It's Time to Turn the Bar into a No-Politics Zone

The only Red worth celebrating...oh, and salsa roja. And maybe Big Red...
The only Red worth celebrating...oh, and salsa roja. And maybe Big Red...
Dustin Ames

Twice a month, legendary bartender/chef/restaurant insider Dave Mau pops by Stick A Fork In It to chime in about a random OC food or drink musing of his choice. Enjoy!!

I've witnessed two barroom stabbings during my booze-soaked tenure on this planet. Well, at least two that I can remember. There could be more lost in the fugue of 7&7s and cigarettes but, if there are any, they are long gone from my alcohol archives.

The first was an epic display worthy of Barfly at the long-gone Ski Room on Hollywood Boulevard, where two Puerto Rican ladies of the night were fighting over a john. One was in the bathroom where the transaction was being taken care of when the other rushed in and shanked her in the side with what looked to be an oyster shucker. The victim then ran screaming in machine-gun Spanglish out to the curb where she slammed into a parking meter, collapsed and promptly expired.

The second occurred at the 909's Sea Cove Tavern in Upland. That time it was a buddy of mine whose biker gang acted as hit men, taking out Hell's Angels when needed. He had been targeted once before. In fact, his shaved head showed a massive scar where he had been shot with a scattergun, a reciprocative act which put him in a coma for three months before he could return to his calling "taking care of business". His second encounter with said enemies didn't go as well. Our crew was out back during a set being played by a local band and all we heard was a brief scuffle—what sounded like styrofoam being sliced and a muffled moan. The perps were out like ghosts and I'll never forget what he looked like bleeding out on the asphalt. 

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What I'm getting at here is bars can - to varying degrees - be violent places, whether it's a drunken Corona Del Mar chick fight, the faux lunchtime fisticuffs you see between blowhard businessmen in Irvine, or the smashing of the nose with a beer mug at The Quill. When you mix alcohol, personalities, and opinions, there is always the possibility of that alchemy creating a situation that may or may not get out of hand.

Which is why I have one steadfast rule at any bar I work: NO POLITICS. Period. It's not that I don't honor freedom of speech—I certainly do. But in this political climate - and before that, in general - I've treated religion and politics at my joints like I treat them sitting down to dinner with my Lutheran family members from the Midwest: Talk baseball, model trains or casseroles.

To say it's been a contentious political season would have to be the grandest of grand understatements, and there's been a lot of hate and vitriol on both sides, something I still don't understand. But it's out here now, and it seems to be getting worse. It's gonna be just truly awful if the Dow breaks 25,000 during Trump’s reign and he gets another four years.

(Full disclosure: I'm a right leaning, gun-toting white guy who has much more in common politically with Fresno and Texas Hill Country buddies than my sanctimonious hipster pals. That being said, I still can't figure out who would vote for Trump. I equally can't fathom who would lose an election to a jackass like him. But the die is cast, so be it.)

But this scenario plays to a broader question: how has it come to this? And how does this play out in the restaurant industry? Maybe the best thing we can do is create civility in our own little world by telling people they should listen as well as talk. The microcosm we manage on the other side of our bar is but a sample of the philosophical conflicts out there and letting people raise their voices to each other doesn't make the situation any better. As rowdy as it can be here, it still isn't the Wild West, with pistol packing cowpokes and gunslingers going at it with impunity. But it can get intellectually wild, with patrons firing insults and half-truths instead of .45 caliber long Colt slugs.

Everyone blathers about civil discourse, but few walk the walk. The what and where of how people exchange political viewpoints is none of my business—unless it ends up with me coming up and over the bar to break up a fight. So for everyone's sake: keep it pleasant, folks, please. Especially when you are drinking.

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