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Where do Nashville restaurant staffers meet off the clock?

October 7, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Monday mornings mean back to the grind for many Nashville residents. But the scene at Hemingway’s Bar & Hideaway in Wedgewood-Houston tells a different story.

By late morning, you can find people enjoying hot chicken mac and cheese or breakfast tacos and toasting to the start of their weekend with cocktails in hand.

Nashville’s restaurant staff work hard, long hours over the weekend, and for many of them, Sunday nights and Mondays are their days to rest — or to let loose with their friends at restaurants and bars that cater to the service industry.

Hemingway’s is one of the hot spots in Nashville where you can regularly find waitstaff, bartenders and chefs from other eateries. The restaurant offers brunch all week, a service industry night on Mondays with discounted drinks, and a late-night food menu for people to enjoy after they punch out.

“A lot of us work brunch and work at places that have brunch, but we never get to go to brunch,” said Hemingway’s co-owner Christopher Weber. “When we get to go to brunch and have bottomless mimosas and pancakes, it’s fun. It’s something we don’t get to do; we just see other people do it.”

Restaurant across Nashville are targeting off-the-clock hospitality staff, particularly in the late-night hours, on Sunday nights and all day Monday.

Industry workers tend to gather at certain bars, such as 3 Crow Bar, Red Door Saloon, Melrose Billiards Parlor, No. 308 and Broadway Brewhouse, creating a “Cheers”-style scene where people mingle and swap stories from their shifts.

“It’s funny, because you’ll see the guys in the white buttoned shirts and black trousers because they work at a steakhouse, and the tie-dye shirt guy because he works at Mellow Mushroom, and the dude with the sleeves rolled up because he works in East Nashville,” Weber said.

Service industry events are a long-held tradition in the restaurant world. For restaurant staff, it’s a way to enjoy a night out without breaking the bank. For owners, it drives business on otherwise slower nights. Some industry nights are widely publicized and others are more secretive, spread only by word-of-mouth.

Last spring, The Green Hour in Germantown started opening on Monday nights once a month for a special industry night that drew back-of-house workers, waitstaff, bartenders and brand reps from across the city for cheaper drinks and specials.

Jeremiah Blake, the bar’s operating partner, said he depends on word-of-mouth to drive customers to the small absinthe bar, and many of those referrals come from staff at other Nashville restaurants. He thought launching an industry night would help give back to the hard workers in the business and he plans to revive the industry night this fall.

“It is a little bit of a boost because it’s an extra night for the business, but it’s mostly about giving back and saying thank you,” Blake said.

At Melrose Billiard Parlor on Eighth Avenue South, the service industry regularly gathers to shoot pool and play darts, shuffleboard and pingpong. The Service Industry Sundays event drives extra business to the bar thanks to the discounted drinks, including half off all beer from open to close and half off well liquor drinks until 10 p.m.

“Sunday is generally not a very busy night, so giving people a meeting ground, it just really gets bodies in the door. Even though we’re doing stuff substantially discounted, it’s still generating decent sales for a Sunday, which is not usually a banger night,” said bartender Josh Rew.

Rew said the bar sees an influx of restaurant staff from other places around 12:30 a.m. most nights of the week after they’ve ended their shifts.

“After shifts, that’s a huge part of Billiards and pretty much always has been, at least for most of the last decade,” Rew said.

Another big draw for off-the-clock restaurant workers are places with substantial late-night food menus, since people in the service industry show up hungry after working long shifts on their feet.

“That’s one of the main reasons we have late-night food at Hemingway’s; you have to feed these people,” Weber said. The restaurant offers its late-night menu with a burger, pork belly cheese steak, chicken wings, poutine and more until midnight on weekdays and 1 a.m. on weekends.

Billy Dec, owner of Sunda in the Gulch, said he often sees workers from nearby restaurants come in to his Asian restaurant and sushi bar every night after they close for last call. He said they enjoy drinks, sashimi plates and sushi while sitting at the bar.

“It’s kind of like being in high school and the cool kids come to your party,” Dec said about hospitality workers coming to your restaurant.

Sunda’s Sunday industry event includes 50 percent off select food and drinks from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. for hospitality and music professionals. The event is modeled after a highly successful industry night at Sunda in Chicago, but the Nashville one incorporates the music industry.

“I came up working since I was in sixth grade as a coat check kid,” Dec said. “I really never had money and it was hard to be able to enjoy some of the nicer restaurants when I was coming up, which is frustrating when you have a tremendous amount of passion and desire to explore and learn and grow. This, to me, is just a way to contribute and give back and empower people to explore and grow.”

Reach Lizzy Alfs at lalfs@tennessean.com or 615-726-5948 and on Twitter @lizzyalfs.

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Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com

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