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How to Be a Good Bar Patron

If you want to get free drinks, ample conversation, and preferential treatment, you should be a good bar patron.

Among us nightlife industry workers, there's a certain unspoken respect for bartenders. They get more flak than any other worker out there, with the only potential exception to that rule being security workers. 

Of course, not all bars are the same. Some are safer (and less stressful) than others. In some niches, this means that bartenders get pressed for time by very demanding clients that need their drinks to be just so.

In my particular niche of the industry, bartenders really end up seeing some scary aspects of the nightlife world. Bar security isn't always what it should be—nor are bar patrons always the nicest people.

I've personally seen my bartender friends get assaulted by drunken patrons, be forced into talking to police after a shootout, and also deal with a very rowdy crowd that just found out that the bar ran out of beer.

Needless to say, you start to notice a certain thousand-yard stare after your friend does a couple of years of bartending. Or, at least, that's what's true in my scene.

Guys, we need to treat our bartenders better. They are the people who make our drinks. They are the ones who act as de facto psychiatrists for lonely people who drink their pain away.

A good bar patron is a bartender's highlight of the day—and trust me, they'll treat you well for it. You have no reason not to be good to your barkeep.

Surprisingly, a lot of common behaviors actually make you a bad patron in the eyes of servers. That's why I'm offering this insider guide to teach you how to be a good bar patron.

Order all your party's drinks at once.

The easiest way to make your bartender's job easy is to make it easier for them to conserve their time. Most bartenders will have to deal with 20 to 30 different patrons at any given time, which means that hogging their time is a real bad move.

The biggest pet peeve a bartender has occurs when they have a patron that orders one drink for the party. Then, when the drink gets served, orders another single drink for another person in the party. This eats away time that bartenders could be using to serve others, or just take a break.

If you want to be a good bar patron, respect your bartender's time. Order your drinks en masse. Speaking of which...

The bartender is NOT your personal psychologist.

We all know the classic trope of a bartender patiently listening to a guy who just went through a breakup. We all have heard of bartenders who just sit and listen to patients vent. I get it, to a point, it's part of the job.

However, one of the many things bartenders wished customers understood is that they don't want to sit back and hear your life's story. Harsh as it may be for me to say, they don't really care about what happened to you or why you feel down on your luck. It's sad, but true.

They just want to get tipped well and they know that listening will make it happen. Please, for all that is holy, don't tell them details they don't want to know—and above all, don't lock them in verbal handcuffs.

By the way, you should always tip your bartender.

Bartenders do not make much money as part of their "salary." Their base pay is around $2 an hour, assuming that you have a very nice state minimum wage. Being a bartender means literally survive on tips, and during tough times, that can mean serious financial problems for your barkeep.

Knowing how to tip your bartender is mandatory if you want to be a good bar patron, especially if they mixed you a cocktail. At the very least, try to tip them a dollar per drink. Ideally, you'll tip 15 percent or more.

Another thing you need to avoid doing is critiquing their drinks.

Every single person has a certain thing they're particular about. Many of us are picky with drinks. Picky as you might be though, you can't be a good bar patron while also critiquing the cocktails that your bartender makes.

If you don't like the cocktail they make, try to avoid sending it back. Just try to order something else next time—or better yet, just stick to beer. When you send back cocktails, that eats into the bartender's time, makes them feel terrible, and also eats into their money.

Trust me, I get it. It's hard to find a bartender who makes a good Alien Secretion. But, if I really want one done right, you can always make one at home. There's no need to raise a stink with an overworked bartender.

My friend Tammy put it this way, "If you know a place that makes better drinks, just go there!"

If your bartender refuses to serve you, please don't make a stink.

I'll be honest. There are very few reasons why a bartender would refuse to serve a customer. If you're being a good bar patron, this probably will not come up as a possibility at all.

That being said, things can happen that may be out of the bartender's control. Maybe it's too close to closing. Perhaps your ID went missing, or maybe the ID you presented isn't passable. Whatever the reason, these things happen.

The worst thing you can do as a bar patron is cause a scene. This puts the bartender on the spotlight, potentially scares them, and can also get you in trouble with the police. Don't be that guy.

Keep your ID on you.

Part of a bartender's job is to enforce the "21 and over" law. Legally, they can't serve you without getting some sort of proof of age. To make their job easier, the best thing you can do is to carry your ID card with you at all times.

This is doubly important if you just turned 21 fairly recently, or if you have a baby face. They hate turning you away just as much as you hate being denied service, trust me on that.

The bartender is not a sex toy, so don't treat them like one.

I remember hearing my barkeep friend Janet talk about one of the most traumatic experiences in her bartending career. She had been hired at an upscale bar in the middle of Manhattan, and thanks to her good looks, was pretty popular with the guys.

Many men preferred to go on nights when she tended bar. One of the men who took to her good looks is a guy I'll call Mr. Xavier. This was a man who was about 20 years older than her, and who easily made at least $200,000 per year. 

He would tip her very well, but eventually started to demand more of her time. Soon, just talking to him didn't seem enough to satisfy Mr. Xavier. He started to grab her, and despite Janet being a very assertive woman, he kept getting more aggressive at his advances, despite Janet rejecting him. 

Eventually, he waited until it was time for her to go home and cornered her. He told her that all those tips didn't "come for free," and thankfully, security stepped up before he could do anything.

Janet quit the next day, terrified that she'd run into the patron from hell again. No one can blame her.

I'm telling you this because it's important for people to understand something: Bartenders are there to earn a living. They are not paid to accept advances, nor are they paid to have their asses grabbed. Please respect your bartender's boundaries.

Don't flag your bartender down or shout at them to get attention.

Trust me, the bartender sees you. Waving your hand or snapping your fingers to get their attention is a struggle all bartenders will understand. Besides, isn't doing that a bit rude?

To be a good bar patron, you will need to be patient. Flagging people down and hollering their name doesn't do anything but embarrass both of you.

Please don't ask for a free sip or sample.

Oh, how often I have seen people who were "indecisive" and needed to sample six or seven different cocktails before they could figure out that they needed a Guinness! This isn't the mark of a bar patron bartenders want to see.

A better option would be to wait for your bartender to offer a sample, or to just take a chance on a cocktail. After all, you really don't have that much to lose aside from a couple of bucks.

Finally, please act like an adult.

There's a reason why bars are made for people who are over the age of 21. The reason why is because they are not places to act like a teenager trying to act cool. Bartenders do not want to have to act like babysitters, nor do they want to have to cut people off because people don't know their limits.

Please do not make a bartender's job harder than it already is. The best ways to be a good bar patron are to drink responsibly and keep your behavior under control.

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