What bar tending really is to us in Kenya?

For a moment before I started writing this, I thought about changing the title of what is supposed to be my first time to ever write an article or anything else for whatever other reason before; apart from off course the English compositions, essays, reports and projects that I wrote in primary, secondary schools and in college.

The title to my first shall remain as above; “The state of bar tending in Nairobi”. For a start, my name is Lawrence. I work as a bartender in one of Nairobi’s Premier Country Clubs. Being a bartender and having worked at a sports bar, the most popular and exclusive sports bar among the many golf resorts, golf lodges, golf clubs and country clubs in Kenya. I have learnt a lot about bar tending since I started working as one in an Italian restaurant in Karen about eight years ago, two years before I joined this club. I have to admit that I have seen and learnt a lot from that experience.

I remember when I joined the Club back in 2009 if I was asked how premium the bars and the beverages served by then, in my opinion they were way below par. Apart from the beautiful lush green golf course, most of the food and beverage facilities and outlets were below my expectations.  The club house main bar, which by then was the busiest especially during members’ night every Thursday each week of the year was, the only somehow the most functional bar. The state of bar tending was of wanting standards and just as it has greatly improved with new bars being constructed and the improvement of the existing ones for easy operations behind the bars and still remaining appealing to its members, that same steady but gradual change has also been realized across the city of Nairobi. A lot has been done and achieved by the industry players but there is still too much to be done, addressed and to be improved as well.

Mixed beverages or cocktail making, consumption and bar operating trends have immensely changed. We have witnessed some very positive and some not so good or desirable changes. I have learnt and observed a lot from the incredible things that Bartenders, Mixologists and Baristas are doing around the city to improve the situation and that is very encouraging. However my passion for bar tending keeps on growing so much that I want to see a lot more of the good work being done! I would love to see new levels in bar tending set, bars being raised behind bars and even the standards of beverage service being top class. I want to see more players involved to encourage and tap into the budding talent that needs mentor ship, to be held by the hand for proper guidance so that we can have a more respectable, inspiring and motivating career that is well paying as well. Kenya being a third world country, it really needs to invest in all areas that can help create more employment for its mostly unemployed youths. I have to give credit to bartenders like Daniel Lumbasi and Paul Ogunde, for even going further to starting bar tending schools. I would be more than happy to see the heights of bar tending in our bars; night clubs, in our cities and country go higher.

If industry players read this, though I might not be the first one to write about this, but I will serve as a reminder that they have to consult those who work behind the bars about how they would love the bars to be designed for ease of operations. For example most bars don’t have enough space for bartenders to work in and around. It further becomes difficult if or when two or more bartenders have to work in the same bar at the same time. Bar owners, aspiring bar owners and hospitality players should invest in constructing properly laid out and set up bars for quick and efficient service delivery from bartenders. I recommend that they should read this and consult professionals and those who take part in this amazing career in the world.

Bar tending is a very great rewarding career and in my opinion, it should be treated as a real profession and with dignity. I would love to see Kenya as a country set up an example as a place  where bar or beverage professionals earn enough worth their efforts. While working as a bartender, I asked my mother what she wanted or wished I would become when I grow up. You don’t have to think further, her answer was quick and simple; she always wished I would grow up to be a medical doctor! I know she might not show her disappointment in me being a bartender and she might not even understand what a bartender exactly does apart from opening the very popular Tusker lager. I would confidently also guess what most of those who know me back in my village Kinu in the countryside just know that I work in a hotel in Karen, Nairobi either as a cleaner or as a cook. I am a bartender. It might not be the career that thought I would be pursuing but, here I am part of this great hospitality industry and I love every bit of it despite its many and huge challenges. I always make fun of my colleagues in the industry especially the waiting staff of how important bartenders are in the world. They are like presidents. Even the real presidents and other professionals come to bartenders when they are tired, had a long day or are happy and want to celebrate ,they want to ponder, pass time, talk to someone different with no bias opinion on general issues or trending topics and even much more. We as bartenders are trusted to craft mixed beverages when these other professionals including even us as bartenders when we are tired of normal bottled beverages or processed, carbonated and drinks that we get from taps.

I would repeat it as it burns me to do so; bar tending is a glorious career and as much as I want more honor and respect given to bartenders, I would also challenge the very own bartenders to live up to what they would love to be regarded as. I have thoughts of what or who I think a good bartender should be like. You can catch more on that in my next writing.

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