Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Skim

They say that all bartenders end up dis-honest no matter how they start out and I would have to say I agree with the statement to a degree. It's not that they're bad people and I don't judge them. Much. But I do fire them, I have to it's business, if you don't rip it out root and branch every once in a while it festers and grows and can burn down your house. How do I know? I've been on the wrong side of the skim.
If you've looked at some of my earlier posts you'll see the one where I worked a place called Pasta Brokers; Well right after the Federal Marshals came in and put the padlocks and chains on those doors I got a job with my cousin doing construction labor on the renovation of an old Theater on West Forty-Seventh Street in Manhattan. A French restaurant playboy named XXXX. had teamed up with a billionaire German banker named XXXX to plow millions of dollars into this old Broadway Theater and turn it into a 1940's style Supper Club.
Problem with the Club though, it was really expensive to run, hell it was really expensive just to turn on the lights and to operate it the way it was designed to work; with a fifteen piece big band on stage, house performers, waiters with white dinner jackets, a four star chef in the kitchen and a quality jazz act in the Cabaret or VIP room well that was expensive beyond your imagination. The bottom line? You just couldn't break even on it even if you did fill it up with New York's glitterati every night. But then the guys who owned it, well they were a little out of touch with reality. XXXX. the boss had a side kick, a fabulous Frenchman named XXXX who was in charge of entertainment and had some very odd ideas about what was good for business. For example, a couple of months into the venture he decided it would be a great idea to get a celebrity. Nothing really wrong with that in and of itself, but the celebrity he picked out was X. XXXX, the long forgotten star of a 60's musical. Even then, no big deal, except he took the name of the Club off the marquee, laid off all the rest of the entertainment and gave Miss XXXX a three month contract to play the club exclusively five nights a week. When they couldn't more than half fill the house for opening night I knew we were in trouble. Then, inevitably, they began to lay people off. A few more weeks went by and somebody had to pay the price, it couldn't be XXXX, he was the bosses pet, so the management team took a fall and they brought in a new group of guys, a group of guys more realistic, more cynical and in the case of one of them, more corruptible. About a week into the new regime Miss XXXXX's contract was bought out and a new format was instituted, Dinner and Swing music from 5pm till 11pm with the big band and and the jazz singers then, at 11pm as the diners finished the furniture would be swept away the house lights would dim and the house music would begin to pump and we would become a night club, a pretty hot, swinging night club. Other nights we would do some pretty top notch, high level, expensive catering, the kind where they would bring in magnums of Dom Perignon and high end, vintage wine, by the case. Now remember I started this out by telling you that all bartenders were corruptible and so was one significant member of the new management team. Now at this place, from the beginning and all through the X. XXXX fiasco, myself, my cousin and two other guys had formed a pretty hard core, tight knit group and once we connected with the corruptible new manager, who happened to be the beverage manager, we formed a veritable skim machine. It went on for almost two years, aided by an organized group and abundant chaos and all through the parties, disco's, dinners and hip hop parties 10% went to the boys and we were all over town flashing cash and living large until one day it all came, for me any way, to a screeching halt. I went away on vacation and came back to discover I was fired. It happened in the office with the new GM and the beverage manager who was as guilty as I was in attendance. Of course I denied it and didn't rat on any one else but I was a bit puzzled when I left the room because the Beverage manager who was a conspirator didn't stick up for me and no one else in the crew took the ax. It was explained to me later that the new management team was close to uncovering the whole thing and some one had to be sacrificed for the greater good, somebody had to you see, and since I was on vacation that someone was me. Well, I learned my lesson that day; there is no honor among thieves and I made a personal decision then to never skim again, but I can still close my eyes and taste the fast cash of the skim twenty years later and remember the sweet taste of restaurant piracy.

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