10 Things Not to Do in a Bar
Contributed by Anna Archibald
Posted Oct 23, 2013
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Bars bring the best and, unfortunately, the worst out of people. While most nights are fun and entertaining for both patrons and staff, we’ve seen all kinds of bad behavior over the years—from the rude and obnoxious to just plain scary.

So in an effort to help make everybody’s experience a little bit better, we’ve put together a cheat sheet of 10 common things you should never do in a bar. (Not that you would ever dream of doing any of these things.) We hope it helps!

Is there anything you would add to our list? Leave a comment below!

Don’t be a bad tipper.

Sure, it’s not always easy figuring out how much of a tip to leave for drinks. But that doesn’t mean you should be stingy. In fact, our advisory board of mixological luminaries suggests leaving at least 20 percent and even more if you get special service. So, if you’re racking up a hefty tab or plan to become a regular, be sure to tip well.

Don’t wave money to get a bartender’s attention.

Why not? It’s rude, not to mention that it won’t convince a bartender to serve you first. Instead, make eye contact and be patient. You just may get your drinks faster! 

Forget about hitting on the bartender.

Everyone’s had a crush on a bartender, which means he or she has heard just about every line ever dreamed up. So, forget about trying one on your favorite barkeep. Instead, strike up a conversation if it isn’t too busy. If the bartender isn’t reciprocating, don’t take this as a personal challenge; just move on and let him or her work.

Don’t order cocktails in a beer bar (or beer in a cocktail bar).

Surprised that your Martini doesn’t taste right? Well, you may be in the wrong type of bar. Generally, we’ve found it’s best to order cocktails in a cocktail bar and beer in a beer bar. While there are, of course, exceptions to this rule (and many places offer great mixed drinks and brews), it holds up in most establishments.  

Don’t make the bartender pick your drink for you.

These days, cocktail menus can be quite long, with dozens of options. So no one would blame you for enlisting the bartender’s help to make a decision. But ultimately, the decision has to be yours. The more info about your likes and dislikes (sweet vs. dry, rocks vs. up, fruity vs. boozy) you can give the bartender, the better he or she can guide you. 

Don’t order a bourbon drink in a tequila bar or a tequila drink in a bourbon bar.

As a general rule of thumb, stick with a bar’s area of strength. And these days, many establishments specialize in one type of liquor, whether it be rum, bourbon or Scotch. Take a look behind the bar or on the menu, and if you see a preponderance of a single spirit, order it. Not only will the staff have deep knowledge, but they’ll also be able to create more delicious drinks with it.

Don’t leave a huge mess in the bar.

This sounds pretty obvious, but when we asked bartenders on our Facebook page about the worst mess they had ever had to clean up, we got some surprising—even shocking—answers. After reading the comments, I think you’ll agree that bartending definitely qualifies for Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs. If you do have a spill (or something worse), you should at least offer to help clean it up.

Don’t ask for a free round.

Let’s get one thing straight: A free drink is not a right. Whether a bartender buys you a round is up to him or her, no matter how many drinks you’ve ordered. And we can pretty much guarantee that demanding one isn’t going to help the situation. So if you’re lucky enough to get a freebie, enjoy it—and, of course, tip well. 

Don’t insult the bartender’s choice of profession.

When chatting with your bartender, we suggest not asking questions like “what do you want to do when you grow up?” or “what’s your real job?” These types of questions are not only patronizing but presume that bartending is not a real profession or a suitable career, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. It’s a serious job that requires rigorous training and study of mixology and hospitality. 

Don’t request off-the-wall drinks another bartender made for you.

“So the other night, this dude at another bar made me this awesome drink that was blue and it had vodka in it and some kind of juice…” No matter how talented the bartender is, this is not going to end well. It’s pretty tough to recreate a drink for you based on a vague description, and that’s not to mention that the bar may not even have the right ingredients. Unless you can produce a full recipe, complete with measurements, it’s best to try something else.

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    • If you see a new face behind the bar the person might just be starting their career as a bartender so give them a little respect and not try to hurry them up. It takes time to learn every drink or at least the popular ones so if they have to refer to a drink menu it’s just helping there speed and memory.

    • HELL NO!! I worked at a bar in the neighborhood one time and this ‘dude’ would come in and F with me so much that I couldn’t wait until my replacement came in!! I was gettin’ my FLIRT ON with a really GOOD LOOKIN’ MAN and he kept hitting the bar with his bottle so after the third or fourth time I would watch him. when I saw the bottle was getting LOW I would get a bottle ready and just set it in front of him!!! =D LMAO

    • Zip…. News flash. In a bar environment, you’re pretty much left out to dry!!!
      If you don’t have one…. Have your employer get you the sign that says,
      “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone who’s being a complete asshole!!”

  2. First of all im canadian and i work in a fast food chain so i am not
    tip crazy like americans i tip at my own discretion and i work hard and
    do my job well to get HOURS not to expect a bit tip im not cheap
    but i do not have a set rate that i tip i make up my own mind and i
    dont let anyone ever tell me how to tip i use my own discretion
    and i let others do the same!

    Second if i want to get the bartenders attention i will go up
    to the bartender and ask him or her nicely

    Third if a place sells cocktails etc i expect them to be able to
    make them otherwise dont serve them!

    i will order what i wish if i want it and they serve it i order it

    Don’t yell your head off at bartenders and dont lose your
    patience the bartender is busy and has a difficult job

    Don’t start fights in bars i am super shocked this one wasnt

    Don’t ask other people to buy you a drink dont be a mooch!

    Don’t hold in ur bladder the so called seal is a myth lol

    • being a foreigner, you may not know that americans get paid less and fewer benefitrs in general than canadians; second in our country the minimum wage for waiters is about $3.00 so tips is what they depend on to live; If you can’t afford to tip, suggest you stay home, or just eat at fast food joints. Also, bartender may not want a bunch of customers approaching him/her; wait your turn! You sound very arrogant, selfish and full of yourself, like you’re donald trump

      • Agreed! But don’t think your Northern neighbours have it that great. Canadian servers make min. wage (ours is provincially based and is a flat general rate not Jon specific) and they generally do not have any benefits (medical or dental) either. Standard tips there are 15-20% for higher-end restaurants and about 10% in chain restaurants and crap bars. Our fast food workers don’t get tipped at all and in Alberta, Ontario, Yukon, NWT £ Nun, Quebec…have very high cost of living compared to wages. Our universal healthcare does not cover medication, dental or optical exams…just check-ups and immunisations (some) and some hospital stays and treatments depending on your provincial coverage. We pay for gas and electricity, food, clothes , cars,…well almost everything

        • Have to weigh in here as someone who has spent time behind the stick on both sides of the 49th parallel. Canadians do, in fact, have it better. Considerably so. The limitations on universal coverage in Canada you invoked (prescriptions, dental, optical, specialized care, etc.) exist in every “comprehensive” package a bartender with a healthy income (say $50K/yr) would be able to afford. The difference is that your coverage is free (or heavily subsidized, ie: Alberta), whereas my basic plan will cost me $482/month AFTER the ACA kicks in (before the ACA the same plan was $1300/month so I had to go with an emergency plan that covered nothing outside of an ER). Furthermore, Revenue Canada is FAR more lenient than the IRS with respect to declaring gratuities. It’s not even close. Minimum wage for employees in the service industry is $5/hr in the US. The lowest wage in Canada is $9.95 in Alberta. Believe me, as a bartender in NYC, I’ve poured over the numbers and there is simply no comparison. It’s a big part of why I’m mulling a move back to the Great White North!

          • The Minimum wage for service industry employees is NOT $5 an hour. It might be that in some states… but fedrally, and in most states… the minimum wage for the service industry is $2.13 cents. This is almost the same as it was when I had my first waitress job in 1991.

          • idk where from you’ve come, but in MN (okay I guess we’re close to canada, but I don’t think that’s a real factor) everyone I know who’s a waiter, bartender, bouncer, or franchise fastfood worker makes fucking minimum wage, then tips. So idk if you’re incredibly mis-informed or just in a much worse place ibiteandivote or others who’re stating differently, but I have yet to meet someone working in the service industry who has it as bad as me or the many I know working minimum wage without tips or notable benefits.

            therefore, being poor, I will tip according to service and I feel very little guilt tipping a poor bartender poorly. You make me shitty or incredibly weak drinks, ignore me with out so much as a “get you in a minute” nod, or are in some way rude/degrading, probably getting very little or no tip.

          • I’ve had crap nights and my employer never makes up for minimum wage. It’s a nice thought though. As far as uneducated, a good bartender has acquired more social skills than anyone in a college classroom. I’m not discouraging higher education, in fact I believe it to be a necessity. Anyone opening a bottle of beer, do it with some flair. Bartending is a performance art. You sell yourself for bigger tips. Be fancy, slam out orders, and know trivia about the liquid you are selling. Learn your customers names and make sure they feel like they can tell you anything. Sell an experience. Everyone that is sitting at your bar is the most important person in the world and everything that is happening to them concerns you. Their drink order is always made like its the last one you will ever make. I don’t believe in a-holes. Turn the situation around.

      • OK…enough with this myth…No…every working in the US is GUARNTEED the regular minimum wage. If a waitress or bartender doesn’t get enough tips to reach the $7.25 an hour, or whatever it is in their state, then their employer MUST make up the difference.

        Second…if I am buying a bottle of beer, the bartender is doing nothing but unscrewing a bap. LITERALLY a monkey can do that. And they wouldn’t even have to train them that much. It is not my job to pay for your LACK of job skills because…god love ya…you just didn’t FEEL like going to college and make yourself MATTER to society. If you LITERALLY are not more valuable to society than a semi-trained monkey, then don’t expect to life a nice life with lots of luxuries. Coco the Monkey didn’t need a smartphone, and neither do you.

        • The fact that you used all caps doesn’t mean that it actually happens that way, any more than the law does. It is extremely common practice, in the restaurant industry, to alter time clocks and delete hours when the tips are low enough that the restaurant needs to compensate for their wages. I have seen more places that employ this practice than places that don’t.

          I know, I know… “it’s illegal, therefore it doesn’t happen”. *giggle*

        • I have a severe distaste for the idea that bartenders aren’t educated. Most of the bartenders I worked with had degrees, or, like me, were working on post-graduate degrees and bartended because the hours worked better with our school schedules while paying better than retail.

          You’re right, opening a bottle of beer is pretty damn simple, but pouring 4 cocktails with 3 different ingredients when the bar is 5 deep isn’t.

        • No, it isn’t guaranteed that you make 7.25$ an hour even with tips. Companies do lie about the hours etc. It’s common and how dare you insult someone trying to make a living. We all have to pay similar bills to the ones you pay so why should we be paid so poorly? Would you rather be robbed and assaulted? Anyone who thinks bartending isn’t hard work is a moron to put it lightly. Opening a beer is simple yes but there is a lot more that goes into the profession.

        • Well if you dont want to be associated with people who dont matter to society, stay your ass home with your important self, and pop your own beer cap. Assjack!

      • Howie seems to lump all Americans together by saying we are all “tip crazy” so I’ll return the favor and lump all canadians together……consider the source, he’s Canadian…….

      • As a past Bartender (16 years) I worked in all aspects ie sports bars, local social clubs, major night clubs in Boston, Ma., Hotel Bars and dives. So I have seen and heard it all. Our Canadian friend has many valid points. I believe if the bar offers other options than say a martini bar, yes they should have the best martini’s in the area, but they are profecinal bartenders and yes they can make other cocktails also, and you shouldn’t be affraid to order them. Not everyone likes martini’s, but might be with someone who does, so if they can’t please everyone they may not get any bussiness at all.
        As far as tipping, I learned that a tip must be earned, you must please the cust to the point that he or she happily leaves a tip. Remember the prices of the food or drinks are usually already expensive and some people ( my dad for one) feel like that it’s not their responsibility to pay the bartenders wages. that being said, if you work in a quality hotel they pay good wages and give benifits. My advice to anyone who want’s to be a bartender is that you must know for the most part it is a young persons world and it doesn’t last forever, and make sure you have something to fall back on for security and benifits, enjoy it while you can as it is the best life experiance you will ever have, & try and save at least 25% of your tips (I wish I did< I would be a very rich man) and remeber this the most, a tip is earned and should not be expected!!! This and this alone will earn you a great living as your custermers read body language, and if you dwell on the few people (like my dad) that don't tip or tip poorly you are not giving the service you need to, to wow the rest of your patrons who do (like me) tip according to YOUR service and YOUR service alone!

    • I find it difficult to believe that the minimum wage for “waiters” in Canada, is only $3.00 bucks an hour!
      Don’t get me wrong, I’m not implying that that you’re wrong, because I’ve never been in Canada. Everything else in your comment is pretty much, “spot on!” I’ve been a bartender in the Western States, for the better part of 30+ years. I know my regulars, I know or sense, my customers “moods or attitudes” when they order a drink. I’ve never had a problem turning away a customer that comes in with an obvious attitude. My rule is to stop any trouble… before it starts!
      It’s always better to stop one moron before they ruin everyone’s good time.
      Vernon… Just wanted to give an opinion from my side of the foreboding concrete wall that separates us.

    • Howie, you work at a fast food chain…..good for you, you’re philosophy on tipping at your discretion leads me to believe that you should dine at a fast food chain….good for U.S. The next time that you’re in the states tell the bartender that you’re Canadian before you order a drink, then…..and you can thank your own narrow mind + your fellow “country”men……see how long it takes for you to get your next drink. We’re not dying for your dollars……..eh.

  3. Personally, I disagree with #6. I’ve asked many bartenders what their favorite drink with (insert base here). I go with whatever they tell me usually, and they make it for me with pride. It’s actually been an awesome experience, I would have never had a beet-infused vodka martini otherwise!

  4. I have to agree with Grant Bennett, If you ask what the barkeep drinks you will get a good drink not to say any thing about trying something new!!

  5. I’ve worked at many bars and have made a career out of it. I disagree with the Canadian on his third point. Some bars don’t have the ingredients to make every drink, which is nice. Do you want to go to a restaurant that can sell you everything? They will not be good at anything. Go to the bar that has the things you like. And, for everyone, have a go to drink and or beer / wine in case the bar is busy (look at the list or taps before you shout out your request.)

  6. To all of us behind the bar, ” We have the greatest job on Earth. ” Imagine this , you go for a job interview and the owner of the bizz says, “For every $2 I earn, you make a $1, ” That is the privilege we are given as bartenders. If you don’t like every aspect of bartending then take a hike. We earn $20, $40 , $60 bucks an hour or more.
    Don’t Complain about a customer… Instead, stop touching your hair , butt or whatever, and then make my drink, don’t squeeze a lime into my drink and pollute it with fingernail gunk, don’t wipe down the bar and grab my glass by the top third, don’t overfill my drink, the booze belongs in the glass not on the bar mat, and stop texting!
    As far as a customer interrupting us, because we are so busy, earning awesome money that we have no time to tell you what beers we have; politely hand the customer a list of drafts and bottles and happily say I will be right back. A beer drinker hunts new beers. Make them comfortable and create a new regular.
    Finally, Yes, there are always bad customers, if they are not tipping you, or behaving improperly, then you need to work at it. It’s called Bartending, Tending to the Bar. A good regular tips us $250-$500 a year to open their beer, pour their draft or Jack and Coke. Drop the attitude; Build your business, for that is the privilege we are given.
    I don’t mean to say the customer is always right. I look at it this way,
    “A customer can get a drink up the street , down the street, or at home; they don’t need us But what they can not get any place else is Us; and the atmosphere and the energy we create for and with them.

    • Lol, I suppose this would be applicable in a small town. Me, living in Vegas and Reno, find this laughable. You don’t get regulars and those that are gamble constantly and thus never have any money for tipping and are convinced that because they play one dollar that they deserve a free drink. They crowd up the cocktail station thinking its a free spot for them to stand and order drinks and heaven forbid you take a while to come back. I mean, it’s not like there was a line 5 cocktail servers deep all ordering a fully tray of drinks before you and then the customers move and are upset that you didn’t hunt them down to give them their drink. Not to mention all the pinching, prodding, and rude comments. I don’t need to be told I look like “sex on a stick” or whatever. Bleh! Sorry, I’ve been dying to rant about this!

      • Ah yes, the resort crowd, I recognize them. The ones with the free drink tickets who think that means they can hog your best tables for hours and not tip you because their drinks are “comp’d”. I still have to bring you the drinks people. And oh, the butt pinching, and rude sexual comments were always enough to get my Irish temper flaring. Some toad asked me if the “buttery nipple” shots were served to him personally, eyeballing me up and down, and when I told him to eff off, he threatened to tell his boss, (businessmen, company outing) and I’d lose my $500 tip, because of what I’d said. Fortunately I kept my tip after I complained to my boss, who had a word with his, but all the sexual harassment really grated on me. Being a cocktail waitress seems to be a profession where it’s still perfectly socially acceptable to sexually harass women in this country. I quickly grew into the bitterest waitress at the nightclub and quit after 6 weeks.

  7. Most intelligent comment on the thread,pouringpro. You nailed it beautifully, and accurately.

  8. #11 not to do in a bar.
    Years ago I worked in a beer bar in Pasadena. About midnight, a very large, sweet (but intoxicated and out-of-control) Marine picked me up, threw me over his shoulder and started to take me back to El Toro Marine Base. Fortunately two of his Marine buddies and the bar manager convinced him to put me down. Steal the ashtray if you want a souvenir, not the barmaid.

  9. So true! But can you make one for cocktail servers? I have a HUGE list of what not to do to cocktail servers: One, don’t EVER comment “There you are! I thought you forgot about me!” or anything of the like. And the list goes on. Not stiffing should be number one. I have a god darned college degree and don’t shimmy myself into a revealing outfit for fun. I do it for money so tip!

  10. I used to deal games in the gaming business. I know what it’s like to depend on tips. I know what it’s like to deal with drunk people. It isn’t easy. It is obvious that working in a bar isn’t easy either since many people drinking are not very nice at times. Without the bartender, you can go sit home and make your own drinks. The bartender performs a service that people should respect. No bartenders, no bars. So, be nice and tip your bartender (and tip the dealer who is being nice to you, also). If you don’t tip, then you shouldn’t be at the bar (or casino).

    • As an Atlantic City dealer for 32+ years and before that a bartender, I totally agree with you. Be nice when you are out as we are all performing a service for you even if it is opening a bottle of beer or “throwing” cards at you! Wasn’t for us, you’d be home. ….just sayin’

  11. Here’s a thought…… Maybe, bar patrons should stay on their best behavior. Remember………………
    the bartender, is the one making your drink!

  12. How about this… lets agree that no one needs to be a jerk with the person serving them. Agree that this is their line of work and we all respect each other. However, if you have issues because i want a tequila in a rum bar… you have 2 options, serve or not… Guess what, no serve, no tip, get over it. I used to work for tips and know that you have some real jerks that will stiff you. Oh well. However i would make a killing night over night by making sure that they got what they needed from the bar/kitchen. Don’t assume that a tip is a right. A guest is an opportunity to get a great tip. Treat them right and 9/10 you are going to do ok. Its perfectly fine to ask disrespectful people to finish their drink and leave.

  13. Always tip generously, minimum 20% and higher…

  14. DON’T AGREE 100 % some places I worked when my guests don’t know the house specialities or simple don’t know what to drink, always is good get some info about what they like. Specifically when order wine. Found out that most of the bartenders / servers get wine order first and then the meal order. It must be pair the wine with the meal.

  15. Dear Party of 6, Do not order a round of 6 different shooters then pay with 6 different credit cards.

  16. I have a hard time with the tip thing. 20% as a minimum you say? Well at $2 that drink costed $10 and the hell if I’m leaving more. Bartenders make highway robbery on tips at many of the places I’ve been with customers tipping on every drink. Even when the beer is only a dollar I see people tipping a dollar. It’s ridiculous. Besides, those people should all be replaced by robots. What century do we live in where people have to serve others in order to prove their right to a lving. Really? Serve? What is this louis the 16th? What is this, cotten pickin slaves in the 1800s? Make machines do the work, that’s what their for. And give the displaced workers and everyone else a Universal Basic minimum Income.

    • I seen one of these robotic bars on New Years Eve party cruise. It looked amazing, and by the looks of the woman getting the drink, made a perfect cocktail as well. Living in a small Alaskan town, I have lost interest of being served drinks from unhappy bartenders. That and the constant fighting and bickering has made me stop going to bars all together. I would enjoy going to a bar that was up to date and left the confusing thoughts of how much to tip out of the enjoyment of getting a drink and relaxing in a entertaining environment. Throw in a couple of robobouncers, and bars could actually be a fun place to adventure. Anyhow, I think gypsysojourner has the right idea for making adult entertainment a lot less confusing! ;)

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