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The 9 Absolute Worst Things You Can Do in a Bar

by Melissa Allen Feb 1, 2019

There is a code of conduct implicit in being a guest at a bar. Like subway etiquette or traffic rules, it is a code that seems obvious, but that is often disregarded. Even though we bartenders shouldn’t have to tell you, here is our list of the nine absolute worst things you can do in a bar.

1. Steal fruit from the garnish tray.

The number one deadly sin committed by bar patrons. Not only is it against every health code, but stealing fruit out of the bar garnish tray is just not done. Touching the straws intended for the mouths of other guests and disassembling matchbooks without reassembling them are also big no-nos. If you’re prone to fidgeting, just play with your coaster or bite your nails. And if you really want an orange wedge, just ask. We’ll roll our eyes, but we’ll totally give it to you.

2. Make a scene after being cut off.

If you’re being cut off, there is a reason. Of course, most people are not in total control of themselves and their behavior at that point, but making a scene is the quickest way to get permanently 86ed from a bar.

3. Harass the bartender.

Harassment includes: asking us to shake our ass, making comments about our physical appearance, asking about our sex lives, asking personal questions about our hopes and dreams, giving unsolicited advice about how we live our lives or how we bartend, and addressing us as “bartender” as if it is our name. Oh, and asking us to play your music.

4. Expect free shit.

Depending on the bar, bartenders often have the freedom to buy a drink for a regular or offer a round of shots to some friendly bar guests. The problem arises when guests start to expect free drinks every time they come in and express their displeasure on receipt of an accurate bill. Buybacks are a privilege we usually enjoy extending. But the bar business is still a business.

5. Ask to taste all of the wines by the glass, then order a beer.

If you want to sample a specific wine or have a small taste of a beer before deciding on your drink order, sure, no problem. But if you want to take up 10 minutes of your bartender’s time, asking to try every wine on the list, that is not okay. This isn’t Baskin Robbins. And if you’re going to waste our time, at least order a damn glass of wine.

6. Demand a phone charger.

It’s 2019, yes we have a phone charger. Can you use it? Depends on how you ask. If you’re nice about it, then by all means, our electricity is your electricity. But if you demand a charger as if it’s a right, then no. And please, if we do charge your phone, be patient. Wait a respectable amount of time before asking for it back. It needs time to juice up.

7. Save seats for your friends.

The vast majority of bars are first come, first serve. While trying to politely hold a seat for one friend is fine, you can’t use your coat, bags, or body as a physical barricade, especially if you’re trying to hold more than one seat. If it’s not a busy night, the bartender will often try to help you get seats for your friends. But if it’s a slammed Saturday, it’s every bar stool for itself.

8. Tip only $1 per drink for proper cocktails.

In a world where we tip our barista a dollar for pouring a cold brew, a $15 multi-step cocktail warrants at least $2.

9. Sit at a dirty bar and immediately demand service.

No matter your profession, we all have a certain amount of pride in the work we do, and in executing that work well. When you immediately demand service before the bartender even has a chance to greet you, you’re telling that bartender that you don’t trust their ability to do their job. It seems like a small thing, but we’re professionals and that behavior is offensive. Of course, if you’ve been waiting unacknowledged for more than a few minutes, demand away. But first, give us the opportunity to do our job.

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