The Joys of being a Barback – our shift at OLA

WhatsApp | mins ago
Chris Hp: “Eh Bro, you free this Sunday anot?”

Last week, our ex-colleague Chris shot us the text above. He is currently the bar manager at OLA Bar, a bar and restaurant located along the sandy beaches of Sentosa. Even though it was a Sunday, it was also a great opportunity to work alongside him again, with the added plus of being in a new bar with things to learn so we said yes!

On the way to OLA
On the way to OLA via the Sentosa Express

Fast forward to 5pm on Sunday and we turned up for our shift in uncustomary shorts and ready to go. We barely had time to introduce myself before the dirty glasses started flying in. “Time to get cracking,” we whispered softly.

The next half an hour was a whirlwind of chaos and we were right in the middle of it. Being totally new to the operation, we were clueless and felt that we were being more burden than help. However, our basic F&B instincts kicked in and we started to find our footing . We just had to prioritise our tasks and concentrate on doing each one well. Making drinks was not our job tonight though some we couldn’t help but be distracted by the toys in the shed behind the bar 🙂

Jetpack Aquaman Version

Manning the sink, topping up stuff for the bartenders and serving water were our core functions. When we had time, we would also pull beers. It brought us back to our early days barbacking and even when we do it now, the pace was not this intense.

It was also our first time in a speed bar (a bar that has a specific set menu designed for speed) and boy, what an eye-opener! Drinks flew out and soiled glasses came back twice as quickly. We were neck deep in stuff to wash and still had to top up the ice bin and pull beers.

As luck would have it midshift, whilst pulling a beer, the bloody gas tank valve jammed and Chris had to take time off handling his own orders to come help. It was to no avail and draft beers were taken off the menu until the contractor came down to fix it. It was a good thing though, suddenly only bottled beers were flying off the shelves and I had much fewer beer glasses to wash! Woohoo!

Out of nowhere, a familiar face turned up beside us and said: “Eh bro, now do what ah?” That voice was unmistakable. ALAN!!!!! He had left the bar a few months prior and we had not seen him since. It was his birthday AND he just finished his own shift at 6pm but he turned up because Chris sent an SOS requesting for help. This guy, on his birthday, came to help a friend after working the whole day. Stories of friendship don’t get better than that. With an extra pair of hands, we worked more efficiently and we even managed to make a few cocktails!

Ex-colleagues reunited
Ex-Colleagues reunited!

By the time the draft beers were up and running again, the crowd had slimmed and we finally had some time to catch up with Chris and the birthday boy. Chris managed to score us staff dinners! Shioks! Thanks a lot Chris!

Staff meal
Staff meal of greens, chicken and rice.    Balanced diet for the win!

After dinner, we had a bit more work and before we knew it, it was time to close the bar. Though we had never worked at OLA before, Alan and us fell into old rhythms. Chris just gave little instructions here and there, only because he was too free as we were too efficient, haha! Point is, we really appreciated Alan’s training. He too started as a barback and the unquestioning do-and-get-it-done-attitude was evident. Tonight was a reminder that being a bartender is more than just mixing drinks. It’s getting your foundation right and barbacking makes for a solid start.  It is the best vantage point to observe the flow of the bar and, the patience, speed and efficiency learnt only makes you better.

Closing and Night Lights
Closing time and what a shift!

Time flew and it was soon time for us to head home. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves during the shift and Chris said that there would be more to come! We’re up for the challenge. Bring it on!


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