- About one million people visit New Orleans for Mardi Gras celebrations.
- Hospitality employees, such as bartenders, have to find a way to work during all the chaos.
- Bryson Downham, beverage director at Toups South, told INSIDER he works 16-hour shifts during Mardi Gras.
- Despite the long hours and intense crowds, he said, however, that he still has a good time.
Partying at Mardi Gras in New Orleans is an experience unlike any other. Every year, roughly one million Mardi Gras visitors join locals in New Orleans for several days of parading, feasting, and enjoying the city’s many libations.
But what’s it like to actually work in the middle of all this madness? To learn more, INSIDER spoke with Bryson Downham, beverage director at Toups South.
Downham said he worked at a cocktail bar in New Orleans’ French Quarter during two Mardi Gras celebrations
“I worked two Mardi Gras at a craft-cocktail bar in the French Quarter,” said Downham. “We were always really busy, even on normal weekdays. So with the city in its state of carnival chaos, we were packed wall-to-wall for 16 hours straight.”
“My shift started at 11:00 a.m. and the opening bartender asked me to work the point, where I would be the first line of defence against the drunken hordes.”
According to Downham, he was “in a bad way” from the previous night’s and earlier morning’s activities and would only have a break from 3:00 p.m. (when the swing [mid-afternoon to around midnight] shift bartender arrived) until it was his turn to serve at dinnertime.
“I dug in and prayed,” Downham told INSIDER.
Even in the early afternoon, Downham said the crowds are too intense for any bartender to abandon their duties
“When the swing shift [bartender] arrived, he banished himself to service well,” said Downham.
This meant Downham had to stay put and keep slinging drinks.
And when the last bartender stepped in, Downham told INSIDER that he was so buried he didn’t see him, despite him being only 10 feet away.
“I never did get to leave that station, nor did it go below five deep [people at the bar], until our final guests were asked to leave at 2:30 a.m.”
In total, Downham said he worked 16-hour shifts.
Despite the hard work, Downham said it was an ‘amazing time’
“For all the trouble though, I had an amazing time,” said Downham. “It was so much fun that I came back to do it the following year.”
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