Student bar workers in Kingston share their wildest shift stories

Employees recall their most memorable moments in the Hub

Many students take jobs at Kingston bars as a means of income.
Many students take jobs at Kingston bars as a means of income.

While some Queen’s students frequent the Hub as a fun way to spend their weekends, others use Kingston’s bar scene to secure a part-time job.

The Journal asked student bartenders, bouncers, and servers to share the stories of their most memorable shifts working at a Kingston bar or club.


“Last year, I worked pat-down at the Ale House on Halloween. It was a really crazy night. People were yacking everywhere and someone literally drew chalk penises on the wall behind us.

We had to confiscate a bunch of stuff from people because they couldn’t take in anything that could be used to hurt someone else. We took away fake arms, fish hooks, a toaster, and a lot of plastic swords.

At the end of the night, a guy came back to retrieve the sword we took away but couldn’t find it. We weren’t liable for any of the things that we took but apologized anyway. When he found out we didn’t have his sword, he went absolutely crazy.

He was in his mid-thirties.”

—Anonymous, Ale House

“Anticipating my first night as an Ale House bouncer, I figured I’d have to confiscate a few vapes, escort a girl who drank too much, or even break up a scuffle. What actually happened is something I couldn’t have imagined.

For my shift, I had to guard the stairs and control incoming traffic headed for the bar’s second floor. I’d heard it was the last place you’d want to be stationed. When people started coming in, I understood why. Patrons were yelling, jumping, and pushing from all angles to get upstairs—the more I told them to stop, the more they’d complain.

At some point, I started letting people in one by one, regardless of whether they came as a group or not. One girl was really upset about getting left behind and after minutes of arguing, I calmly told her the more she complained, the more her chances of going upstairs decreased.

She decided to take matters into her own hands and sprint up the stairs when I wasn’t looking. Thankfully, I saw her from the corner of my eye and snatched her purse. Although she made it upstairs, she didn’t want to continue without her belongings and came back down to beg for them.

Everybody waiting downstairs said to confiscate the purse and kick her out. I felt bad, so I agreed to give it back as long as she apologized and went downstairs. Although we argued for another ten minutes, she eventually surrendered, grabbing her purse back.

For my first shift, I think I did pretty well.”

—Sakhia Kwemo, Ale House

“A kid’s soccer team came to The Grizzly Grill for dinner—a group of about 50—the day after we got a brand new billing system at the restaurant. Another waiter and I served the group: I took the kids, he took the adults.

When it came time to split all the bills, the group was pretty unhappy—they'd already been at the restaurant for two hours. It only got worse when we tried to sort out each family’s bill and had a bunch of problems because we didn't understand the new system.

One mother yelled, saying there was no way her kid ordered a salad for dinner. I insisted that I’d delivered the salad and watched her eat the whole thing. The mother wasn’t impressed.

Some people got angry and left without paying, and we ended up short on the bill by almost $200. Luckily, our managers took pity on us. That was a pretty bad day.”

—Maggie Gowland, The Grizzly Grill

“This summer I worked at Kingston’s favourite bear-themed restaurant: The Grizzly Grill. Throughout the summer my co-workers and I had to work a lot of large parties, but there’s one in particular I’ll never forget.

A school reserved the upstairs of The Grizz as part of their field trip to Kingston. A hundred 10-year-olds piled into the restaurant. Voices were high, children were running, and my fellow employees and I were terrified.

Each server was responsible for serving about 20 children. I can imagine everyone had similar thoughts: I need 15 Shirley Temples—never mind, the boy in the GAP sweater now wants one too. Is that little girl hanging off the railing? Why do they have to mix every condiment together? Did he just dab?

Spoiler alert: we survived and everyone enjoyed their meals.”

—Maggie Keenan, The Grizzly Grill

“One night I was working the cover booth at Ale House, collecting money as people came in. Late into the night, a girl suddenly fell down the stairs on her way out, right in front of my coworkers and me.

All I saw was her heels in the air, and then her face pressed against the glass cover booth—it was like something out of a movie. The fall caused a huge scene, so the bouncers made sure to escort her out and get her a cab.

We all felt really bad, but it was pretty comical.”

—Anonymous, Ale House

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