“A soft target for radical overreach”

“A soft target for radical overreach”

I react very badly when mediocrity throws a tantrum of entitlement. – Professor and Novelist Lee Siegel

Me too!

And I’d love to be able to say this will be the entitlement story to end all entitlement stories, but we both know time would quickly prove that proposition to be patently false.

Some of you might remember I toiled for a social service agency at Belmont and Broadway for four too-long years in the 90s. You’re also well aware that I’m no paragon of social justice virtue, but in my defense, I’ve always enjoyed putting myself in situations where I’m the minority. It’s the quintessential antidote to sounding like a Fox News nitwit.

Working in the heart of Boystown, or Homo Heights as a gay friend often referred to it, was a fascinating proposition. Not in any flamboyant sense, but in the sense that people are generally the same no matter where you find them. We get up, we go to work, we come home, and perhaps we’ll socialize with friends at a bar before we start pushing the boulder up the hill all over again the very next day.

Though I never made it there, one of the most familiar nightclub names in that North Side neighborhood was Berlin, a venue opened in 1983 by a gay man and straight woman who envisioned a place where gay and straight neighbors could get to know each other over a beer. And it worked! Over the course of 40 years and an ownership change, Berlin magnificently served its purpose.

But then the post-COVID overly-entitled Millennial and Generation Z mediocre mob got their hands on it and now it’s closed for good. And the loss in these hyper-partisan times will be inestimable.

The venue’s sad demise started last spring when, taking a cue from Starbucks baristas who believe that pouring bad cups of coffee is a real career choice, their bartenders, barbacks, security staff, and coat checkers voted 16-4 to unionize. That’s right! All it took was 16 self-entitled idiots to bring a halcyon institution to its knees.

Just wait till you hear their list of demands.

Despite drawing the kind of affluent crowd that meant Berlin coat checkers and bartenders made $35 and $57 an hour respectively after tips, the “union” demanded a 30 percent pay increase. Then they insisted upon full health care and pension benefits for anyone who worked there at least one day a week.

One day a week for full benefits? Even those diehard Democratic Chicago union bosses were overheard saying “Whoa! You really need to slow down a bit, son.”

But my favorite ultimatum was the staff wanted more say in the day-to-day operations. Yes! Because the fact you’ve managed to survive about half as long as your workplace uniquely qualifies you to run an eminently difficult business.

The fuckin’ hubris it must take to believe you know better than the owners and managers of a nightclub who steered it through four decades and COVID is so far beyond the pale that I almost don’t know where to begin.

When the union thought the gay married couple owners were dragging their feet in the “negotiation” process, they called for a boycott of the club on October 25. And all of the drag queens and similar performers who got their start at Berlin laughed in the idiots’ faces, right?

Nope! They couldn’t wait to pile on and they started canceling their shows.

Oh! Aside from not caving in to blackmail, the reason the owners were slow in negotiating is one of them has stage four cancer and the other is his primary caregiver. But that kind of thing doesn’t matter to Millennials and Zers because business is business and they’re the only ones who matter anyway.

Faced with an unsustainable $500,000 a year increase in operating expenses, after 40 successful years, Berlin closed its doors for good on November 19.

“It would be nice to pay the employees what the union wants,” a letter from owners read, “Unfortunately, agreeing to the union’s demands will make Berlin noncompetitive, and result in a large increase of costs to our customers, causing Berlin’s patrons to go to other venues.”

Of course, the petulant union mob decried that decision claiming, “We made it clear to the company that our original proposals were not final and we were negotiating in good faith to reach an agreement that was financially practical for the business.”

“Negotiating in good faith?” I’ve seen mafia protection rackets make more reasonable demands. And anyone with half a brain knows you never negotiate with terrorists or stupid people. And stupid people are always worse than the terrorists.

Those former staffers actually had the nerve to add, “We continue to believe that businesses that refuse to value our work above minimum wage do not belong in our community. They cannot survive because we know our worth.”

Apparently they don’t know their “worth” because they’re out of a job right before the holidays. And while a good bartender is worth their weight in gold, please tell me what special four-year higher educational skill is required to take orders, hang up coats, carry liquor up from the basement, and throw obnoxious drunks out?

The idiots’ second rude awakening will come when they put Berlin on their resumes. Then they’ll discover they’ve become the kind of poison that means no one in the field will hire them lest their establishment fall prey to the same sad fate. If they do manage to catch on somewhere else, the tipped workers will never see $35 or $57 an hour again.

Fuckin’ idiots!

I can’t begin to fathom the Millennial and Generation Z notion that all business owners are rolling in it to the point where they should automatically throw cash at their employees for simply showing up to a job that requires no special skill. This and the whole 100 percent tip thing we’ve been discussing blows my mind.

The truth is, bars and nightclubs follow the same trajectory as restaurants, which makes a 40-year-old entity quite remarkable when you consider that 60 percent of them fail in in the first year and 80 percent are gone within five.

But no amount of life experience seems to put a dent in this idiotically absurd entitlement mentality. And the rise of the mediocre continues.

You’re probably saying “Ya gotta love this Chicago craziness,” but please don’t think we’re immune to it out here. Stupidity is so contagious that I guarantee you this no-skill union worker entitlement bullshit will make it out here to Elgin and Aurora, and it will do that sooner rather than later.


Authors Notes:

Beyond the ironic use of the word “nitwit,” I normally try to refrain from name calling and F-bomb overuse. But in this abjectly absurd case, nothing else works. The fucking idiots who previously worked for Berlin, are indeed, fucking idiots. Isn’t Meriam Webster’s similarly ironic Word of the Year, “authentic?”

Lastly, the title of this piece is a quote taken from a Tribune editorial on the same subject.

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