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The Barmaid Blog™: Life for a 30-something Manhattan Barmaid

Lounge Act

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Lounge Act

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"Barmaid" Wine
"Did you know that we can take a tax deduction for the cost of renewing our liquor license?" Vince asks, sifting through a stack of last night's receipts.

"In fact, I did know that."

"Of course you did. Jill knew it, too. Why didn't I know that?"

"Because you didn't have to know it. You pay an accountant to know these things every spring, and he and Jill have your back. Besides, you know it now."

"But you knew it, and you don't own a bar."

"No, I don't, but it's my job to know everything I possibly can about owning and operating a successful bar. That way, when I tell bar owners my hourly rate, it's much less likely that they'll collapse in fits of hysterical laughter."

"Did you know that we can hire some convicted felons to work here, but not all of them?"

"Well, of course not - I mean, there's only so much room back there."

Vince smiles and shakes his head. In some ways it feels like no time has passed at all, and we're hanging out at The Bar in midtown Manhattan, where Vince started working as a barback only a few weeks after I started my blog. But that was almost ten years ago. We're both married, we've both started growing gray hairs here and there, and we've both gone into business for ourselves.

Vince and Jill went into business for themselves, I mean. It's a pretty sleek place, with a great downtown location and a trendy, lounge-y vibe. When they asked my advice a few years ago, I was pretty blunt in warning them about the risks of following trends in New York City. If you change your business too often to try to keep up with what's hip, you could easily lose whatever "regulars" you have in the name of chasing after new ones, and then fail to attract the new ones anyway.

Vince told me that their idea was "design versatility" - so they can "change with taste without losing the overall aesthetic." This bar would have atmosphere that's not "painted on the walls." His pitch sounded familiar, but it wasn't until I was telling Warren about it later that night that he laughed, then reminded me where it came from. It was the restaurant concept Dean Keaton was explaining to potential investors before he got arrested and pulled back into a life of crime in "The Usual Suspects."

When I called Vince on it the next day, he told me it had been Jill's idea, not his. He hadn't even seen the movie until she showed it to him. "That said," he added, "she's not just blowing smoke. You need to take a look at her notes." And damned if he wasn't right. Not that there's any guarantees in the bar business, especially not in New York City, but I thought she had a great concept.

Three years later, their bar (which I'll just call "The Lounge" for anonymity's sake) is still going strong, and changing just often enough - and just subtly enough - to keep it from becoming stale, without alienating the devoted. Right before they opened, I offered them a "friends and family" discount on my consulting services anytime they wanted some help, but they haven't taken me up on it yet. I'm just hanging out before opening time because I'm meeting The Lounge's business manager to take her out to lunch.

As if on cue, Jill walks in the front door, and the baby in her shoulder sling shouts and gestures at the moving lights in the ceiling. Even at eight months old, Alex is still on the small side, but he's active and charming, and unquestionably has Vince's nose. I give both Alex and his mother big kisses, and after Vince follows suit, he goes back to his receipts while we head to the diner down the block.

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