With Two Broke Bartenders and a Truck, laid-off bartenders are now yard-tenders. Or handymen and women who do all types of chores around the house. Same goes for out-of-work cooks, servers, and other restaurant men and women who work for Party Memphis businesses.
Taylor Berger, operating partner of Two Broke Bartenders LLC, is also operating partner of Party Memphis, the group that owns Railgarten, Loflin Yard, Rec Room, Bounty on Broad, and Highland Axe & Rec.
“I started Two Broke Bartenders to respond to the demand from our restaurant customers who are now stuck at home but still need essential services and products — errands, yard work, handyman services, etc.” Berger says. “Using the assets we already had — vehicles and a bunch of awesome staff with no restaurant work but lots of skills — I just connected the customers and our staff through our website: twobrokebartenders.com.
“So far, it’s all people who have worked at our restaurants. Some cooks and back of house and also some bartenders and front of house.”
As bar manager at Railgarten, Steven Hamblin, 35, usually is “making sure everyone is where they’re supposed to be.” And, he says, “There’s some times when I get thrown behind the bar to help with the rush.”
But, lately, instead of wielding a cocktail shaker, Hamblin has been wielding a weed-trimmer. Since the temporary layoff, he’s outdoors instead of indoors.
“I’ve cut the yard, weed-eated before,” Hamblin says. “But I haven’t done a lot because I’ve mostly been in an apartment.”
He liked the idea of Two Broke Bartenders and a Truck. “I thought it was a good way to keep the money coming in. I was planning on laying low and drawing unemployment and applying for jobs, looking for jobs while I was out of work at Railgarten.”
As for yard work, Hamblin says, “I actually haven’t cut any yards yet. I’ve done some pressure washing. We have taken down a play swing set, a jungle gym, and hauled that off. We hauled off some trash people didn’t want in their yards.”
And, he says, “I’ve gone on beer runs. I’ve gone to the pet store for dog bones. Grocery shopping.”
He’s also gotten adept at using a chainsaw. “We were using a chainsaw the last couple of days and the chain came off the track.” Hamblin watched a co-worker get the chain fixed. The next time it broke, he got it on. “I got it on there quicker than either one of them.
“The more you do something, the better you get at it. I’m not afraid of doing something I’ve never done before. New life circumstances. It makes me think I want to do some of this stuff on my own, if nothing else, just in the yard. It empowers you a little bit.”
Jessica McGill, 35, a bartender at Railgarten and at Bounty on Broad, says, “They have put me mostly on yard-work ‘cause I have my own equipment. I’ve got mowers, chainsaw, pressure washers, all the landscaping equipment for yard-work just ‘cause it’s always been something I enjoy and I always keep up with it at home. It really is a kind of therapy.
“With the circumstances of COVID being timed with the changing of the seasons, this is the time of year folks would be getting out to do that first few major days of yard work after a long winter of downed leaves and dead stuff. There’s a lot of work to do.”
McGill brings her own truck. “I have an SUV so I’ve been able to load all my equipment in that. Strap the wheelbarrow to the roof. Kind of a one-woman yard show.” So far, she’s been working “every single day there hasn’t been a big rain in the forecast.”
And, she says, “What’s really struck me the most about this new endeavor is the community. My mom has this saying — it’s not original to her — but, ‘We all belong to each other.’ As soon as I get to a client’s house I thank them for the opportunity. And each one has responded in the same way. They want to help. It really feels like Memphians are rallying in lots of different ways. In a service industry you can have really rough shifts. You get a guest who can never be pleased. This feels like the opposite of that. It just feels like really loving support. They want to see us thrive during this time of uncertainty.
“A friend of mine always says what’s different from Memphis and other cities is the people. There’s this fierce loyalty. I have really felt that. This kind of ride-or-die thought pattern. People are just fiercely supporting each of us this way. Being a part of Two Broke Bartenders and a Truck has made me so proud to be a Memphian. A transplant, not by birth, but, definitely, by heart.”
See the “Two Broke Bartenders” video by Mark Edgar Stuart. The video was filmed and edited by Bella Golightly.