Behind Bar Manifesto/ Bar Etiquette Guide

Someone once noted in a blog that she had pointed out to her (Trish) the fact that there seems to be a "micro-economy" in the service industry. Restaurant workers take their tip money out to bars and clubs at night and give it to the bartenders, who then promptly return it to the waiters and waitresses the next day at breakfast/lunch.

The exchanges become a mutually beneficial, almost completely self-sufficient, wonderful tip-karmic cycle. Many a friend, I am sure, can attest to receiving stellar service when patronizing an establishment with a friend/significant other/relative that works in the service industry. Why is this, you ask? Well, when someone understands the pain, trials and tribulations perhaps, of waiting on/serving customers, each group tips the other well and never raises a fuss, as a sign of respect, and a silent "I have been there." It is a way to us bar-commandos (or floor-commandos) to silently make up for all the shitty customers one may have to deal with that day or night.

These people I speak of, myself and those with impeccable manners included, do not need to be educated on bar etiquette.
A lot of you do.

Bar Etiquette

Many of us have stood in a noisy, crowded bar/lounge and asked, "What's a guy/girl got to do to get a drink around here?" Well, you're about to find out. Here are some Do's and Don'ts that will keep the relationship between the bartender and bar patron running smoothly, resulting in you becoming (hopefully pleasantly) intoxicated and us paying our rent/bills/kids daycare/adventure fund.


Fail to have your money ready-

We're waiting on you. Everyone else is waiting on us. Therefore, by the Transitive Property of Equality, everyone is waiting on you. Rule 1: Have your shit together. This includes your order and your money. You do know that you have to either start a tab or pay, right? We are assuming this isn't the first time you have been let out. And not only will following Rule 1 get you served quicker in a bar, it's a good general rule to adopt in life and is especially helpful in Central American border crossing scenarios.


This is an absolute No-No. You whistle at dogs, not people. Do it and you are guaranteed to stay thirsty.

Bang on the bar-

It doesn't matter if it is with your hand, or a bottle, or the other douche bag to your left's head. Don't do it! It is rude, annoying, and a quick way to purposely get ignored.

Wave money-

Oh, you've got a dollar!! I'll be right over!! Hopefully I won't break an ankle in my fevered rush to get you your "curz lite." Well, at least you're not breaking the next rule.

Yell out the bartender's first name (when you don't know them personally)-

There's something deeply psychologically disturbing about hearing your name called out, turning around and seeing a complete stranger. That's one of the reasons strippers use stage names. Bartender's do too. Mine adjusts to the level of creepiness.

Say "make it strong!" or "Hook me up"-

Oh, you're one of the rare drinkers that like their drink strong! When you say this, you're assuming I make weak drinks (which is insulting) and you're assuming that I'll stiffen this one up for my new best buddy, you. This is the best way to get a weak drink.

Give the ever-expanding drink order-

You want a beer. I go get it. I come back and now you want a Margarita. Okay, no problem. I come back, and (oh yeah!) now you want a shot of Tequila, too. You really could have told us this all at once. See Rule 1.

(if you can not control your friends and you must order this way, at least be polite and aware of it)

Pull the redirect (or the bait 'n' switch)-

Usually used after the money wave or the whistle, this is when the gentlemen passes his turn to the lady behind him. Yeah, um, don't do that, okay? Chances are she's not ready, and your weak attempt at chivalry just cost you your turn. See you in 30 minutes.

Try the confused, lost look-

This is usually accompanied by the question "What kind of beer y'all got?" while looking at all the beers we have. Or asking "What else do y'all have on tap?" As if we keep the special beers hooked onto a secret line under a trap door under the well. I understand if it is your first time in this particular bar, but if you are looking at the goods, really LOOK at the goods. Or the menus on the bar. Usually you have a few minutes when you approach, take this time to prepare. I mean, you did know you were in a bar, right? I am assuming this isn't your first time. Refer to Rule 1.

Insist on asking for things we do not have-

This usually applies to beers, and sometimes to spirits (b'c god forbid a female bartender actually knows her way around, and the difference between, scotches, rye, whiskies and bourbon) If you ask us what we have in terms of beer or spirits, and we politely oblige (trying not to be distracted by coolio next to you waving money) by rattling off our list, do not still insist on asking if we have brands that I did not say. Listen bud, what I said, is what we have. Pay attention and pick something or most likely now I am going to just walk away. Back of the line.

Assume we know you're in the band-

We know, we know, you're gonna be really famous, but you're not there yet, tiger. Tell us you're in the band and which band you're in and we will take care of accordingly. By the way, if you are in a band and get free/reduced drink prices, feel free to tip.

Apologize for sucking-

Don't apologize for not tipping. Acknowledging that you suck is not the same as not sucking. Oh, and don't say "I'll get ya next time." We know all about you. If we had $1.00 just for every time that we have heard this line alone we could probably retire.

Assume soft drinks are free-

Are they free at McDonald's? Are they free at Wal-Mart? Are they free anywhere?

Put pennies and nickels in the tip jar-

We don't want that crap in our pockets any more than you do. We don't have anything smaller than quarters. Have you ever ordered a drink that cost $3.17?

Be "The Microbrew Aficionado"-

Now I love a delicious, cold "fancy" beer just as much as this guy, but typically this is a pseudo-hippy who is arrogant, can't tip a quarter but also can't bring himself to drink "schwag," and who has to sample some new berry-wheat-harvest-ale that most bars don't carry unless they are in fact a microbrewery. Do take note of the type of establishment you are in? "Do you have the new Vernal-Equinox Special Welcome-Fest?" "Does Anyone?" Here's your Newcastle. Go away.

Be "The Daddy Warbucks"-

Dressed in classic day-trader wear, this loud, boisterous guy smokes cigars (which usually leaves him with wretched breath) and orders Martinis and generally exudes an air of money. Until the tip. We hate you.

Be a "Whiney Baby"-

Under no circumstances should you ever whine to a bartender when asked to see your ID. Our jobs depend on them, and when we spot a fake/expired ID, don't argue; we've seen and heard it all a million times before, and it will get you absolutely nowhere. If you "don't have one" or "forgot it," forget it; you don't belong out on the town in the first place. That's the law, plain and simple. If we don't have the law, the terrorists win. You don't want the terrorists to win, do you? Bring your ID. Remember Rule 1, from a minute ago?

Don't tell me the bartender at the front bar hooks it up cheaper-

Bullshit! If he did you wouldn't be at my bar getting it from me! if you can't afford the drinks you are ordering then don't drink!



Tip appropriately (20%), please. Or you can tip heavy right off the bat, and you will be the first person we aim for every time you come up to the bar. Did you get that? Go back and read it again. The word will spread to the other bartenders and you'll be treated like a prince. It will pay off in better drinks and the occasional free one.

Be patient-

All you really need to do to get waited on is make eye contact. We see you, and we'll get to you before the guy right next to you waving money, and whistling. Remember, this isn't insulin we're passing out here. If you really need the drink that bad, you've got a problem to address, Jack. The meek shall inherit the bar.

We are human, not machines. We do know you are there however . You are not the only person in that bar. Although you may feel like you are a VIP, and you just might be to your bartender if you follow these simple rules. You better believe that at least 20 other in that bar feel the exact same way, but they can't understand why they would ever possibly have to wait. Be patient, be ready, tip well. Bar life will be so much easier.

--------------And if you are one of us night commandos, get this book. It's an easy read and good for a laugh or two:


Listening to: Warren Zevon
Sipping: Guayaki "Pure Mind" Yerba Mate
What I Wish I was Sipping: Pisco Sour