Scott Young likes to captivate his customers, so it’s fitting that he spends so much time behind bars.
Young is the president and head instructor of www.extremebartending.com Bar Smart – The Performance Bartending Company, which he founded in 1993. He laughs when asked if he and his “extreme bartending team” are to bartending what the Chippendales are to exotic male dancing, but then realizes there are many parallels.
“We have style as we’re serving drinks,” Young, 33, said from his office in Vancouver. “We’re throwing bottle, glasses, limes and straws, basically being performers behind the bar.
“We travel all over the world to whoever hires us. We were in Denmark three weeks ago. It’s neat, because Canadians are really well-like around the world, because we’re polite.”
Young works at several bars, but mostly at the Roxy Niteclub in Vancouver, which he said is arguably the busiest club in Canada.
There are 10 Extreme Bartending instructors, including two in Toronto, one each in Winnipeg (Carl Berryman) and Kelowna, B.C., and the remainder in Vancouver. All but one of the instructors are male.
“It’s very difficult to get a high-level bartending job, because there is very little turnover in this industry,” said Young, who charges $225 for his two-day seminars.“We get people who are wanting to increase their odds of getting one of these jobs.
“We’ve sold videos to 60 different countries and we’ve got 12 new ones on the way.”
The seminars also include how to deal with problem customers and over-serving.
“Make the women feel safe in your bar and the guys will come,” Young said.
The 1988 movie Cocktail, starring Tom Cruise, had both a positive and negative impact on bartending, Young said. The movie got people excited about the industry, but bar owners didn’t want anyone like the film’s characters in their bar because they were literally leaving their profits on the floor.
“There was a lot of spillage in that movie,” Young said.
He is fully aware of the serious side of his business as well, considering both the injury factor while instructing and the legal and moral responsibility.
He considers the risk in throwing bottles and suggests newbies should start out chucking the limes or straws until their eye hand coordination is dependable.
“My lawyer gets upset when I teach people to blow ten foot flames, so I don’t do that,” he laughs. He plays with fire himself but doesn’t teach those tricks.
But speaking of playing with fire, he tells a tough story of legal implications (never mentioning government officials).
“In Canadian law, both the bar and the bartender can be held responsible for letting a person drink and drive. Many people are not aware of that.” He tells a tale that was eventually overthrown in Supreme Court where a man drove drunk away from a dinner theatre and crashed, killing one passenger. The driver sued everybody and the first court proceedings found the driver 89 percent liable, the establishment 10 percent liable and the waiter one percent liable. It was a $2 million case.
“We teach with two points in mind. First, we let people know their legal responsibilities and second, I believe we have a moral responsibility. We know what happens when people drink.”
Young encourages participants in his seminars to think of customers as guests in their home and he gives tips on how to attract customers, but also how to deal with problem situations.