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Published: Friday, 12/30/2005

Busy bartenders keep spirits up on holiday shift

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Christine Rutkowski, who has been tending bar for 14 years, chats with a patron at Rookies Sports Bar & Grill. Ms. Rutkowski says she's ready to fend off that first after-midnight kiss. Christine Rutkowski, who has been tending bar for 14 years, chats with a patron at Rookies Sports Bar & Grill. Ms. Rutkowski says she's ready to fend off that first after-midnight kiss.
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Christine Rutkowski has been a bartender for 14 years and is familiar with the New Year routine: Just seconds after midnight, some drunk tries to lean over the bar and give her the first kiss of the year.

"It's a crazy night, but I think it's fun working New Year's Eve," Ms. Rutkowski said. "Sometimes men have tried to come behind the bar for a kiss, even if they are already with someone.

"But I never let them."

If you're heading out for the big party night tomorrow to celebrate the New Year with lots and lots of alcohol, Ms. Rutkowski, who tends bar at Rookies Sports Bar & Grill in East Toledo, says you should remember to be kind to your bartenders, for they are the hands that serve you.

Most bartenders agree that the tips are good, but New Year's Eve is a tough night to work.

Bar patrons unwind early in the evening with drinks; keep drinking up until the midnight countdown; down the traditional champagne toast at midnight, and top it all off with more drinks until last call.

Throughout it all, people like Ms. Rutkowski are hustling to keep up with the orders.

"The worst thing is the crowd, because the more they drink, the less patience they have," she said.

Tom Sullivan, a bartender at the Village Idiot in Maumee, said the bar's staff always has fun on New Year's.

"No one ever causes any trouble, but I don't personally consider this work," he said.

The popular Maumee hangout will have the Ann Arbor-based jam band Smokestack perform tomorrow night. Last time the band played, Mr. Sullivan said, the place was packed.

"This is like getting paid and going to the circus," he said.

Like many places, the Claddagh Irish Pub at Westfield Franklin Park will also have live music. But Jim Butkowski, a veteran bartender of 25 years, said he will be way too busy to enjoy the show.

His biggest complaint about the night is the "amateur drinkers" who come out.

"People who don't usually drink go out for a good time and don't know what they get themselves into," he said.

All this comes with the territory, Mr. Butkowski said. Also, he says bar and restaurant workers miss out on lots of holidays.

"That is one of the personal things that is tough," Mr. Butkowski said. "You don't get to spend the time with your family or significant others."

Jed's Barbeque and Brew on Alexis Road will probably attract a slightly younger crowd than the Irish pub at the mall. Bartender Stephanie Wood, 25, said she didn't think twice about working the shift.

"People get way too wasted and they act like drunken idiots," she said. "So yeah, it's a zoo, but it's just another bar night."

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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