The lifting, the washing, the stirring, the shaking. Bartending is, for better or worse, a full-contact sport. As an increasing number of bartenders begin to build lifelong careers behind the stick, providing a physical space that helps lessen the wear and tear on bartender bodies has become increasingly important, whether designing a fresh bar concept that places physical well-being first or making upgrades to an existing one.
“Bar ergonomics are a huge consideration, especially as they are magnified over the course of an 8-, 10- or 12-hour shift,” says Joaquín Simó of New York City’s Pouring Ribbons, which is home to a wealth of ergonomically minded best practices.
Simó outlines a few ideas to keep in mind while either designing a new space or modifying an existing bar for best ergonomic efficiency.
“On a given Friday, my bar staff may consist of a 5’2″ woman bartending next to a 6’5″ guy. Both of them need to be equally comfortable behind the same bar.”
When in doubt, safety (and comfort) come first.
“We had to find the sweet spot of positioning our speed rails so that no one felt like they were getting kneecapped every time they leaned forward. We added foam rubber padding to the front of the speed rails to cushion the inevitable leans. It’s also why we added built-in steps at three parts of our back bar (deep enough for your whole foot), as well as handles nearby, so anyone can safely reach the tallest parts of our back bar display and storage.”
Sticky hands suck.
“Given the amount of syrups and liqueurs that we use, [sticky hands] are kind of inevitable. But why on earth would you ever want to touch a faucet with sticky hands? That’s just nasty. So we installed foot pedals on all of our sinks. It takes about a half-hour to get used to it, then you’ll spend the rest of your life tapping your foot impatiently at all sinks wondering why they’re broken.”
Bending over is for yoga, not shifts.
“We installed three glass freezers at chest height on the back bar behind each well. We store stemmed cocktail glasses and fizz glasses in there, along with containers of our ice cylinders and shards. Putting glassware away and pulling ice is so much easier when you’re not hunched over a dark cooler trying to grab a frozen, slippery glass from a shelf just above the floor. We lost a decent chunk of back bar storage and display with those, but I would gladly make that call again.”