Updated: October 1, 2006

Las Vegas. The Lakes, more specifically. 2:18am. I’m staring at a blank page made from tiny white lights that some computer geek dubbed “pixels.” Without a salient thought in my head, I drift off into speculating just how anybody came up with the word “pixel.” This month’s Cut Off is due to Rob Husted in the morning and I’m tracing the etymolgy of the word “pixel.” Great. So I guess it’s time for my coffee maker to earns its keep once again as I fire up a pot and stare off at a wall, hoping for inspiration. No such luck and so my brain wanders off again: Pixel. Pixie. Pixie Stix. Pick Up Stix. Mmmm…Chinese Food. I wonder if they’re still open? No, they’re closed. I was taking turns staring at the wall and the blank screen in front of me and all I that fills my head is trying to remember if it was the House Chicken or the Garlic Chicken that I liked at a take-out restaurant, that was now closed. And shadow-coverthe clock is ticking.

When your starting pitcher runs out of heat, you go to the bullpen. I have a bullpen of sorts with all kinds of half-finished articles and random notes I’ve written, collected and kept handy over the years. I had to dig pretty deep but Hallelujah, there is was: a file containing notes that was labeled “trends.” What could be more entertaining than looking back on some notes I took on coming trends in nightlife? (Lots of things, I’m sure.) But I was out of time and these notes fit the bill. Here’s how they came to be:

A little over four years ago, I was contracted by an independent marketing agency to produce a written market analysis of Las Vegas Nightlife. That project provided the paid excuse to observe the trends in nightlife, primarily here in Vegas.At the time, the tiny little underground world of flair was mushrooming all around me. Shadow, Carnaval Court and Kahunaville were all generating a lot of buzz. The flair bars of Las Vegas had become something more. Something unexpected. And that got me thinking about how flair had evolved recently.

Just a few years prior flair was a talent. A passion. A calling. But when the largest, most powerful resorts in the world injected their F&B operations with Flair, everything changed. Flair had transformed from art into economy. Flair had become a business model. A driving force. The seeds of an industry that a small group of bartenders has angels1sown began to sprout into quite a beanstalk. So while I began to study the nightlife trends in this market, I also watched with a renewed interest, the developing world of Flair and soon after… bartending in general, all over the world. I completed the bulk of those notes nearly four years ago. What kinds of notes? I really don’t know. What I mean to say to you, is that I had no idea then (and not much more now), what to call them or how to interpret them. They were just my thoughts and observations on where our industry was and where it appeared to be going. Or maybe where I hoped it would go and feared it might fall.

Reading through these thoughts four years later is a bit surreal. As you will also soon see, a lot of these trends are now part of our history rather than of our future. And I’m the first to admit that (a) I’m not necessarily the first and definitely not the only person who saw these trends forming and (b) some are pretty damn obvious, sort of like somebody predicting a Delpech brother will probably win a flair comp in 2007. In fact, reading some of what I guess I have to call “forecasts” from 2002 made me question just when I actually typed these notes up.
Now I know I went back to these notes several times to expand upon them after the first draft; but exactly when and which parts, I hadn’t a clue. So for this month’s column, I dug a little and from the dated invoice for the market analysis to all the context clues and references to “dateable” events contained within my notes, it looks as though I updated my them in 2004 and again in 2005. One of the following notes was made this past May. But the bulk of what follows was written prior to 2003. In any case, whether I wrote this ten years ago or ten minutes ago, there are some ideas I think you’ll find interesting. Some of it should scare you. Some of it should thrill you. Take it all for what it is worth: observation that breeds conjecture.


Trends in Nightlife and Bartending

New Formats
The Morph and the Blockbuster. The Morph is the restaurant that becomes the nightclub, the coffee shop that becomes the cocktail lounge or the deli that becomes the espnzonebrewpub. While the idea is not new, the way in which these concepts will soon evolve is. Originally, such a format was a happy accident. A popular cafe is in a market with just a few late night choices for the locals. Somebody convinces a manager to let a guitarist play or a DJ spin and suddenly the mood and the clientele transforms and the register rings through the wee hours of the morning. That’s how they usually start. Maybe a promoter convinces a restaurateur to let him bring his vibe in one night a week. Candles are light, pretty girls in skimpy outfits bring bottles to tables and suddenly what was once a dark room is the most profitable night of the week. So the idea spreads.

Many operators are finding, however, there is so much more to “morphing” your space than simply bringing in a DJ at ten o’clock and turning the lights down. Because morphing a space from one format to another can be such a tricky, fickle proposition. The evolution we will see is that instead of adding a late night component into an existing concept, it will be designed to be both, from the beginning. And so now the Morph becomes a format that architects, designers, consultants and contractors will speak of, instead of just promoters, managers, visionaries and starving artists who bring them to life. original-mi

Another new format that should catch on? Million-dollar pool halls and bowling alleys for jet-setters. CarPool on the outskirts of Washington, DC proved years ago that Billiards not only wasn’t just for ex-cons and teenagers, but that pool pairs nicely with slow-roast BBQ and pints of Microbrewed Ale. Both are examples of what I like to call the Blockbuster. The Blockbuster is the campy old low-budget TV show that is brought back with a half a billion dollar budget and becomes the blockbuster franchise of epic motion pictures. Charlie’s Angels. Star Trek. Mission Impossible. It’s a simple formula, really: (1) take a good, proven idea that decision-markers have an sentimental attachment to (2) throw tons of money and a little imagination at it, (3) dress it up all “purdy-like” and (4) charge guests an arm and a leg to enjoy it.

mi3ESPNZone is the Blockbuster version of the neighborhood sports bar. Dave & Busters is the Blockbuster of the hangout with the pinball machine and Golden Tee in the corner. It’s more than just a bigger, more expensive concept. The Blockbuster is instead a fancier, bigger budget version of a simple pleasure. It’s your favorite little joint on steroids. Watch for upscale versions of just about every blue-collar bar concept the world knows. From multi-level sports bars to strip clubs that offer every possible amenity; expect major markets to take your favorite neighborhood pool hall, feed it steroids and launch a Blockbuster that once could have only appeared in Hollywood movies.


The Food Chain Will Be Turned Upside Down
The days of the bartender being the best paid and most influential employee in a nightclub or lounge is becoming a thing of the past. Waitresses and VIP Hosts are the new rockstars of nightlife and in fact, both will continue to replace bartenders at the top of the pecking order. What?! Yes, it’s true. Why? VIP bottle service. Our business is about moving cases of product, and it always has been. It is called the “drinks” business for a reason. It’s about selling drinks and it is far less expensive and far more profitable to sell drinks by the bottle, than the glass.

In the major markets of New York, Miami, Chicago, LA, San Francisco and Las Vegas, a Vodka and Cranberry sells for an average of about $8. A bottle of vodka sells for about $300. As an owner, which sale would you prefer to make? Top clubs in all these cities sell cases, even palates of Vodka and Champagne every single night. Translation: their declining need for bartenders and the increasing premium on cocktail waitresses. It’s not about taste or creativity, it’s about bling. And nothing says “player” more than a VIP booth in a trendy club or lounge staffed by your own private waitress. We are living in an age where popping corks and buying bottles is the new status, the new celebrity. Anybody can lease a Beamer or a Hum-V but to drop $1000 on one night of drinking: that puts out a message it seems. To some that message is about status or power. To others it is about pretense and foolishness. Regardless, the model works and millions are being made in nightlife like never before.

54-2While the popularity of bottle service has exploded in recent years, the concept is age old. The earliest record of bottle service of spirits in the United States dates back to the gold rush when settlers, claimjumpers, and forty-niners could ride up to the local saloon, order whiskey from the barkeep, and be handed the bottle and some glasses. They paid for the bottle. (Or shot up the place.) About a hundred years later, bars in New Orleans would give you the bottle and some juice for the table. The bottle was marked when you got it and marked again when you “turned it back in” and you paid for what you drank. That was more than 20 years ago. 54

Champagne sales by the bottle and wine by the bottle have been part of the nightlife scene for decades, most notably in Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager’s famed Studio54 in 1978-1980 where the champagne flowed freely for VIP guests in a private room in the basement and right out on the main dance floor, sold in bottles right over the bar. There are plenty of hot rooms in Vegas where the waitresses and VIP hosts make two, three and five times what the bartenders make. Bottles service is the reason why.



RTDs Might Just Spell DOA for ME&U
Ready to Drink is the category of packaged cocktails that includes malt beverages and such and they are one of the fastest growth categories in off-trade. The more the general public develops a taste for these mutations of the Wine Cooler, the more we will see demand for them in the on-trade. Remember, the popularity of bottle service is already reaching astronomical sales levels. And now, another product that only requires the skill or taking a cap off is getting hotter and hotter. Who needs a skilled bartender when a monkey with a bottle blade can do the same job? Laugh it up… machines have been taking jobs from people for centuries. There is a machine on the market that all but pours the juices and drops the garnish in the glass, already. Like a ‘Mr. Coffee’… the ‘Mr. Bartender’ is a reality, a sad reality. (Note: since first writing this I have watched a video of a version of this robot bartender that has a flat-screen with a human’s face on it that talks to guests, and it actually takes orders and makes jokes. Wow, how sad.)

rtdsWhen the role of the bartender is reduced to bottle opener, we’re all in trouble. And the more that the VIP table phenomenon grows, the quicker this is happening. There are several very trendy venues in the US where the only bartenders are working in a kitchen, nowhere inside the actual club… a glorified service bartender busting ass for minimum wage and a pathetic tip out while waitresses are on the floor, handing guests drinks, making $1,000 a night. I did some celebrity events last year [2002] at a very high-profile venue where the VIP cocktail waitresses averaged $500-$700 on weeknights and $1,000-$2,000 on weekends while the bartenders (who made all their drinks, mind you) were thrilled to walk home with $200 or on an amazing night… $350. The waitresses made that money mainly from bottle sales. But the best part? The bartenders prepped the bottle set-ups and the male VIP hosts corked all bottles of wine and champagne. The girls basically rang the order and kept peanuts on the tables. (And no, they weren’t “selling” the bottles; a bottle purchase was a requirement of getting a table.)
A Cheeky New Breed of Beertender Gains Ground
Not a new concept, but one that is reaching new heights: the popularity of the model/bartender is growing at an alarming rate. The “trophy” trophy2 bartender has been around since I can remember. But it used to be that owners would hire one or two bombshells who couldn’t open a bottle of wine by themselves and flesh out the rest of their staffs with seasoned pros. Not anymore.

Realizing that nightlife is a fashion and image driven business, many owners and operators have turned to staffing their venues with the hottest women they can find. I don’t mean your local Hooters or sports bar either; I’m talking about the biggest, hottest multi-million dollar lounges, clubs, restaurants and casinos in the world. Skill? Speed? While most claim they look for it in those pretty magazine interviews, one hour in a lot of clubs around the country will tell you this is just lip-service. The management theory once only poisoning seedier establishments and the trend-obsessed image markets… “staffing for looks”… is entrenching itself in almost every segment of the industry and most markets. “Hire for looks (and maybe personality), make them as naked as possible. Eventually, they will learn how to make drinks quickly on their own.” That’s the recruitment and training mantra I am seeing more and more.

trophybtWhat is truly alarming about this trend is not just that jobs are being taken from skilled, talented bartenders and given to unskilled hardbodies; but that these same trophy bartenders are by no means stupid. Unskilled and inexperienced, perhaps, but far from stupid. They fully understand the opportunity exists for them to make high five and low six figure salaries behind the bar, and are quickly learning the fine points of the trade. As a result, there is a huge influx of inexperienced talent who are quickly bumping the veterans to the back of the bus. There are cases of course, when very skilled, experienced bartenders also happen to fit the “model” look, but in more cases than not it’s looks first, skills second.

Women, don’t sound the battle horn against me just yet… I am not referring to experienced, talented female bartenders of which I personally know and have have the privilege of working with scores of all over the country. (Added 2006: Hi Amber, Amy, Ati, Becky, Bethany, Christina, Erin, Essie, Jeanette, Jen, Jo, Kat, Kelly, Kimmie, Lisa, Marcie, Marina, Meesun, Melanie, Nicole, Robyn, Sallie, Sandy, Sarah, Stacey, Summer, Tia and Tiffany). I’m talking about highly attractive women who have zero experience in the industry (let alone behind the bar) who are being hired for the highest-volume and highest-profile jobs on the market over dozens and dozens of highly-qualified, experienced and talented male and female bartenders, based solely on looks.

It is also not the truly devoted, passionate women of flair that worry me: like Essie Nummenin, Erin Connelly, Terri Leesburg, Ati Tedesco,erin and Lori Muraoka. More power to these passionate flair masters and mavericks, several of whom have repeatedly whooped my ass and many other guys in competition, I might point out. It is the money-hungry opportunists who see flair only as a tool to use to simply make more money and have no love or passion for it. Those who see flair as a means to an ends, nothing more. “Flairdiggers” perhaps. And heed my warning, there are more of them out there than you’d like to believe.

The Six Figure Bartender Outside of Las Vegas
While the smaller corner bars, sports bars, and cocktail lounges will always be a haven for the talented, charismatic barkeeps of the world, current trends suggest that the upper-end jobs are going to the unskilled, attractive and the just plain lucky. (What’s new, right?) Salaries, that’s what new. The days of topping out at $50,000 a year are a thing of the past, at least in the major markets of America. With take-home salaries between $75,000 and $200,000 a year this should be both alarming and exciting to anybody wishing to have a long and lucrative career in bartending.

A Somewhat New Breed of Hybrid Bartender
tabubartenderLuckily, there is one more emerging trend (or perhaps I am imagining it) that may save the day for now. With the creation of the “ultra lounges” like the original Las Vegas ultra lounge the VooDoo Lounge, a need has been created for multi-talented, high-volume bartenders. From this, I have noticed two new styles of bartending slowly taking root. high-volume mixology and high-volume “stealth” flair. Stealth flair? Yes, back to its roots in speed and efficiency, light, almost unnoticeable moves that truly are as fast as “standard” bartending but convey style and skill. Check out Venus and V-bar in the Venetian Casino to see the closest thing to “stealth” flair in action. (Note: since writing this Venus reopened as Vivid and much of the staff that made V-bar what it was, has moved on.)
The Dawn of The Celebrity Bartender theclub
The logical follow-up to the celebrity chef, the celebrity bartender was a laughable concept ten years and now a foreseeable reality in our industry and in the major media. With the growing amount of television advertising in the spirits category, sponsorship, endorsement and other lucrative opportunities for the best of the best may be not so far fetched. From the Labatt’s commercial to the commercials of an over-hyped, mediocre vodka that bashes on bottle-flippers Flair has been a focal point of the advertising media recently. (Note: the references to these two, specific TV commercials and the absence of referencing the Midori and Bacardi commercials that feature flair leads me to believe this is an update made to my notes sometime in mid- 2005). This is a good sign. Sooner or later somebody is going to get the formula right and a hit TV show, probably a reality show, is going to fuel this trend. (Note: since writing this, Spike aired “The Club,” a reality show chronicling the operations of Las Vegas Nightclub, Ice).

rest1Think it’s crazy? About as crazy as a prime-time TV show about a restaurant and it’s staff. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Recently announced to begin it’s second season, it’s called, oddly enough…. The Restaurant and the ratings suggest the endless supply of drama and sleaze in the restaurant business makes for great entertainment. NBC seems to think so an so perhaps bartending is not far behind. (Note: Since writing this, The Restaurant was canceled due to a lawsuit between managing partners Rocco DiSpirito and Jefferey Chodorow. NBC executives have publicly called the cancellation “a major mistake.” )

While top mixologists are in the best positions for such fame, look for two or three flair bartenders to make the leap as well. Chances are, it will be for personality or blind luck just as likely as flair accomplishment or raw flair skill. Basically, if this trend does emerge, it will be a crapshoot as to who ends up in the limelight. (Note: Ok, I don’t know about you but I’m laughing my as off, reading this after just watching Throwdown. Seems I was right… about the blind luck thing anyway.)

And a reality show, which is something we may just see on the heels of The Restaurant will of course, likely select for looks and mental instability, not experience. Unless it’s focused on flair or mixology. (Keep your fingers crossed.) But I think the interest in bartending such a show may create will hopefully open the gates for the celebrity bartender. (Note: I learned just months ago about a pending deal for a reality TV show in America based on Flair Bartending. I cannot give any details, don’t bother asking but whether or not it makes on TV or not, it’s exciting to know this is something the networks are at least considering.) cocktailkings

Television Series will finally emerge that take locally famous bartenders of all styles and quickly catapult them into national and international mini-celebrities. Not one-off shows but full on television series. (Note: the series Cocktail Kings airs on Travel & Living in the UK and has aired in the US on Discovery. The series features Colin Asare-Appiah and Dimkitri Lezinska, both UK bartenders who travel the world visiting cocktail bars and making their own creative cocktails along the way. Despite this proving them wrong, a lot of people whose opinions matter to me still tell me over and over “there will never be a bonified TV series about bartending.” Now, it’s not polite to laugh at people, even your friends so I won’t. But I will keep my “I told you so’s” in my pocket, so I can quietly pass them out when the time comes.)

throwdown-tobinellisAll of this is not by accident. Since the very recent and careful lift on the self-imposed ban by the advertising agency and drinks industries to advertise alcohol on cable television, the networks are slowly warming up to the tagidea of cocktails and nightlife on TV. It is simply too large of a part of every society on earth to ignore much longer. People have been drinking, celebrating and going out since the dawn of man. Sooner or later, one bright executive at a major network is going to do what every industry maverick does: turns left where everyone else has blindly turned right. The once “taboo” subject of alcohol will become the springboard for the logical progression of the world’s fascination of celebrity chefs to celebrity bartenders. Ten years ago, no TV executive on the world would have stood behind the concept of an entire 24-hour a day network on cooking. Food Network programming now reaches some 40 million households every single day. Anybody want their own TV show? Get ready for it. (Note: Since first writing this, Tony Abou-Ganim, one of America’s top active bar chefs filmed and appeared on a 1-hour show which he hosted called “Raising the Bar” on Fine Living TV. Also since first writing this, I filmed and appeared on “Throwdown with Bobby Flay” in an episode devoted to cocktails and flair. Ken Hall and Ati Tedesco appeared on primetime network television on ABC’s “Master of Champions” showing tandem exhibition flair.)

The True Cocktail Will Have Its Day
This isn’t news to many of us, but it is to the general public and the industry at large. The full-circle return to our business’s roots in crafting cocktails is the subject of a book, not fairly capsulated in a few paragraphs. Suffice it to say, the Savoy, Starlight Lounge and Rainbow Room will no longer stand alone as the only high-profile bars where genuine Mixology takes the foreground. The Bellagio proved that already. So expect to see beverage programs that focus on fresh-made cocktails and innovative ideas centered around mixology to spring up literally all over the world in every sized market. The other big difference will be the integration of mixology into high-volume and A-list venues that will champion the style of bartending I have been a quiet fan of for the last ten mhyears: high-volume mixology. There’s another twist to it, that will rock bartending altogether. The result is that to be competitive, the trendiest venues in the world will have no choice but to start taking the notion of drink development a lot more seriously than having one of their bartenders scribble down some recipes for kool-aid rum drinks a week before opening night. (Note: since writing this Mixology has become the global buzzword for the industry with trend-setting concepts like Milk & Honey and Little Branch paving the way for literally hundreds of mixology-based concepts including Las Vegas’ first 24-hour Mixology Bar & Grill, the Red Room Saloon. Molecular Mixology is a hot trend right now, whereby mixologists are taking the “ologist” of their preferred title so seriously they are bringing true chemistry to the art and science of mixing drinks.)
Flair-Mixology Will Become Red Hot
The good news in this is that operators are discovering, in their race to be the most elite, the most expensive, the most celebrity-applauded hotspot in town that innovation is king. The need for bartenders with subtle and high-volume entertainment and mixology skills are finding their place. While just barely noticeable, I think we’ll continue to see this fusion of styles that very, very few bartenders have truly mastered that requires the ability to produce specialty martinis and cocktails with very, very subtle flair at an extremely high-volume. Most importantly, an ability to look and move subtlety and smoothly behind the bar while doing so. And while anybody with some dedication can become skilled at bottle flipping or speed bartending in under a year, the ability to sell, make, and serve a wide array of complex cocktails in a high-volume environment without relying on the gimmick of flair and without the luxury of time to prepare them… is a skill set that takes years to develop. All of this, performed with that vibe that says A-list.
Those who took shortcuts to learn flair without mixology or mixology without speed could find themselves painted into a corner as time goes on; while the rare few who have made it their mission to be truly well-rounded masters will be rewarded in the coming five to ten years. And the good news for all, is that the bottle-flippers will only have to learn to hone their drink making skills and tone down their flair to be in the game while the hotel mixologists will only need to add a dash of style and learn to put their skills in high gear to stay in the mix for the top jobs in the major markets. (Note: since writing this the FBA and High Spirits have launched the Blue Blazer Challenge which is a Flair-Mixology based competition that has become the favorite event of people like Christian Delpech and yours truly.)

And for the rest of the world? Fear not, just like fashion there is a slow trickle-down effect to trends in bartending and the concepts of flair bars, VIP service, upscale cocktail bars are still on the way or just coming into vogue. Add to that the mass migration of much of the top talent from all corners of the earth to one city, Las Vegas, and a vacuum of opportunity has been created where a whole new generation of bartenders have easy pickings to become the “big fish in a little pond.” Bottom line: there’s room for everybody and the concept of the flair bar will only grow, outside of markets where it is becoming saturated, like Las Vegas. And the more casinos that open, the more environments are created that are optimal for flair bartending.

(Note since writing this, a talented group of experts has joined the Rio in leadership roles that includes Eddie Perelas, Bobby “G” Gleason, Rick Barcode and Anthony Alba. Collectively they have implemented their ideas and talents resulting in the creation of iBar which showcases high-volume flair-mixology and you will find fruit presses and fresh ingredients at the busiest bars in the Casino right alongside non-stop flair that made the Rio famous for its bartenders beginning when Alan Mays, Ken Hall, Todd Connell, Steve Bushur, Glen “Pinky” Cohen, Brian McCall and Eric “Captain Boogie” Holbert first opened the infamous VooDoo Lounge nearly 10 years ago.)

Tandem and Team Flair is the Future
maloneysukSooner or later the appeal of individual Flair bartenders will wane. It is inevitable and more importantly, healthy. Everything from the economy to the sport of skateboarding has to go through cycles of growth and remission; booms and recessions. Before you start putting your Flaircos on eBay, realize that the solid foundation the forefathers of Flair laid down long ago ensures that you will have a long, prosperous future flipping bottles. But sooner or later people are going to catch on to the magic that Paul Drewery helped build at Maloney’s In Southport (UK) and invest the time, money and patience to create true bar teams within Flair Bars. I am sure there are a few teams here and there around the world who have this magical style I am talking about. The only one I have seen first hand outside of Maloney’s is Shadow Bar’s Juan Llorente and Christian Oldan. The don’t just have planned exhibition routines, they have what every great sports team works for: natural tandem. They can make drinks together without planned moves, signals or talking. They certainly also have planned working flair routines and sequences but like Stockton and Malone, they have ust learned each other’s games so that they can work as one, at times. juanchristian

Tandem competitions will be huge in the coming years, provided enough major competitions include this category. From what I have seen, the crowd reaction to top tandem teams easily deafens the “oohs” and “aahs” of most individual performers. The only thing holding tandem back, I think is the simple fact that it is so much more work for two bartenders to put together shows and routines. It’s not twice the work, it’s ten times the work. If you fumble on your own, you can fake your way through it and nobody notices. In tandem, there is zero room for error. Every rotation, every angle, every beat has to be planned, matched and executed to perfection, or it’s a boring, even painful trainwreck to watch. (Note: since writing this not much has really happened with Tandem, lol. I missed the boat on this one, nationshowcompletely. Juan and Christian have taken their tandem to incredible levels and KOTR features a tandem round that by itself, is supporting the almost forgotten discipline that is Tandem Flair. Tim “Flippy” Morris and Steve Pacheco have been pioneers in Tandem Flair as well. Seems for others, the commitment and the stress of putting together Tandem shows is too much. Ken and I have been producing 4-man shows now for a few years with great success. Our first one involved four months of planning and practice. Last year Team Japan put on quite a stunning 6-man tandem during Legends and at Nations this year, Eddie Perelas’ team at the Rio put on wondrous spectacle of flair with tons of production value in their X-man themed show. Seems many see the potential of tandem performance but few have the resources or the reason to devote so much of their time to mastering it.)


Flair Will Go from Underground to Trendy to Mainstream
But still I am going on record as saying I see the gravy train of flair coming to a very slow but assured stop, over the next few years. Do not panic, I repeat, do not panic. What I mean is not a drop in the viability of flair as a hot concept, the growth of interest in flair, or the future of competitive flair bartending at all slowing down, but instead the “goldrush” days of anybody who can flip a bottle being able to pull down a job on swing shift at a major casino or the ability to make the finals of a world championship after three months of practicing, are all but over. Flair is, as much as many of us probably never believed it, on the verge of becoming mainstream. It’s become trendy in Vegas, which is funny to me. Flair being trendy. Wow things have changed. Not 10 years ago I knew bar managers who didn’t know what the word “flair” meant and now I meet peoples’ grandmothers who look at me and say “nice flair.” Flair as a household word? You’d cube surprised.

As such, Flair will continue to evolve and become much more competitive so that it will take more than being the only gun in town to guarantee you of a job. You will have to be the best in town. Making the finals of major events will come only to the most dedicated, talented and disciplined pros who treat it like a true, professional sport. And those who pull the strings will sooner or later start looking for the next big thing. Flair (and mixology) will in time, be just an expected skill of any bartender and no longer a special talent that a select few thousand bartenders have mastered. So except at the super-hot, established flair bars flair alone won’t set your concept apart.
In its place, I wonder if we will see other styles of entertainment bartending, that have nothing to do with flipping bottles. With larger construction, opening, and operating budgets and the constant race to grab the tourist dollar major players like the Casino, Hotel and Resort giants may continue to explore the concept of the mixed-breed drink-slinger. Singing, dancing, acrobatic and otherwise skilled bartending entertainers could find great opportunity in the coming years. Sound a little far fetched? Drop by any one of the newly opened and red-hot Coyote Ugly bars popping up all over the United States, and reportedly in several other countries already, and see for yourself. (Note: since writing this the Rio has introduced “Bevertainers”, singing dancing waitstaff and MGM Grand has opened a bar with performing bartenders.)

My name is… irrelevant. My occupation: undefined. My passion: many. My point: I have none. My excuse: I’m a lefty. My dream: stay tuned.

p.s. One last trend (note: added in May of 2006)… Argentineans will slowly start to dominate the flair competition scene, especially in the US. I know it sounds crazy, but I just have a feeling. (Note: since writing this four months ago, Argentineans have started to dominate the flair competition scene. Rumor is a couple brothers from somewhere outside Buenos Aires have been studying tapes of me and have mastered all of my secret tricks and 4-bottle patterns and are going to put together routines playing songs like “She Bangs” in an effort to win major competitions.)


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