Pin Project Helps Servers Tell People They're Abstaining From Alcohol

By Kelly Burch 05/14/19

The pin initiative allows servers to nonverbally communicate to coworkers and patrons that they won’t be drinking during a shift.

bartender who is a part of the pin project

For people working behind a bar, drinking during a shift can be a way to socialize with colleagues, keep patrons happy and keep work fun. However, one sober bartender wants to make it easier for servers to let people know that they’re not drinking that shift, with no messy explanations. 

Mark Goodwin, who has been sober for 10 months, founded The Pin Project as a way for servers to send a signal to their communities. The small pins that he will soon be selling for $15 tell coworkers and patrons that a server won’t be drinking during that shift.

“Bartenders are surrounded by alcohol, but we rarely talk about that as putting ourselves in a risky situation,” Goodwin told Vinepair. “For some of us, it really is.”

However, the pin isn’t just for people in recovery—it’s for anyone who wants to pass up drinking for their shift for any reason. This aspect is very important, Goodwin said. 

“It’s not a sobriety token,” he said. Rather, the pins “let the people around you know that you’re making a choice not to imbibe that shift… You could be on antibiotics, or you might have to pick someone up from the airport, or maybe you have a substance problem.”

Everyone can use the pin to steer their own relationship with alcohol at work, without intrusive questions. “You could put the pin on and wear it forever,” Goodwin said. “But what’s really important is that it’s now.”

The Pin Project received a grant in 2018 from Tales of the Cocktail Foundation, which supports service industry workers. 

“Whether it’s just a night off, or many nights off, we hope The Pin Project helps bartenders (and patrons alike) remove the stigmas around not drinking,” said the organization’s Executive Director Caroline Rosen. 

The Bay Area is the first region where Goodwin will promote the pins, but he hopes to have the initiative take off in other major cities as well. Half of the proceeds will go toward funding the Pin Foundation, which will support counseling and mental health services for hospitality workers. 

Goodwin knows that making the pins mainstream will take a lot of effort. “There’s a lot of work left to do,” he said. 

However, he is hopeful that the Pin Project will make it easier to talk about not drinking in the heart of the nightlife scene, and he is happy to see the positive response that the initiative has received thus far. 

“I’m really honored and humbled to see people taking interest in this little idea that started over a couple of hungover breakfasts,” he said.

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.