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Photograph: Ice Bar
Photograph: Ice Bar

One staff member recalls the highs and lows of Ice Bar, which has just announced its permanent closure

By Time Out London contributor
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Bartender Aksana worked at Ice Bar in Mayfair for 12 years. As the bar shuts, she reflects on her time there

We got a really mixed crowd at Ice Bar. During the day we usually mostly got tourists who popped in after strolling around shopping, but on the weekends we got hen parties, stag dos and birthdays.

Americans were my favourite customers as they’re up for a laugh and usually make repeat visits. They got really excited about the ice, which is a more pleasant reaction to see than people who are unimpressed. You’re more likely to go the extra mile for a customer who is positive.

There have been some crazy antics in here. One guy tried to use his bum cheeks to leave a mark on the wall by standing against it naked for ten minutes and actually succeeded. We have also had a few people getting sneakily undressed under the capes customers have to wear to keep them warm, before stripping off in front of everybody.

Often, hen dos would turn up with dildos and massive balloons, but they’re not allowed to take them inside the bar. They’ve usually been okay with it, but it makes the reception look hilarious.

We’ve had occasional bad behaviour. We had some guests once who started smashing their glasses when they finished their drinks – although they’re made out of ice, the shards can be dangerous if people step on them or it can be slippery and they might fall, so we had to ask them to leave.

We had people be sick in the bar and even pee in the ice because they’re so drunk. We had to quietly put up wet floor signs and quickly clean it up, but we had to use special chemicals as regular products would freeze straight away.

There were some ridiculous complaints over the years. We had to keep the temperature at a constant -5 degrees Celsius, as that keeps the sculptures from melting but also makes it safe for people to spend 20 minutes in there. However, we’ve had a few customers moan about it not being cold enough in the bar and asking us to make it colder. One visitor started trying to spread a rumour that it wasn’t real ice in the bar but everything was made of plastic, but we laughed it off.

Some of the bar staff were more tolerant to the cold than others. Weirdly, I could only stay there for 15 minutes max at a time as I prefer to be warm. I had to make sure I was constantly moving in there serving drinks and chatting to people.

Working in hospitality is not as easy as a lot of people think. There are some people who think if you’re working in this industry, you’re not smart enough to work in an office, but to be good at this job you need to understand people and anticipate what they want. It’s about understanding human psychology. You have to be friendly to people, no matter how they treat you.

I’ve worked in an office before and I have to say that was a lot easier. Having said that, I much prefer this to spending eight hours a day in front of a computer. I’m a sociable person, so this suits me a lot more.

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