Art’s for the summer: chronicles of a waitress


Liz and Paul at Art’s

By Elizabeth Palisin
Sun contributor

Being a waitress is like being a duck. That’s right, a duck. You may look like you are gliding along a placid pond, but underneath the surface you are paddling frantically. No matter how fast the food may fly out of the kitchen you must be there to calmly escort it to the table with a carefree smile. This is not to say that waitressing is a horribly hard job only for the fearless. No, during my time at work I have met some of the most amazing people just by taking their orders. You get to know a person intimately and quickly by what they choose to order. You can tell a person’s temperament by how impatient they seem for their food. You can judge character by the way that they treat the waitress, me.

Working at Art’s Tavern is a complete lesson in life. Being a 19-year-old waitress is a lesson in itself, but working at a restaurant in a small town like Glen Arbor is another entirely. There are rules that you can learn quickly, such as do NOT spill large trays full of steaming vegetables and hot-out-of-the-fryer fries on unsuspecting customers, or to always try to be friendly and welcoming. But there are also rules that come with experience, such as antsy loud children like oyster crackers, or realizing there is an unspoken rivalry between the wait staff that works in the daytime and those that work in the night. Here I will attempt to share some of the knowledge that I have gleaned in my two years of being a member of the Art’s wait staff crew.

Arts Tavern has a rich history. It was originally named the Blue Goose Saloon in the 1920s until it was taken over by Art Sheridan in 1934. It was kept in the family until 2000 when Tim Barr bought the place but kept the name on. Today, many people still ask me if Tim is in fact Art, the now mythical and legendary owner of the bar. I hate to disappoint and I sometimes let them believe that he is. People come from all over the world to taste our tater tots and burgers, to gaze quizzically at the two-headed fish that hangs on the wall, to look for their school pendant on the ceiling, or to marvel at the phantom pool table that rises magically out of the floor late at night. Tourists stream into the bar from all over the country to try the local beers on tap. Whatever the reason Art’s has been attracting people since before the prohibition and the legacy continues.

But the real heart of Art’s are the people that show up everyday to work. You have two cooks that fly around the kitchen at a million miles per hour whipping up burgers for a full restaurant, dishwashers scrubbing dishes furiously, bartenders mixing and shaking cocktails and waiters serving. Underneath the hustle and bustle of the synchronized chaos that makes up the day you would never know that one of these people is getting a masters in finance, another grows mint for the mojitos, one has an adorable baby girl. The most valuable part of my summer at Art’s has been learning about the people that I work with everyday. Although we may get frustrated in the moment at each other, every person is an integral part of the crew.

“That’s exactly what keeps me coming back,” says Donny Fast who is in his sixth summer as a bartender at Art’s “the people that I work with are great.”

Of the lessons that Art’s has taught me I can say resourcefulness, patience and hard work reign high on the list. Once you have done a stint as a waitress you never look down on a person again in your life because you understand how any service can be a blessing. You also never look at peanuts the same way because you know they leave an unbelievable shelly mess. But most importantly you never look at people the same way. That man at the end of the bar drinking heavily may have lost someone, that baby that is screaming may be teething, that sullen teenager may just want a hot plate of onion rings. So I am thankful for my summer at Art’s for teaching me invaluable lessons that I could not have learned anywhere else. It’s exciting to me when you can take something away from a work experience, and as I head back to school this fall I will carry those lessons with along with me. See you next summer!