How to Balance Your Bar Life with Your Personal Life

By Ray Foley, Heather Dismore

If you’ve ever worked in a bar, you know that those who run the bar are there well before and after the hours of operation. If the bar is open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., for example, someone is probably there between 8 a.m. and 3 a.m. at a minimum, 19 hours a day.

That’s the best-case scenario. If a pipe bursts, a cooler breaks down, or a toilet backs up, the day gets significantly longer, instantly. So naturally, as the owner of the bar, you’re the one who has to deal with all these unforeseen events no matter what time of the day or night. And remember, that’s on top of running the everyday, normal stuff of the bar.

If you’re an owner or manager, you will work 70 to 80 hours a week, maybe more when you’re getting your bar up and running. Many small-business owners work just as much. The biggest challenge is typically not how much you work, but when you work.

How to celebrate special events with family and friends

The toughest thing about maintaining your relationships in this business is balancing your work schedule with all the special events that take place in your life. When people are celebrating, they often look to you to entertain them, host them, and generally make sure they’re having a good time. So, if you’re helping your patrons celebrate, how’s your own family celebrating?

Finding ways to celebrate special occasions isn’t impossible in the bar business. Here are a few ways that are helpful:

  • Communicate with your family and friends. Understand their expectations and share yours with them.

  • Keep a master calendar posted for everyone to see. Write down everything you can so everyone knows who is where, when, and why.

  • When you’re with your family, be with your family. Be fully present — mind, body, and soul. If you’re distracted thinking about your business, you may as well just go to the bar.

  • Schedule your own family celebrations before or after the traditional date to work around your work schedule. If your partner’s birthday falls on Super Bowl Sunday (and your bar is slamming busy, so you can’t be gone), take her out for a special dinner ahead of time to celebrate her special day.

How to get support from your family

The support of your family is important in any business. But in the bar business, it’s essential. Ultimately, you’re choosing a profession that takes you away from your family many hours a week, often at special times in their lives, like holidays. You also change your definition of normal when it comes to spending time with your family and friends.

Instead of being off on Saturdays like normal people, for example, you may regularly be off on Mondays. If you have a family or are considering starting one, make sure your partner understands the ramifications that your career choice may have on your family life.

The right approach can make all the difference. You can shift family days around and create your own “regular” schedule. Also, you have the benefit of not having to be at a regular job early in the day.

If you have kids, you can spend mornings before day care or school with them and help them start their day because you won’t be there to tuck them in for the night.

Above all, be proactive in coming up with solutions to the inevitable schedule conflicts that come up. Don’t just expect your partner to solve all the family problems and conflicts. Showing concern and taking responsibility goes a long way toward alleviating the stress that being involved in the bar business eventually brings.