Health & Fitness | January 29, 2021 8:03 am

We Need to Talk About Bartenders and Mental Health

A conversation with Raul Faria, the chair of the United States Bartenders' Guild Health and Wellness Committee

bartenders covid
A typical bar scene from the last 12 months
Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images

“As bartenders we are independent, creative, ‘people people.’ The pandemic has taken away our ability to connect with our guests and ply our trade.”

That’s Raul Faria, the chair of the United States Bartenders’ Guild Health and Wellness Committee, explaining the unique challenges his industry and his own profession faced last year, and which are now continuing into 2021.

Last year, InsideHook polled people in the drinks industry (bartenders, distillery owners/workers, brand ambassadors, restaurateurs, publicists, writers, etc.) on how they stayed healthy, primarily as it applied to physical health. But given the last 12 months, we decided to speak with some more of them this year to focus on the mental side of self-care. Below, our talk with Faria. Next week, we’ll showcase what over a dozen professionals in the alcohol industry are doing to address and improve their own mental wellness.

Raul Faria
USBG Health and Wellness Committee chair Raul Faria
Jose Salinas

InsideHook: Can you explain your current roles and what that entails on a day-to-day basis?

Raul Faria: My career in F&B and my journey within USBG leadership began when I was bartending. I joined the USBG in 2012 when I was at Caesars Palace and I was “behind the stick” for 15 years all together before my current supplier role. Currently I am a portfolio specialist with Pernod-Ricard here in Las Vegas. I am responsible for maintaining the accounts in my market, implementing programs developed nationally, assisting the local team with spirits education and activation. It’s a lot of administrative work on the back end combined with some reporting. This, along with multiple calls, will occupy the majority of your day.

The evening is when you visit your accounts and support menus and features — the fun part. My roles with the USBG are currently: Las Vegas Chapter President, Southwest Regional Council Representative and Chair of the USBG Health & Wellness Committee.

The USBG describes your committee as offering support “in proposing and developing programs that educate industry members re. health and wellness.” Can you tell me a bit about the programs you currently support?

In light of the pandemic and the social justice movements of 2020, our work has been mostly virtual with the mandate of addressing the immediate physical and mental health concerns of the members. On our committee calls we will discuss resources that can be shared with the membership that are relevant and timely; for example, we shared a blog that focused on surviving the holidays and how to address or avoid political discussions with family members. We also shared mental health resources for members suffering from anxiety and mental health issues from various triggers like the pandemic, racial-induced trauma and economic issues. As a committee we are now looking forward to the rest of 2021. A lot really depends on the progress of the efforts to curb the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of what we can do, so it’s also being able to stay agile. The key is always to be relevant to the needs of the members.

2020 was possibly the hardest year in the hospitality industry since, well, Prohibition. What were or are some of the biggest concerns being voiced to you?

I guess it’s fear. As bartenders we are independent, creative, “people people.” The pandemic has taken away our ability to connect with our guests and ply our trade. Hospitality is at the core of what true bartending is once it’s all distilled down. And, at least for the time being, hospitality has been limited, restricted or in some cases completely taken away. So there is a fear out there because the most important tool in our bar tool bag is gone and with that, our livelihoods.

What are some ideas that have come out of the last year that you think could be helpful in the future, even post-pandemic? 

I think something that can be taken from the pandemic disaster is that we need to take time for ourselves. That may sound generic or obvious but it’s not. We as bartenders give so much of ourselves. To our guests, to managers, to support staff, to servers — there is rarely a moment a bartender is just standing there doing nothing. So oftentimes we are emotionally drained, taxed and stressed by giving so much of ourselves to others. I think taking a pause and being forced to just sit still and actually let those pressures go is something we need to carry forward as we emerge from the pandemic. Take time for yourself and only yourself. Whether it’s something like a structured meditation, going to the gym or something as simple as a quiet moment at home with a TV show or some YouTube videos.

For the parents out there this may be tricky depending on your shift and co-parenting situation. As a parent myself, my advice is to look for your “window.” When the kids go to bed or after you get settled in for the day or night just set that time aside for whatever activity you’re comfortable with. As long as it provides you a chance to unload stress and relieve the emotional taxation of the day. Self care is crucial and will benefit not just yourself but your entire family in the long run. As long as you are able to reclaim some of your energy at the end of a day. I think that is an important way to keep your mental health in good shape.

(Note: An excellent compendium of mental health and wellness resources utilized and promoted by the USBG — that can really apply to anyone — can be found here).