How To Be A Good Bar Patron

Have some self respect.

First off, I need to take a moment and state that YOU personally are as responsible for the quality of your drinking experience as the bar itself. Bartenders do not live to serve you, and oftentimes they don’t even particularly enjoy it. Generally speaking they are intelligent individuals who have taken the job because it is good money. However, all things equal, they would prefer to be patronizing the bar than working at it.

To make my point a bit more clear, when you go out you are in a room full of intoxicated people begging a few individuals to give them more of the liquid that has made them so drunk in the first place. Imagine what that looks like from the other side of the bar. The speed at which you get a drink, and the quality with which it is poured or mixed will be greatly influenced by the bartender’s impression of you. Trust me, you will be snubbed at the bar if you are an asshole. The quality of the service you receive will be relative to your behavior there.

So, here are a few pointers on how to be a reputable bar patron:

  • Honestly, and I can’t stress this enough, tip the bartenders. There are a wide variety of excuses that I have heard, ranging from “I’m broke” to “I’m British,” to explain away why people are cheap bastards and don’t leave tips. You might have several mistaken impressions about this custom.

    First, you might think that you are “rewarding good service” with your tip. This is actually a rather logical mistake. You are not “rewarding” service, you are paying for a service. (This service includes coming in hours before the place opens to get everything ready, staying hours after the place closes cleaning up, washing all the glasses, carrying in and out all the kegs and trash, and generally making it the kind of place with an atmosphere that you will enjoy, not the vile mess you leave it as when it closes.) Truth be told, you will not always get good service the first time you walk up to a specific bar. The bartenders don’t know you and they already have a group of people that they want to serve quickly. Your goal is to become one of these people, or suffer as one of the rude and thirsty.

    A good way to do this is to leave a good tip after your first drink. If you think you are waiting until you get remarkably good service, you will never get good service. If you don’t want to pay for service, it would be more appropriate to stay home and serve yourself beers from your fridge. Much like yourself, these people don’t work for free.

    Second, people think they are tipping if they leave the twenty-five to fifty cents they got in change from their beer. Attention: your bartender is not a vagrant on the street who needs change for the bus. Tips must be green in color if you want them to have the desired effect. At the very least, you should leave a dollar. This applies even if you are buying the Old Style on special for a dollar. Oh, and if you order some huge quantity of drinks, one dollar or even two probably does not cut it. Tipping at a bar is different from a restaurant – it is not 15% of the total order, but rather a dollar for every 1-2 drinks.

    Third, you might think that your bartender does not notice whether or not you left a tip. What are you a moron? Do you really think they don’t check? Do you think they are blind? This is money we are talking about here, of course they are looking, even if a lot of times it looks like they just walked on to the next customer. Trust me, they make a note of it.

  • The next point should seem quite obvious to you. Don’t be rude. Don’t think that the staff owes you anything. Don’t ask them to “make it strong” instead of just ordering the double. Don’t ask them for pens, paper, or any other items from Office Depot. Most importantly, don’t think they won’t choose to serve someone standing 5 feet behind you if you haven’t treated them well. It happens, I have seen it happen, I have talked to bartenders who say they do it. I have heard bartenders discussing rude patrons days after they were in the bar. Unless you have some odd masochistic desire to be referred to as “that fucking rude asshole,” then act as politely as you’d like to be treated at your own place of employment. A well placed please and thank you couldn’t hurt. But, being gruff and surly could.
  • Don’t become too much of a drunken idiot. As much as you don’t want to wake up the next morning afraid of what you might have done the night before, most of the people at the bar don’t want to watch it. Try your hardest to maintain, at least when dealing with strangers, some composure. Do not, and I repeat, do not EVER, vomit on the floor/bar/table. And let’s be fair, 99.9% of the time when you are going to get drunk and puke you know you are going to puke ahead of time – you just don’t want to. Give up, go to the bathroom, go to some alley, go anywhere acceptable. Trust me, it might be embarrassing to show weakness while you and your friends are having some kind of bizarre schnapps drinking contest, but it is far worse to throw up in front of them.

    Similarly, if you ever feel the need to get in a fight with someone, please don’t. I am not just saying that because chances are good that the person you are thinking of fighting is me, but because you will get kicked out, sometimes permanently barred from entering the establishment. There are really very few occasions I can think of where it is worth it.

So, to sum up, by tipping your bartenders, being polite, and maintaining some shred of dignity while drunk, you stand a much better chance of having a good time.

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5 Responses to “How To Be A Good Bar Patron”

  1. Ryan Says:

    Love this article… Had to link it to mine… Thanks.

  2. Katie Says:

    Thank you thank you thank you!! FINALLY someone nailed it on the head after years of rednecks and assholes coming into my bar! I just hope that a lot of people read this article and learn something!

  3. hayes Says:

    you and me both katie! i dont bartend anymore but i still get pissed everytime i see these assholes in action. i wish i could post this on the door of every local bar.
    thank you erik! everything you said has run through my head during those endless nights behind the bar with no time to vent and maybe this will help the people still stuck behind that bar!

  4. philly big tipper Says:

    Why the serious tone for this page. This website is great… exept for this nonsonse. People who are going to tip well, tend to tip well. This rant is boring.

  5. Mike Hunt Says:

    I hate to break it to you, but most bar patrons consider bartenders to be necessary evils.

    We think you are obnoxious assholes who are overpaid.