The Last Night

It was the last night of business for the restaurant, it was closing after a few years. A waitress had told a pair of lunch patrons the week before that the building needed a lot of expensive repairs, that the owners weren’t able to undertake them. A sign outside said, Thank you for dining with us, We will miss you.

Did the host have a new job yet? He did not. He’d been trying, but Thanksgiving was coming up, not the best time to be job seeking … Could he collect unemployment? He could not–he’d been working off the books, “mostly.” But the owners had told them a month in advance, the best you could get from a restaurant, he said. He’d shown up to locked doors before, and that’s how he found out he no longer had a job.

The evening’s abbreviated menu included four entrees, two beers, a few cocktails. I got the beet burger and a beer. There’s one thing, the waitress said, apologetically, it’s not on a roll tonight, it’s on Texas Toast— That’s fine. Fine, fine. Did she have a new job yet? She didn’t, but she has a second job, well now just a job. She will be okay. She has some time.

A large table in the back was filled with happy smiling people. The whole restaurant was filled with happy smiling people. At least one of the owners sat at the table, getting up every now and then to fetch more drinks, hug patrons hello and goodbye. No one looked sad, even the staff were in good spirits. And why not. All the regulars were there, the owners, everyone was making an appearance. Balloons dotted the ceiling, their curly strings mingling among the patrons. Other bartenders from the neighborhood circled through, a small group of them took shots of Fernet at the end of the bar.

A runner brought my food. Did he have a job yet? He shook his head, no. But I am hoping I will get one, he said, they have other restaurants, these owners. I hope that works out for you, I said.

The food was fine. I wondered about the people in the kitchen who made the food, what motivation to make it on this last night. They don’t work for tips, even. But maybe they were having their own party in the back. A group of people had jobs that they liked, for a time. Certainly something to celebrate.

I finished my food and moved to the bar to finish my beer. My waitress came over with the check—she was leaving, would I mind paying now? Of course not. It was $19. I left $30.

As I was leaving, the bartender announced to the bar, jubilantly, that they had 86′d whisky—everyone cheered.

I have a friend who has worked in a bar for ten years. The bar closed for a week last year, for ceiling repairs. A vacation! I said. How grand. He looked at me like I was crazy. This could be it, he said. Maybe they wouldn’t reopen. During the week off, my friend didn’t know what to do with himself. He willed himself out of bed. He went on walks. He thought about what he would do if the bar closed. At the end of the week he called his manager. Will we be open tomorrow, he asked? Yes, of course, the manager said. My friend nearly cried with relief, he says. But even when he tells the story, his eyes get wet, remembering.

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9 Comments / Post A Comment

hopeyglass (#3,298)

Logan this is so beautiful.

DickensianCat (#971)

Logan! I’m sorry you’re not getting more love for this in the comments, it’s great :).

A couple weekends ago some friends and I went for brunch on a favorite neighborhood restaurant’s last day of business. It was bittersweet, but like your experience, the place was packed with regulars who seemed to be in a festive, celebratory mood determined to give it a proper “send off” I guess; it was really touching to witness.

EvanDeSimone (#2,101)

Restaurant work can be really communal in a way that a lot of other work isn’t Consequently I think leaving it can feel like a much bigger loss. This was lovely Logan.

pinches (#3,520)

I hope all the employees find their next job soon.

elVollbrechto (#4,347)

“As I was leaving, the bartender announced to the bar, jubilantly, that they had 86′d whisky—everyone cheered.” — love it. This is gorgeous writing, and you really captured something that I think everyone (everyone who works in that industry, that is) can relate to on a gut level.

teacuptempest (#749)

His eyes aren’t the only watery ones. Thanks for a lovely piece, Logan.

novembertea (#2,203)

Working in a restaurant is so awful.. Every day I wonder if eventually I will need to fall back on waitressing again. That is definitely something I fear.

Logan, this was a great piece.

carpenter (#5,436)

Just when I thought pieces like this were only memories in my past, you came up with this one and my faith in really good writing is renewed. I’ve seen those “Closed for repairs” signs on restaurants and I always knew what they meant; unemployment for the staff. Thanks.

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