“They” Say Nightclub’s are Dead

Nicholas Simon | NIC’S CORNER | Issue 1

They. I often question what they know. They seem to sound a lot like them and all of them are idiots. I concede, nightclubs have seen better days but no obituaries to be written here. The club isn’t the problem, change is.

Change is like the truth, everyone says they like it, but are rarely able to accept it. Change first happens socially. In the 90’s, the good ol 90’s, we went to nightclubs to do everything 19-25 year olds do on their iPhone today. There was no Songza, Snapchat, Tinder or Shazaam. To talk to that girl, approach her, to hang with friends, go out, to hear that song, the DJ had to play it. You liked a song and didn’t know it, too bad. If you were lucky, MuchMusic may play it, even luckier, LG73 would play it and if you were even luckier still you had a blank tape ready to push play or record to capture it. If you were truly lucky a friend knew it and you slowly, patiently download it on Napster or Limewire. Luck was real back then, usually you’d be back in the club hoping the DJ’s (Boy Scouts) would play it. (confession)

The nightclub is no longer the source of any of this. This is not the sole reason clubs are near flat line. Clubs used to be sticky, bassy rooms where inhibitions flew out like beats. Whiskey, Coke, Bacardi and bullshit. We went to dance and be fly. We have all been to a club lately; the dance floor is no longer the bees knees. VIP has come back, reminiscent of the Studio 54 days just less medicated smiles — Bottle Poppin!!

Having lost social relevance, clubs traded their souls to house the aspirations of a baller. To cater to the narcissism that runs deep in our bellies fueled by fear of being regular.

It’s a pay to play party that is barely worth attending. Nightclubs need to embrace the change and accept the evolution. The social casual bar is king today, it’s not a club but starting to feel like one, not a bad place to start. There is always a place for the Celebrities, 12 West’s & Auras, just less of them. Spots like Hello Goodbye, Parlour or 33 Acres are evolution: food (outside), seats, lights and only splashes of appropriate ballerisms. Places can still be classy, like the new Drai’s promises to be, but have the chill for the chill and the pill for the shrill.

People are slow to accept change; nightclubs, even slower. Instead of resorting back to one of their old tricks, this time they need the desire and the foresight to reinvent totally and radically. How much has the classic nightclub changed since the cavemen were banging rocks to a beat in a dark cave, whistling with dinosaur bones? It’s almost the same damn party. What we need now is fundamental change that can redefine the nightclub for decades.

This isn’t a Vancouver problem, it’s a world thing, a people thing. We hate change. We hold on until our knuckles shake. Maybe it’ll take a lost descendant of Mark Fleischman or a reincarnation of Jeff Donnelly to solve it. Who knows, I don’t! What we do know is what isn’t working.

Nightclubs aren’t dying they are begging to be reborn! To take their seat at the throne and rule once again long after the meteor strike.

They are wrong.

Nicholas Simon Byline Image

TALES…From the Tray

Raquel Riskin | TALES | Issue 1

I used to work in a high volume cheap eats hot spot, of course that environment drew in people of all kinds. Some would come for the fun staff, music and rad atmosphere, while others were there because they only had a handful of coins and were hungry. As you would probably guess, working there you learn to read people pretty well. While I try not to stereotype, sometimes based on experience, it’s difficult not to. That being said, I put a conscious effort into not judging a book by its cover.

There’s a customer I’ll always remember that came in every day for a week and happened to be in my section a few days in a row. He was an older gentleman with unruly grey hair and a beard that probably hadn’t seen a trim in years. His shirt was ripped (it was the same tie dye shirt every day) and he walked slowly with a limp. He always seemed to be out of breath.

I treated him just like any other customer; it helped that he was a sweet, polite man who smiled a lot. Day after day I would welcome him back and take his order. He always tipped me a loonie. He would wait for me to come by, put it directly into my hand and say with a smile “this is for you…”

On the fourth day, once he finished his meal, he waved me over. I went to his table and he said, “You are a lovely young lady and I want to thank you.” I brushed off the compliment and told him that I was just doing my job. He went on to say, “It’s been a long time since someone has treated me with dignity and respect.” I saw tears in his eyes as he continued, “You don’t make me feel judged, uncomfortable or invisible and you have no idea how much I appreciate that.” What he said was very humbling. I gave the man a hug, tried not to let him see me get emotional and wished him well on his way.

The lesson was reinforced in me that day to treat others with the same dignity and respect that we all would hope to be treated with. You never know what your customers are getting from everyone else in their day to day lives. Be a positive part of someone else’s day, at the risk of sounding selfish or self serving, it always feels good to make others smile.

Raquel Riskin Byline Image

The Golden Owl Hospitality Awards | In With The New

Kevin Parr | FEATURE ARTICLE | Issue 1

As a very wise man once said, “The times, they are a changin” and those words have never been more true than in the city of Vancouver.

When you take a step back and marvel over the immense changes our city has gone through in the past five to ten years, the results can be staggering. From the Olympics’ success to the current housing crisis, legendary institutions rise and fall, seemingly every year, but with that change comes the opportunity to evolve. To take what you’ve got and improve upon it, learn from the mistakes of the past and pave the way for a better community.

This is best represented in a Vancouver tradition that has been going strong for nearly twelve years, and in this day and age, that is a feat not easily accomplished. The Vancouver Nightlife Awards is an event not many may be aware of, but if you have ever worked in a restaurant, bar or nightclub, chances are, you have a story to tell from one of these nightlife gatherings.

Golden Owl Image 1

The VNA’s was an event for the people by the people, an event of appreciation for the nightlife and hospitality community where once a year, the Vancouver guys and gals who make sure you have the time of your life, sit down and find out who is the best of the best. Past categories for the VNA’s have included Best Manager, Server, Nightclub, Event of the Year, DJ, Lounge, New Venue, Promoter, Doorman, Photographer, etc.

With the decline in popularity of the nightclub scene since 2008, other alternative ways of what dictates a nightlife experience have taken center stage, with craft breweries, hotel lounges, even flea markets becoming more popular than ever. The VNA’s must now go with the flow and refocus their efforts to accommodate the growing needs of the city. Enter the Golden Owl Awards. It’s a massive brand change for the Vancouver staple, to start the evolution of what the term Vancouver Nightlife means and recognizing where they’ve come from and where they’re going.

The Golden Owl meet the players

Joel Weinmaster, founder and previous event director for the Vancouver Nightlife Awards began this journey twelve years ago when he was running another historic Vancouver business, Clubvibes. In the awards show’s first year, originally called the Clubvibe awards, they celebrated the popularity of the nightclub at the height of its day.

“The first show was quite small, maybe 200 people. Clubvibes was at its peak at that time so it made it a lot easier for us to put on the awards show. We skinned our knees and learned a lot that year but it was a success out the gate. At the first event we actually had six founders. Six key nightlife influencers at the time that started the show. I felt that every year, my job was to make sure those key influencers were still interested in the show and keeping that interest would be important in bringing the show back year after year.” – Joel Weinmaster

After growing the event from a humble 200 audience to nearly 700 over the course of several years and numerous venues across the city, Joel and his team felt that it was finally time for change and a new face for the VNA’s.

“With anything creative you have to change it up with something new to keep everyone interested” – Joel Weinmaster

Along with facing the challenge of building a new brand, Joel needed some fresh blood to add to his already stellar roster of nightlife veterans. Barry Rabold and Carrisa Campeotto are two of B.C’s most talented nightlife guru’s, having both started from the bottom to reach the height of their professions. Their skills range from marketing, promotions and operations to opening dozens of new restaurants and nightclubs all over the west coast. The vast amount of experience between these two is staggering and it was with their help that Joel was able to realize his vision of a more progressive VNA’s.

Carissa and I originally talked about bringing in five star restaurants and hotel lounges, expanding the demographic for the show. That was a year ago now. A few months ago I met up with Barry and pitched him the concept for the Golden Owl and we had a very similar philosophy on why we were doing it. It all fell together at that point. That philosophy that Barry and I really connected on was why we are doing the awards show. The reason the award show has been so successful is because it’s about bringing people together. We do what’s best for the award show, not what’s best for ourselves.” – Joel Weinmaster

When talking with both Barry and Carissa about why they decided to join Joel on his refashioning of the awards show to fit the growing demand of the public, it was Joel’s devotion and sentiment that attracted them to the project.

“It was that similar vision that Joel spoke about. When I talked to him I had no preconceptions going in. I just felt like he got it, what nightlife is about. I love being able to take care of people. I think this is really reflective of that industry. We are really taking care of everyone who took care of us and got us where we are today. This being my first year on this team and seeing the relationships that Joel has created over the years, it seems like the core group that helped Joel with Clubvibes and the awards show have really put their best foot forward and still stand strong today. There are over 60-100 nightlife workers that are working with Joel and those are relationships that he has built through the show. The first thing people ask when we start talking about the awards show is how can I be involved, and it has nothing to do with money or power, it all has to do with putting your best foot forward and creating a community.” – Carissa Campeotto

As well as changing the name, the look and the overall style of the VNA’s to the Golden Owls, one of its biggest changes was Joel stepping down as Event Director. The position he has held for over a decade will now be transferred over to Barry Rabold. When the topic came up on the need for a new event director and why they felt this new change was necessary, it’s clear that Joel, Barry and Carissa have their finger on the pulse of what drives the nightlife culture today.

“The nightclub awards were so relevant at the time and that’s where the focus was but now because of all these craft breweries and cocktail lounges, there weren’t that many of them around five or six years ago and now they’re everywhere. So it’s changed so much. A lot of people who were in their late twenties or early thirties didn’t feel like going out to nightclubs anymore, so they started going to the cocktail lounges, hotel lounges, the craft brewery scene. There’s a nightlife for all these people. Not everyone stays out till 3am anymore, some of these people only stay out until midnight now so I just feel the whole scene has just changed a lot and really encompasses what that’s really all about in the Golden Owl Awards.” – Barry Rabold

We wanted to make sure that with the evolution of the nightlife awards, that we weren’t focused on our panelists and judges that were just in nightlife. To include people from all different areas and create trust with our brand. So what we’ve done is not only reached out to nightlife influencers but also to well known foodies, people who are in P.R. writing for magazines, food, wine and beer enthusiasts. Before, people were always trusting the mainstream media like The Vancouver Sun, your newspapers, whereas I think with the evolution of time and this awards show, we are bringing in people who are popular online and have respect online. The evolution of our panel and our judges, bringing in people from the hotel industry and different mixologists from the city.” – Carissa Campeotto

The Golden Owl Event Producers

As the GOA team stated, the range of award sections will reflect the growing nature of the nightlife culture to include more inclusive categories such as Best Experience, Hotel Lounge, Subculture Venue and Social Event of the Year. With the welcomed change of widening its demographic to include many aspects of the Vancouver nightlife scene, the opportunity for new and exciting businesses to join in on the event is more encouraged now than ever.

The hospitality game is currently undergoing a revolution in the glass city. We see a younger generation of bar owners and restaurateurs gaining a strong foothold in the community, seen in popular new venues such as Earnest Ice Cream and the recently opened Virtuous Pie, a vegan pizza joint that has had a lineup out its doors since day one. This show offers those who are having a great first year in the city to go even further and gain the respect and admiration of their peers. It promotes emerging concepts and establishments that are just getting off the ground.

“One thing with the awards is we really feel that the independent companies can go against the corporate companies and that was a really big thing for us, so that corporations or larger companies don’t have the advantage.” – Barry Rabold

We wanted to be very open and accepting of the subculture market, to include the alternative and arts crowds.” – Carissa Campeotto

The top five awards nominees will be selected by the awards committee this year but the actual voting of the top five will be 60% from the judges panel and 40% from the public vote. The judges panel will be comprised of a smorgasbord of hospitality professionals ranging, as Carissa previously stated, from not only nightlife connoisseurs but writers, bloggers and beer/wine enthusiasts.

“If you are nominated you get two tickets to the awards ceremony which will only be 250 people so that will include only nominees, panelists, sponsors and media. If chosen as a winner, you will receive a Golden Awards Statue, be a part of the ceremony, a gift bag and two wrist bands to the winners lounge.” – Joel Wienmaster

On top of the physical perks of winning in your category, the potential to gain the recognition amongst your peers, plus positive marketing for your business and staff is a quality of the awards show that the whole Golden Owl team stands behind. The event this year will also be held at a brand new venue, The Golden Corps Stage inside the BMO Theatre. Joel wasn’t sure at first if this was to be the stage where he wanted to present his latest venture but once he laid eyes on the freshly built stage, he knew it would be home.

Barry had brought up that venue and I wasn’t interested at first because it only fit 250 people. Our original plan was to shrink the awards ceremony from 700 to 500 people but when we saw the gold corps stage, we felt it really resonated with us and fit our new branding. It’s about being creative and trying something new.” – Joel Weinmaster

The Golden Owl Stage Image

The awards show itself will be reserved for only nominees, media, sponsors and awards staff since the venue has such tight capacity but the reception is where the real party will be. The reception will take place at the formally known Direct Tap Warehouse. This will be a pop up warehouse party that will include everything from production, bar service, and VIP with an after party venue to be announced at a later date.

When people connect, they have the unique ability to collaborate. We want to encourage more connections and the reception party is where this is going to happen and it’s just going to be a great party and a good night out.” – Carissa Campeotto

Kevin Parr Byline Image




The 2016 Golden Owl Award Finalists

The Golden Owl Winners Chart 1

The Golden Owl Winners List 2

Believe it or Not…

Carl Hermansen | WHAT’S NEXT? | Issue 1

This Industry is One of Endless Opportunities

There are countless professional and personal lessons to be learned from sleepless nights pouring drinks and popping bottles. The hospitality industry is often seen both internally and externally as a relatively negative career path. I am sure many of you have been called alcoholics, lazy, self-absorbed, and so on and so forth. I am sure many of you have been told to grow up and get a real job. It’s just a phase, right? What is often lost in these narrow minded accusations is the incredible diversity of coworkers and customers, as well as the many stepping stones that are provided to those who are willing to leap. If approached properly the industry is like a giant job fair and personal growth seminar… oh and it pays your bills.

For some, this is their passion, their true calling. Bartenders (therapists) help patrons and regulars circumvent their daily routines through new connections and old friendships. The escape to a relative fantasy world is both a relaxation and rejuvenation tool if used appropriately. It is a thing of beauty to see someone take pride in orchestrating moments that bring people together. We are witness to the human condition, spectators amid laughter and tears. The industry is a channel for life changing events and we get to be part of these occasions.

For others, the hospitality industry is a medium — a vector — for bettering oneself and building the proverbial toolbox of life skills. It is an environment to foster professional and personal connections that have time and time again allowed for new opportunities. I am not talking about meeting celebrities (although that is another neat perk). Bars and clubs are watering holes for potential employers, mentors, investors, partners and potential life long friends. Many of my previously abandoned interests have become current professions due to these nightclub connections. Having personally risen through the ranks from a barback into management, I can honestly say that the years of drunk babysitting have provided me professional experience in totally unrelated fields that interest me, including (but not limited to) — sales, writing, graphic design, aquascaping and event management. Whether you want to promote yourself as an artist, build your client base as a realtor, or anything in between… the connections are out there. They show up by the hundreds every night waiting patiently in line to ask you for a drink.

The storm of faces that crosses one’s path can be daunting. I am sure many of you can say you have thousands of friends and acquaintances. Perhaps they kick off each Friday with a vodka shot at your bar. Perhaps you worked together at club that is now closed. Perhaps you don’t even like them but they love you. It doesn’t really matter how or why — every one of those people is a connection that would be otherwise unavailable to you.

It is time to break the negative, prophetic, self fulfilling cycle that looms over many of us. It is time we start doing our part to alleviate these symptoms. It is time we start looking at our work as a career and treating it as such — with care and pride. Finally, it is time we improve our lives and the lives of our coworkers both in Vancouver and abroad. We do not simply exist to serve — to cater — to look pretty — to babysit. Own your career. Be proud of the moments you are instrumental in creating. Work all night — avoid sleeping all day. Get up and make time for yourself, for your professional circles and adventures. Don’t be afraid to make the jump to new positions and locations. Most importantly, respect your coworkers and be honest with yourself.

Carl Hermansen Byline Image


Nicholas Simon | LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHER| Issue 1

No matter how you bake it we all need bread. Its purpose is to feed us, keep us content and enable us to grow. On its crust, bread is a magazine written by the hospitality industry for the hospitality industry, meaning it is written by servers, cooks, bartenders, managers etc. that work in the industry. The magazine is distributed exclusively to targeted hospitality venues in Vancouver and Calgary, just for the staff!

The hospitality industry? What’s that exactly? Broadly defined as tourism, food and beverage and accommodations. This in itself is so large it needs to be broken down further. bread’s hospitality definition covers any venue that serves food and alcoholic beverage. That doesn’t exclude those that don’t meet our definition but states our main focus. Just to be clear.

Under its crust bread is so much more. It’s a batter mixed with the thoughts, ideas, fears, stories, and concerns that we face as hospitality workers. It is one collective voice that represents us all. Truth is, the hospitality industry as a profession isn’t treated very professionally. If and when we do get together it’s usually for an industry party or a party or to drink or to party. The mission of bread is to be that place where the industry can organize professionally, by creating a community amongst the workers where we praise excellence, shed light on confusion, share experiences, uplift one another and still have fun doing it. (maybe a shot or two)

Pardon me as I adjust my feet on my soap box but I’ve been in this industry since I was 14 and there is no guide, no rule book and no sure path to success. We are dynamic, resourceful people with versatile skills, flexible in our minds and hours. By coming together, we can help each other, build each other and build opportunity.

The bread magazine is us: various voices collected in one place where the rest of us can interact and engage with the community. New contributors each month ensure even distribution of voices from Vancouver’s 6 boroughs, representing the true voice of the industry.

The fluffy, soft, buttery part of the loaf is community. This part excites me the most, like hot bread out of the oven, connectedness makes our bellies full. Not to say our industry doesn’t already have community as is evidenced how we rally together when tragedy strikes, such as how the industry came together when we lost Shaun G or when Tori got in her accident, we are already here for each other. The bread magazine builds on this unity and kneads together the independent niches and cliques into one healthy loaf.

So from today on out you can prepare for your monthly bread; the new means of sustaining and building the industry we all know and love.

Bon Appetit!

Nicholas Simon Byline Image

WHAT’S NEXT? Tyson Villeneuve

Nicholas Simon | WHAT’S NEXT? | Issue 1

Like many strong brands, simply mentioning the name Tyson Villeneuve instantly brings things to mind. I’ll give you a minute, try it.

I assume you thought: Bacardi, DJ, amazing events, big smile, VNL videos with Christine Van and perhaps a time where he got you into an event through the back door. Or maybe you have never met Tyson? Tyson Villeneuve has taken the opportunities he received from working in and around the industry and created one of the strongest personal brands in our industry. What’s his secret? How did this happy-faced, nerdy Dj make us all fall in love with him? (I stress nerdy). I peek to catch a glimpse of a gilt-edged professional like Tyson V to see what we can get to rub off on the rest of us.

What exactly do you do Tyson?

I’m the Co-Founder and Partner of the agency Social Concierge. As an entrepreneur, you learn quickly that you need to wear many hats, however I spend most of my time on creative conceptualization, business development and sponsor/partner implementation for our portfolio of events.

What is social concierge?

The Social Concierge is a boutique branding and marketing agency that specializes in consistently delivering unique, premium strategies to a select range of experientially-focused clients. We also create and execute a portfolio of designer in-house events and tailored hosting programmes for special guests, both locally and abroad. We are impassioned with pushing creativity, culture, the arts and our social fabric forward.

What key personality traits do you have that allow you to prosper?

I genuinely love people. I enjoy creating community around unique ideas and getting people engaged. I feel that often tenacity and positivity are key when faced with obstacles and in the events game there are many.

If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?

I think that most often people make the best decisions they can, based upon the information that they have on hand at the time. One would always wish to know more at a younger age, but much of the knowledge that comes with being an entrepreneur is only gained through experience. I’m happy on the path our agency is forging right now, so I don’t think I would change much.

What events do you do annually?

We produce on average 30 – 40 events per year balanced between client projects and our own signature portfolio of events. While The Social Concierge is always pushing to create events that inspire and delight, we are most known for Diner En Blanc, Harvest Haus, Deighton Cup, TEDx Vancouver and Dinner By Design.

What jobs in the hospitality industry have you had and for how long?

I’ve always loved the hospitality industry and had the great fortune to work for a lot of fantastic companies, ranging from the old school Gold club Series 15 years ago to great times at both Labatt and Bacardi. Those great roles have allowed me the opportunity to experience both the front and back of house for most clubs, bars, restaurants and hotels in the city. I’ve also done some guest bartending stints and was very fortunate to DJ for years at some of the city’s best venues. The events now count in the hundreds.

How have you been able to continue to advance in the industry?

Through a lot of great friendships and partnerships developed over the years. I feel that this industry is, generally speaking, a very supportive community if you choose to maintain a presence. It’s not for everyone, so those who are successful tend to learn from each other and lift each other up. When The Social Concierge was first getting started as a creative and events agency, it was the great friends and contacts that I had developed in the hospitality industry that were our first supporters, promoters, and honest sounding boards for constructive feedback.

What is the best part of the industry?

It employs some of the most outgoing and entertaining cast of characters I have ever met in life. Industry people are always fun to be around no matter what time of day or night and a few of them are the hardest working people I know.

Who was your biggest inspiration in Vancouver?

I take inspiration from everyone I meet, as there is a lot of value in other people’s experience.

Is this where you thought you would end up?

To be honest, I don’t think I could have predicted doing exactly what I am doing right now, but I do really enjoy it. All I knew is that I wanted uninhibited creative freedom and I’ve found it.

What’s in the future for Tyson V?

Our team at The Social Concierge is always adding at least a couple of interesting new projects per year. One of my favourite aspects of our agency is the diversity of our events. Whatever we have coming up next, it won’t be like anything that we’ve done before. I also have set my sights on further expanding Dinner By Design to even more cities. It is already in Calgary and Toronto as well as Vancouver.

What advice would you give up and comers looking to be the next Villeneuve?

Be honest with yourself as to what your strengths are, embrace them, and surround yourself with great people to counterbalance your weaknesses. Be kind to everyone as today’s busser is tomorrow’s restaurant owner. Most importantly, have fun! We’re not exactly making widgets for a living here.


What may not be obvious is how Tyson has approached his charge of being an access to the scene, the social concierge before there was Social Concierge.

Tyson V represents all that is right with the hospitality industry and is a shining example of what we can be when we grow up.

Nicholas Simon Byline Image

TALES… From the After-Shift

Kayla Smith | TALES | Issue 1

I work Monday nights at a little hole in the wall in kits. Every Monday night we have a Rock Paper Scissors tournament. Needless to say, we pack the place out weekly and it’s pretty much mayhem; banging on the wall, shouting and screaming for your friend to win.

Last Monday at midnight, I turned 37. When I got off shift, I obviously decided to drown my sorrows (sorrows being that I’m old and single) with shots of Jameson. Not that I remember, but apparently I headed to a friends to party at some point and I am still in the dark about how I got home. I woke up in my apartment fully clothed on my couch with a cat sleeping on my lap. I don’t own a cat, so you can imagine my surprise.

I can only assume this kitty was in my back alley when the cab dropped me off. Being the animal lover that I am, I’m guessing I was like “come with me kittttttty. I’ll save you from outside”. I contacted the owners in the morning. They didn’t seem too surprised. Toni ( the cat) lives on whore island. Turns out she does this all the time. Too bad that can’t be my life. I guess I went out looking for cock and came home with pussy.

Kayla Smith Byline Image

Professional Friendships

Micky Valens | IF YOU DON’T KNOW | Issue 1

The Art of Creating an Atmosphere That Breeds Repeat Visitors

Within the context of the hospitality industry, Professional Friendship is defined by the opportunity to get to know a person (typically, a guest) on a personal level, within the context of a “business transaction”. In the service industry, the clientele that we have “business transactions” with vary from guest to guest; the business man sitting at your bar by himself for lunch to the guy in a hawaiian shirt buying shots for 10 of his friends. Here are a few key “best practices” of service that promote the establishment you work for as well as nurturing the maintenance of your Professional Friendships.

  1. The Greeting

Walking into a hotspot establishment, while exciting, is generally met with a slight feeling of intimidation for anybody. Ever notice a guest walk in to your bar to meet someone else and they’re the first person to arrive to the date, or the party? Chances are they aren’t the most relaxed person in the room. Break the ice. Give them a wave, shake a hand, say what’s up at least! It will start their night off on a soaring high note. Greet the guest as if it were your good friend walking in. Be it a first timer or one of your regulars, a friendly greeting from the bartender will go a long way in melting down any natural discomfort your patron may have. They will be more likely to drop by again, because you gave them a place to come feel comfortable, right off the bat.

  1. The Chat

Keep it genuine. If you find yourself using the same lines and conversation starters for every guest that sits at your wood, it might be time to switch it up. “Nice weather out today right?” – Wrong. Rather than asking how somebody is doing, or talking about the weather, find out what they got up to that day. This question will typically reveal your guest’s lifestyle and/or profession right away. It also may reveal some unwanted information, but hey, it’s worth the risk. Digging up core info like this opens up all kinds of doors for future conversations. For example, when one of your guests returns and you know right away that he is A. a father of two, and B. a Dentist, this lets you start off a genuine conversation without even thinking or wondering what to small-talk about.

  1. Insider Info

Sometimes being at a bar 2-3 times a week allows a guest to be “in the know” about certain things only the staff know about. Are you working on a new drink menu with your bar team? Let your regular have a sneak-peek. Is there a new food program taking over? Ask them for their input. Did Mike get so drunk last night that he showed up during closing with no shoes or shirt on? Urge them to go relentlessly make fun of Mike. People who choose a bar to routinely visit tend to seek comfort and camaraderie over all else, especially when escaping from a busy lifestyle, or a hectic workday. Making a guest feel like they are part of the family is a surefire way to keep the professional friendship going strong.

  1. Communication

Inevitably, every bar or restaurant will go through tough waves of service. Usually due to either a number of technical difficulties, peek times throughout the day in which hourly sales are through the roof, or a twisted combination of both. Communication is your biggest asset when shit hits the fan. Being told you are going to wait 35 minutes for a pasta is better than waiting 25 minutes for a pasta that you weren’t warned was going to take a while. Be sure your patrons (regulars especially) are always updated on the situation with honesty and certainty, rather than empty promises that whatever they are waiting for is “coming right up.”

  1. “This round is on us!”

Of course, taking care of a drink on occasion to show your gratitude is effective, and it feels damn great. People leaving your spot with a good buzz and a sense of acknowledgment goes a long way… just be careful not to over-do the free-bees. Believe it or not, buying a round for a regular upon every single visit can actually backfire. As it soon becomes an expectation, it can be followed by disappointment on times where it doesn’t happen. Use your own discretion and keep the favour fresh by using it tastefully. At the end of the day, if you avoid being that person with your nose up all the time, or your head down the entire time, you’re going to do well.

We aren’t trying to sell cars here; we’re trying to create the most colorful environment we can, while serving the notoriously sought-after (and legal) social lubricant that is Food and Beverage. Be a friend. A somewhat professional one, that is.


Avi Smith | 1 QUESTION 100 ANSWERS | Issue 1

I’ve been in the service industry my entire life. My mother was a server and cashier at “The Salvador Deli” while she was pregnant with me, my dad was the head chef. Back in Ontario, is a long line of Jewish caterers and restaurateurs that I am proud to say I come from. My grandfather, Jack Smith, was a pillar of the community in Ottawa. His kindness and willingness to help his fellow man is why they’re still telling his stories years after his passing.

Hospitality is in my blood and I live to share that experience. My mother always said I could be anything; all I ever wanted was to make people happy, and just so, providing them with alcohol sure helps me live up to that. After 12 years of working in Vancouver I can honestly say I understand the sense of community that Jack embodied. More than any other industry I’ve seen, service and hospitality always protect their own.

Over the last 12 years, I’ve been to fundraisers for bar staff I’ve never met, donated countless gift certificates to silent auctions, given tip percentages to a fund for a sidelined employee, hosted fund raisers for friends and raised tens of thousands of dollars to help pay medical bills. That’s what we do in this industry. We are family. Even when we don’t personally know the one in need, we will support a stranger that shares our passion without even batting an eye. That’s the kind of world I choose to live in.

We all support each other in times of need, but now, by buying Ben a beer, we can support each other everyday so that when something does happen in our community, the support will already be there waiting. If you disagree, well, come down and see me at work, I’ll buy YOU a beer and change your mind.

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