Dear Leila: Christmas Shift

By Leila Wagner |

Whether it’s a fine dining restaurant or a neighborhood dive, restaurants and bars are the back-drop for many of our lives’ most significant (and insignificant) moments. We’re here to let our hospitality expert, Leila Wagner, answer your most vexing questions. Have a special situation for Leila? Email her already: leila@

In this edition, Leila tackles the pitfalls of working Christmas night.

Dear Leila,

I have to work Christmas night. Can I get drunk during my shift?

Holidazed in Houston

I’d say regardless of your workplace policy on drinking on the job, getting drunk at work on Christmas sounds like a bad idea. It holds definite potential for a spiral into self pity and malaise, not to mention service that may come off as sloppy or begrudging. Pick an upcoming off night to get together with your friends who also had to work holidays, and you can celebrate properly on your own time.


Dear Leila,

How often should I buy the bar a round of shots during my Christmas Eve shift? Once an hour?

Bored in Birmingham

How often? How much do you like your job? We’ve discussed similar topics before and the answer remains contingent on your employers’ rules. I suggest that you follow them. However, if your manager offers you some discretion, remember that most drinkers don’t need very much help tying one on during the holidays. So, this might be a good time for you to test out that new low proof, successor to the Lemon Drop you’ve been working on. Stick with heavily diluted, juice based shots, wait for your regulars to trickle in, and keep it to a couple rounds max.


Dear Leila,

My bar turns into some sort of communal manifestation of bipolar disorder on Christmas. Half of the customers are drunk and manic when they walk in; the other half are drunk and depressed. How should I handle them?

Yule in Yuma

The holidays can be rough on the psyche even for people who have close relationships with their families. Even if you love your family, being trapped with them for days on end as Uncle Al repeats his stories for the third time; or having to take care of relatives who’ve imbibed a bit too much holiday cheer; or finding yourself running out of tactful ways to deflect questions about why you’re still single can take a toll. For people who don’t have close family relationships, seeing people seemingly happy and close with their parents and siblings can be a painful reminder of the absence in their own lives.

The best advice I can give is to be gentle and kind with people who may be hurting. As for the hooligans, I think a little leeway can be given considering it’s a celebration, but your job is still to keep your guests safe and your establishment safe. So, make sure that you stay diligent about not overserving your guests.

Lastly, don’t forget to practice self care. Taking care of drunk people is taxing unto itself, but adding the emotional tempest of the holidays can make for an emotionally exhausting time for those in the service industry.

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