I have tended bar up and down the East Coast. Divey bars with sticky floors, cocktail lounges of family-style restaurants, and a raucously packed Irish pub just outside Times Square. While most patrons treated me well, tipped properly, and would be welcome back anytime (heck, a couple may have even gotten my phone number), there were always, of course, those precious few who ruin things for the rest of you. So what bar behavior really makes us want to sic the bouncer on you? Here are some of the most egregious errors you can commit while in a bar.
Waving us down
If I am not busy, and I genuinely missed seeing an entire human being at my bar, I do apologize. A slight wave of the hand would be perfectly understandable in this situation. If I am in the midst of making five margaritas, however, and there are two more customers ahead of you, wildly waving that $5 bill around is going to make me purposely act like I can’t see you. I could also do without you pointing out to me which order my customers approached the bar at so you can feign concern for everything happening fairly and efficiently. This is my job, man, I got this.
Chatting us up when we’re busy
I’m sure your kids look just like the offspring of a supermodel and Thor, and you’re dying to get my opinion about that tattoo you’re really truly considering getting one day, but look around, buddy! As much as I might enjoy a pleasant conversation with you on a slow Wednesday night, I have a packed house here. Let me get through this rush, and we can go back to chatting about your ex-girlfriend, and that movie treatment you never got around to writing.
Requesting a specialty drink you got somewhere else
If you know specifically what the ingredients are in your favorite cocktail, and those ingredients are readily available in any bar, go ahead and tell me, and I will try my best to make you one. Expecting me to know how to make a drink from the specialty list of a place you went one time, that infuses their vodka with fresh herbs and cotton candy…sorry, you’re out of luck. And no, I don’t want you to describe it to me.
Eating our bar garnishes
For the love of God, people…how can anyone not see how entirely gross this is? Your grubby, unwashed hands reaching into the olives, cherries, and orange slices I just spent an hour slicing… I mean, seriously, who raised you? Do you know what I need those garnishes for? DRINKS. If you eat all my olives, I’m stuck running down to the basement to pry open another jar in the middle of my shift. Eat the peanuts, eat the pretzels, or order some jalapeno poppers like a grown-up.
Only tipping a buck for difficult drinks
You know when it’s OK to tip a buck? When all you’re asking me to do is crack open a bottle of beer. Simple mixed drinks get the pass too. When is it not OK to tip a buck? If your drink requires me to employ the shaker, muddle fruit, brew a shot of espresso, or slowly stir a melting cube of sugar, all while I watch the bodies line up three deep at my bar. The dollar rule works fine when we’re dealing with simplicity. If your drink isn’t all that simple, your tip shouldn’t be either.
Taking up too much space
What is this, your living room? No, it’s a bar. My bar. And those chairs are prime real estate. Piling up your coats, purses and shopping bags on the seats surrounding you doesn’t ensure you elbow room for the evening, it only ensures that I am going to have to eventually tell you to move them. This also includes spreading out your precious items on top of the bar, especially if it’s anywhere near the area where I have to actually make the drinks, or “saving” a seat for the mystery friend who never shows. If your own chair and the purse hook aren’t enough room for you, maybe you should take this act to the dining room… of the restaurant next door.
Not knowing what you want
This is the classic busy bartender scenario. You and your friends gesticulate crazily for me to come over. I finally get to you, and you then decide to have a five minute conversation about what to order. If there was a Bar-going 101 class in college (and there should be!), the first lesson would be this: know what you are drinking, and always have a plan B. We run out of things. A lot. If you have your heart set on that one special drink, unless you have a plan B, you’d better be ready to accept what I recommend as a substitute.
Oh look, it’s every bartender’s favorite customer, the guy who’s desperately trying to save a buck. The dude who makes you recite the entire list of prices to him of every liquor we have behind the bar, marveling at what a rip off everything is. The guy who wants to know upon ordering his first drink at what point we will be giving him a buy back.
This is the same guy who says things like “I’ll get you next time,” or “I don’t have any small bills on me right now.” He’s the guy who will learn your name and then say it incessantly all night, acting like he’s your best bud. He will constantly ask you to refill the bowls of snack mix because that’s likely his dinner. He might even order an OJ and hope you don’t notice the mini bottle of vodka in his coat (true story). Buddy, I know a place where the drinks are really cheap… it’s the basement of your mom’s house.
Asking us to “make it strong”
If you want a strong drink, then order a strong drink. Manhattans, martinis, Long Island iced teas, straight-up alcohol… all these things have the boozey goodness you’re looking for, and are priced accordingly. Do you want a double? Order a double. But you have to pay for it, just like everybody else does. Asking me to give you something for nothing is asking me to risk my job, and that’s exactly what you’re asking if you expect me to pour more than the normal amount of alcohol in your drink. At a corporate chain, I couldn’t even do this if I wanted to, as most bottles have computerized, measured pours. But do people still ask? You bet they do.
Signs you’re too drunk to remain in a bar? You can’t remember which drink you’re on, or if you paid for your last round. Falling asleep at the bar? That’s a no-no, and we don’t care if you were just “resting your eyes.” Also, arguing with us that we somehow scammed you on the price of a drink, or starting a fight with someone else in the bar. Persistently hitting on a person who doesn’t want to be hit on, especially us, is a sure sign as well. What it all comes down to is this, Drunky McDrunkerson, if we say you’re drunk, you are. End of story. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.