We had a chat with Blue Valentine, the face behind the Bad Bartender merch and a fixture behind the bar at Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall in Brisbane. Here’s what she had to say about starting a business in a pandemic and her love of hospo.
My real name is Blue, my middle name is Arizona and my last name is Valentine. My parents are both creatives and love the colour and I was conceived in Arizona. My brother’s name is also cool, it’s Buzz Beach.
I first started in the hospitality industry when I was 16 (eight years ago now. At first I did it to get a day off school as I was doing my Cert 3 in Hospitality but ended up working with a great team of people and really enjoyed the fast paced environment side of things. I started off in an Asian restaurant/cocktail bar and then moved onto pubs and fell into the nightclub scene for a while across Brisbane and Melbourne. My strengths lie in fast-paced environments so they are the types of venues I usually end up in.
I started at Lefty’s at the beginning of this year when Hallmark took over, it’s a venue I’ve loved ever since I was 18 and couldn’t be happier working there. The venue itself is just stunning, filled with sailor jerry pin-up girls on the walls, live rockabilly/country music every night and a dive bar vibe that I love.
What I love about Hospo is the fast paced environments, and the hardworking people I work with. I love walking into a bar that’s six-deep and figuring out the best way to arrange the team to their strengths in order to multi-serve as many people as possible and seeing how fast I can go before smashing out a stellar close. Then we have a knockoff at the end of the night and have a big whinge about all the idiots we’ve dealt with.
My current boss Brittany Bennett has been my biggest supporter since I walked through the door at Lefties, she has always been an incredibly supportive manager to have around and encouraged me with my business ‘Bad Bartender’ so much. She pushed me to do whatever I wanted with the venue, she even allowed us to be the first venue to have the shirts as uniforms. I have a lot of respect for her and am incredibly grateful for all the support she has given me over my time at Lefties.
At the beginning of COVID, I think I was out of work for about a month before JobKeeper kicked in at a second bar job that I have. So I was lucky enough to receive JobKeeper but unfortunately it still was significantly less than what my income was before. This is when I started selling my belongings online and discovered that I enjoyed it. I wanted to try and take advantage of the extra time off and do something more creative so this is when I decided to start playing around drawing up designs. I wanted to combine doing something creative, with selling a product which then eventually led to Bad Bartender.
I launched the Bad Bartender range of merch this year. I feel like it has been difficult trying to juggle running the business as well still working full time in bars. I focus on my business the first 3 days of the week and then have to completely switch my sleeping schedule and jump back behind the bar for the second half of the week. There’s still so much I need to learn about the marketing and business side of things as I am more of a creative at this point. Hurdle-wise there has been many as I don’t have any experience in this field – this is my first crack. Mainly a lot of problems with the printing companies, samples coming through terribly, not arriving on time, photo shoots going wrong, my website didn’t go live when it was supposed to, that kind of thing.
The biggest thing I don’t like about the hospitality industry is the lack of respect from patrons. Their mentality is that just because they’ve bought a drink from you they ‘pay your wages’ and they think they own you.
I hope that in five years my business will grow, that I can reach out and design to a broader audience. That it will become more successful overseas. I’ve had a few orders overseas so far but I hope to see more uniforms in bars, more prints in houses and more fun creating new designs.
If I could have a drink with anyone it would have to be Norman Keith Collins (Sailor Jerry), I think he’d have some amazing stories to share and probably over an Old Fashioned.