Queen City Nerve

Charlotte's Cultural Pulse

Love in the Time of Liquid Courage
Bartenders share stories of romance

By Justin Zalewski

February 13, 2019

Justin Zelewski (Photo by Tim Baker)

If only someone could have transported me from 2009 — when I was just a young, testosterone-drenched buck in my mid-20s — into a day when I would be able to get on my phone and flip through some pictures to judge potential mates by looks alone until, BOOM, I found a match, I would have been like a kid in a candy shop. To be clear, I’m off the market (sorry, ladies) but my younger self would be in awe of how the dating scene has changed.

With the arrival of Valentine’s Day, what better time to talk about the bizarre, “Are you fucking kidding me, did that really just happen?” dating shenanigans that take place in a bar.

For this column, I hosted a roundtable discussion with bartenders from across the city. The all-star panel consisted of a mix of four men and four women, so as to get both sides of the coin. We have Erin Carter and Blaine Thomas of Blind Pig; Bethany McKenna and Julie Abdelrahman of SIP; Dustin Moates of Taboo; the now-retired Maggie Poske and Brettlee Blair; and Jon Murto of Vault and Murto Made Vodka.

What you are about to read will only give you a fraction of an idea of what it is like to bear witness to what can only be described as a nightly National Geographic documentary on the mating habits of the humans under the influence of the courage-enhancing liquid known as alcohol.

What is the most ridiculous thing a patron has done in an attempt to pick you up or get your attention?
“‘Here is a 20 [dollar bill]. How much to get you the rest of the night?’”
“Asking for my number and when I said, ‘I am sorry, no,’ he left zero tip and continued to stare all night long.”
“Showing privates — male and female.”
“Offered me $200 for my number.”

What is the worst pick-up line you’ve heard?
“Is that your hair? We should hang out.”
“There’s something wrong with my phone. It doesn’t have your number in it.”
“Can you touch my hand? I want to tell my friends I’ve been touched by an angel.”
“Did you just fart? Because you blow me away!”
“I’ve lost my teddy bear! Can I sleep with you instead?”

What is advice you would give someone trying to pick you up?
“Do it when you are sober! And when the bar isn’t slammed.”
“If you are bold enough to leave your number on your receipt, at least leave a damn tip.”
“Don’t ever touch me!”
“Be genuine and not too aggressive.”
“Don’t wait until I am off work.”

Since I didn’t have a column in the previous issue, the cover story for which included a slew of “Tinder Terror” stories, I’d like to wrap this one up with the worst story I’ve heard resulting from online dating. Talking with a friend of mine a few weeks ago, she shared a story about a Tinder night gone nuclear.

This friend of mine went on a date with her mystery man to the EpiCentre. The date started off what could be considered normal. Casual, semi-awkward conversation followed with shots and drinks to loosen the grip of wondering, “Am I on a date with Ted Bundy or Greg Brady?”

As the liquid confidence took hold, Mr. Bundy showed his true colors. He started to act out of sorts and pushed another patron who bumped into him. My friend asked if they should leave the crowded bar to go somewhere less busy. Fight-or-flight was starting to work its way through her body. “Do I continue this date or tell this clown that my grandma has diarrhea and I need to tend to her bedside?”

My friend pushed through and went to the next bar. This is where everything went to shitsville. She went to the bathroom to freshen up — splash water on her face and hope the night would continue in a somewhat normal fashion. Upon her return to the bar, she was greeted with Mr. Bundy yelling at the female bartender and then throwing a pint glass at her. This is when my friend decided to make a run for it.

And with that, I’ll leave you with the same advice I leave you with every month: Don’t forget to tip your bartenders!

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