Disco… Disco Duck….Disco…..Disco Duck

Just offhand that you have not been following this blog on Mondays , what I am doing weekly , except for last week , is trying to go through every place I have ever worked in this business. Two weeks ago is when I let the night club manager count my cash and ran off with a lot of my tips and I couldn’t work for that guy anymore. Now of course I have learned my lesson well and never let anyone count my cash at the end of the night. Forget it!

A few days after leaving the Bristol Place I found myself a neat head bartending job at Club 5444 at the Ramada Inn Hotel in Mississauga just near the Toronto Airport. I cannot remember if I had called or just answered an ad but when I went for the interview they had just fired everyone and were in desperate need of some honest people. I was their guy.

It was the Spring of 1981 and disco was at it’s peak. I would head to work around 5 , set up , and the doors would open at 7PM and it was just a party from then on. I would work about 5-6 nights a week and make some really good coin. It was a big stand up bar so the weekends two of us would serve the bar patrons and another would do the service bar.

The dance floor was right in the middle of the room with a big light show going on. The discotheque had two floors with couches and sofas and cushions so anyone could get lost with their sweetheart if they wanted to.

The manager was a guy called Jack and he loved his Rye and Cokes. Plenty of them. The DJ was a guy Jeff who loved his Screwdrivers. When he would send someone over for a drink I would take the orange juice and fill the glass 3/4 full and pour about 3 oz of vodka right on top. Same with Jack’s Rye and Coke. The bartenders all had a drink going. I would dance behind the bar with my hands in my vest pocket and kick my legs up like a cheer leader especially when my favourite disco song came on called , ” Get On Up and Do It Again.”

It was party central and at the end of the night when everyone went home by 1:30 a few of us would stay back for a few and I would end up handing in the deposit about 3 in the morning. Then we would go out for a bite to eat and when I saw the sun coming up I figured I sure as heck better get going home to my room cause in a few hours I would have to be getting up again to do it all over.

The funny thing is with all the boozing going on how is it that when we did inventory at month’s end there was never any discussion about beverage cost. Every month I would do the inventory and everything was fine. Now no one ever stole bottles but the amount of drinking that everyone was doing was a bit much.

Well unknowingly this is what was happening. There was a price list that I never really paid attention to. A beer was this much and a shot was this much and that I knew but whenever anyone ordered a cocktail like a Black Russian or Sling I would charge them $3.30 for it. I just did that cause it was consistent and I knew where the key was in the NCR machine. What I didn’t realize at the time that most of the drinks I was charging $3.30 for were actually $2.75! Some but not many were actually $3.30. Premium brands I would charge more for as well.

I remember what happened one time is we hired this bartender and since I was in charge of training them I would tell them this is what the price was of something. Well one time during her first shift she looked at the price list and charged $2.75 for something we had been charging $3.30 for. The customer says to me listen how come it is this and I have been paying that. I said don’t worry it is $3.30 and that it was just a mistake but we will give it to you this time for $2.75. I took the girl aside and said listen don’t follow that price list cause it doesn’t make sense just if there is two liquors in it charge them $3.30 and you will not be confused. She trusted me and charged that amount afterwards.

Am I proud of what I did? Not at all! What did I know? I was a Head Bartender who did inventory , made requisitions , trained others upon hiring , cut lemon and limes , and made drinks. I didn’t know anything about costs. I knew about keeping a par stock but other than that I was just doing something that I thought made sense. It was easy and no one picked up on it.

So what happened is after 6 months of doing the disco I was getting a bit burned out and me and this other girl I was working with were thinking of moving in together downtown. Ah yes where the action is the heart of the city , Toronto. She was heading to Vancouver for a holiday and she would move in where I was moving in Toronto. She suggested Hyde Park area so I moved closeby and left the Ramada to work downtown.

Well there is a sucker born every minute and this time I was one of them. She never came back. It is always just as well.

But a funny thing happened to my friends at the Ramada when I left. I went back a couple of months later and Jack grabs me with a drink in his hand and says , “listen the bar costs is way up but I don’t understand it , nothings changed!” I reply that they have to stop drinking so much. He is begging me to come back at this point. Meanwhile I head to the bar where the girl I had trained earlier was happy to see me. After about 15 Rye and 7ups that were on the house I start to thinking it is the free drinks but now she says they are being strict with the prices now. That was a aha moment.

A month later everyone got canned. Jack was told to fire all the bar staff and he refused so he got turfed as well. He was devoted Jack was , and a great guy too.

It was a sad moment but I learned something about beverage costs during this job. I was what you call learning by trial and error. Not something I recommend.

See you next week when things get hairy…..

So far,

Hilton Hotel
Willows Inn
Holiday Inn
Credit Valley Golf Club
Bristol Place Hotel
Ramada Inn


  1. trial and error? it;s all trial, error, fire these days…..which is fine by me……hehehehe

  2. Manuel…True.I am wondering if anyone has ever started this business smoothly. I know I didn’t really know how to do it well in the beginning but I knew I liked the people contact.And at least I showed potential and could bullshit myself out of a paper bag.

  3. Disco Duck? Your dating yourself Mr. Waiter. Oh, I remember it well too. Happy New Year.

  4. Banquet Manager…Yes I am but I am kind of lovin’ it. Happy New Year to you too!

  5. Reminds me of the time I opened the bar up after hours, 3AM, with about 10 of my friends. We were there about 15 minutes wen the phone rang. It was the Security Alarm Company. i forgot to turn the alarm off.I thought for sure I’d get fired , but…boss never said a word.

  6. Bulletholes…Amazing back then everyone just carried on.

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