Notes From A Hotel Bartender: A glance inside tourism's dirty little secrets

Courtesy photo

I pour beer. At times I mix liquors, fill wineglasses and trade out ice. But I pour beer and this seems to make people happy.

That is as Bukowski as a phrase can get.

I work downtown in a hotel bar. I’ve worked in pubs and restaurants in the past, on coasts far from here, but find the hotel bar to be its own animal. Seas of guests come and go, regularly enough to know by name and room number, but quick enough to forget the following week.

There are a few misconceptions about my work. The words of the Freeze recall much of what I hear from friends when they think of downtown San Antonio:
“I hate tourists, tourists suck/It’s only their daughters I want to fuck/There isn’t a tourist that I don’t hate/So get the hell out of my state.”

I don’t share their opinion.

Though the number of residential units is growing, downtown is still generally a pool of international travelers, oil barons of Texas and families who have yet to be let down at the sight of the Alamo.

Still, I have regulars. As a city focused on military exercises and pulling every last drop of dead dinosaur juice from the ground, a number of my patrons find themselves relocated to San Antonio for extended periods of time.

Before regaling you with tales from behind the counter, I think of last week. Two hours prior to my shift:

I got in to work early. I took stock, check wines and taps, and sat in the lounge to relax. The space is usually empty. That is, until a young boy, no older than 12, walked up.

He stood beside me, watching the television. Once a photo of Lebron James came on screen, he broke his silence to prod me about how James alone took down the Spurs during the Finals.

After his longwinded recounting of this fact, I told the boy I apologize.

“I’m not from San Antonio, bud. I couldn’t care less about basketball or the Spurs. Sorry.”

The boy never looked at me. He only stared off at the TV.

Later, I saw Front Desk John come down the hall with the boy following close behind. It was odd, but I didn’t think much of it.

Minutes later, a maintenance worker came into the kitchen to ask me if I had seen some boy. I told him my story, and he said that was the one.

“John just found the boy in the bathroom, laid out in the center of the floor, masturbating.”

I laughed, almost uncontrollably. I could only imagine what John had to have said, thought or done when he walked into the restroom and encountered the masturbating pre-teen.

As a precursor to this column, I find it only fitting to begin with a story of setting up the bar. The hotel is home to a cast of characters who you will meet soon enough.


*Ed. Note: We wish Cheers’ Al was the mysterious man behind this column, sadly he died 23 years ago.

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