Drunken college students no doubt enjoy the many restaurants open late downtown. However, someone has to accommodate the hordes of people swarming into late night restaurants to get a bite to eat. “You’re like a zombie—you wake up at two a.m.… and then you get home at five p.m.,” said Tommy*, an employee at Little Italy in Athens, Georgia. Tommy has been a pizza man at Little Italy for three and a half years, two of which were spent working the night shift. Little Italy is open until two a.m. on weekdays. On Fridays and Saturdays, the restaurant remains open until three a.m. to take advantage of the wasted crowd leaving the bars.
He said his nights were entertaining, and something that many will never experience unless they get the opportunity to work a night shift. “It’s absolutely crazy when the bars close,” Tommy said. “It’s practically like a bar in there from two to three. They’re the same things you would see at a bar at the end of the night, except they’re in a restaurant.” Just a few of Tommy’s sightings include people getting sick, fighting and throwing food, and also customers licking ranch dressing off each other, passing out in the bathroom and eating plates. Yup, eating plates.
There has even been some romance. “I’ve seen couples passed out holding hands, wasted. Two were across the table from each other,” he said. “It was the cutest thing. Just dead asleep, holding hands across the table.” The restaurant has also been home to many late night relationship discussions, for better or worse. “You know, you got mad at your boyfriend—this happened, that happened—and then at the end of the night, you go to Little Italy and you talk out your problems,” Tommy said. Little Italy: a safe haven for couples.
Drunken customers typically find ordering becomes more difficult as the night goes on. “People will say, ‘I want everything’ and I’ll be like ‘Well, we got a lot of everything; we’ve got about 35 different types of everything here because it’s by topping,” Tommy said. He went on to describe the aftermath of one particular night as the restaurant turned into a war zone with pizza splattered across the floor and trash in every corner of the restaurant. There were purses, phones and even friends left behind. “It’s just pizza, man. People get so upset, and I know it’s the alcohol, but it’s silly how upset people get,” Tommy said.
As for Shannon*, a cashier and soon-to-be waiter at The Grill, customers skipping out on their checks have made up some of his craziest experiences. “These three guys came in, and all of the sudden, I hear this sound of metal crashing—they kicked our fan down the stairs,” he said. “They ran out and we chased them all the way around the corner.”
“One kept running so we chased the guy for 20 minutes down to Big City Bread, but I wasn’t able to catch him.” The Grill is open 24 hours a day. The diner is best known for its feta dipping sauce, milkshakes and thick cut fries. Although there’s a huge quantity of customers and never-ending madness to deal with, Shannon would rather work at night. He just has one suggestion for customers: eat a little before you drink. “I wish people would understand that they’re in a public place and that there are rules. That’s the No. 1 thing,” said Shannon. “Your fellow downtown, late-night service workers make it worth the while.”
*Names were changed to protect privacy.