Sleep deprivation, booze-fuelled excess, punters acting the bollocks. Gareth Cummins from Thomas House gives us an insight into the glamorous life of the pub manager.
The stress almost killed me. A few years ago I went temporarily blind in my left eye while trying to book a US tour for a band. This was worse. My fucking teeth started to fall out.
These days I rarely drink, the fact that I’m surrounded by it all day just kills the appeal. I’m sure the staff in Burdock’s never want to see another bag of chips.
I’ve dealt with assaults, floods, electrical emergencies, bad staff, junkies, theft and, of course, students. I was a student once, I was probably a bollocks sometimes but I like to think I was a reasonable enough bollocks. These days I have to deal with all sorts of student related bollockry. I caught one of them walking out with my cup of tea one night. Literally walking out the door with my cup of tea that I left on the bar. When confronted he simply replied “Ah sure I was just taking it for the craic”.
This is my life now. It’s not the worst.
I drank a lot during the first year, and I mean a lot. Standing behind the bar and conversing with customers while they were gradually getting drunker became a chore and I would have a few pints to keep my energy levels up. Throw in a few shots of whiskey or rum and try to turn each work night into a party. This became a slight problem for me, I didn’t become dependent on the drink, but I felt it creeping up on me over time.
I remember one night being alone in the pub and it was mentally busy. I’m not the best behind the bar and I’ll be the first one to admit it. I panic at large orders and crowds but I felt the only way to handle the problem that night was to get smashed drunk and let the night handle itself. I drank two bottles of Bushmills and literally fell around the bar while serving people. I smashed glasses, dropped drinks and forgot all about time and served for almost an hour over the legal limit. But apparently I was hilarious.
Thomas House had been handled poorly in the recent years, changing hands a few times and generally not doing the business it needed to do to stay open. The doors finally closed in 2011 and a few days later myself and my business partner Kevin received a phone call about taking up the lease on the pub.
For some reason we said yes, borrowed money from our families and dug in. I’d be lying if I told you it was easy. It was without a doubt the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life. To run a pub like this takes a fierce amount of time, as it stands I have no personal life. I sleep, wake and work. Lather, rinse repeat. 7 days a week.
I recently returned from a trip to Europe. My first “holiday” in two and a half years. I was driving a camper van across Poland while suppliers, agents and debtors wore my phone out. Turning it off is simply not an option anymore. I get calls in the morning from delivery companies and calls at 4am from drunk mates looking for a late gargle. I try to keep my office hours between 1pm and 10pm.
My sleeping pattern? Chaos theory. I find myself sleeping whenever I can; grab a few hours at night and an hour or two during the day. At home, in the van or on the seats in the pub. I’m turning into a soldier. My t-shirt reads ‘Defend Thomas House’. If you told me three years ago that I would be managing a bar and venue I’d probably have spat in your eye and called you Matilda. But here I am, 32 years old, tired, sick, broke and stressed but fucking loving running a pub.