did, really want that table -- so when she acquiesced, I didn't argue.

Here, if you can believe it, is where things got complicated.  As I am signaling to my friends to come up, I am also trying to communicate that one of them should stay at the table and await Woman 2's group.  Just then, Girl 1 comes over and says that we can have the parlor since our "whole group is here now" (I read that as she was lying about her group size, and the waitress kicking them out, but i don't want to digress too far).  So, with this new information I am trying to steer my party to the parlor, Girl 1's party to the 10-top, and Woman 2's party to the booth.  Only the wait staff doesn't realize that Girl 1 and Woman 2 are not in the same party, and people are flying everywhere.   I am the only one who "knows where everyone belongs".  It is my time to shine.

So I go into Superman mode.  I take aside Girl 1 and Woman 2 and explain that the servers are sending their parties all over the place cause they don't know who is who.  I send Girl 1 to the 10-top, directly, knowing she has friends already in the bar who will find her.  I walk Woman 2 downstairs with me to our booth, confident at this point that if anyone tries to snake the parlor, i will cut them -- like with a knife.  As I arrive at our booth, I direct my friends upstairs while sliding Woman 2's party right in behind them.  Wife tries to talk to me.  Denied.  I'm in the zone.  I send her upstairs.  I fear that to pause for a side conversation is to lose prime bar real estate, and I will have none of that.  Not at this point.  All that's going through my mind is how much easier this whole transition would have been had we all been in our vehicles.

After settling our downstairs tab I re-upped to the parlor, order a scotch and a beer, sat down, and was greeted with a genuine applause of thanks from my friends for all my hard work in procuring the bomb-ass parlor room. It was a highlight of the trip.  I love coming through for people.

I should add, that my whole life I have been an optimist -- for no particularly solid reason.  But, when the four of us first arrived at the booth and discovered our space problem, I said aloud, "Don't worry, we'll end up in the parlor in the end."  No reaction.  And while I can't say that I came even remotely close to not worrying . . .  look where we ended up.  Moments later, when my drinks arrived, it was hard not to see both glasses as half-full.

Though not for long.

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