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How to Behave in a Bar…Part 1

Updated: Aug 02, 2017 16:10
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Drunk people do drunk people things. That’s pretty much the best way to describe what working in a bar is like. There are a lot of really great aspects to bar work like cash tips, meeting rad new people, getting laid, a flexible schedule  and getting well taken care of at other bars. But despite all the upsides, drunk people still do drunk people things. It’s just one of those universal truths like “the world is round” and “if it burns when you pee, go see a doctor”.

Working in a bar is a very different thing than working in the rest of the service industry. Your customers come in as regular, functioning members of society, people with husbands and wives and kids and mortgages and other things that real people have. But by the time they leave, half of them devolve into absolute fucking savages; they’re monsters functioning solely on basic animal instinct and impaired senses. Seriously, it’s like working with a room full of people with multiple personality disorders; you never really know how someone is going to comport themselves once they’re totally shitfaced. So this is a little guide on how to behave in a bar. For anyone who has ever worked in bar, I’m dedicating this piece to you.  For those of you who’ve never worked in one, please pay attention to the following so you don’t make an ass out of yourself. Feel free to leave your thoughts on this in the comments.

Act Like You’ve Been in a Bar Before


Unless you’re newly 21 chances are you’ve been in a bar before, so please act like it. The number one tip to behaving in a bar is this: make eye contact, know what you want, know what your friends want, have money ready, say thank you. It’s so simple that R Bar in San Francisco even put it on a shirt. Now why should you do this? Because we have 40 people trying to get our attention who range from perfectly polite to unhinged drunktard and we need to serve all of them in a timely manner. The quicker we get you your drink, the quicker everyone else gets theirs, which means the quicker we can get you your next drink. When you get to the bar and don’t know what to order, it makes you look foolish (really you’ve been waiting all this time and haven’t figured out what to order??) and it slows everything down. Same goes for when your drink order is staggered out depending on what drinks your friends are yelling at the back of your head. Help us keep things moving fast so we can get you drunk quicker so you can make poor decisions in less amount of time.

Don’t Act Entitled


We see you at your absolute worst. No really, we see you do terrible things like cry, puke and even piss yourself in public. We see you mumble garbage in attempts to get laid or to be considered anything more than garbage mumblers. You should never act like you’re better than the people serving you no matter where you are, but especially in a bar. We’re (probably) not drunk and will remember your face and make fun of you next time you’re in, fucking garbage mumbler.

Be Courteous


Just because you’re slamming back jagerbombs and high-fiving strangers who like the same group of grossly over paid athletes as you, doesn’t mean you get a pass on basic human decency. Say things like “please” and “thank you” and don’t say “Hey, lemme get…” Your mom may not approve of how wasted you get, but she’ll approve of it even less if she knew you forgot your fucking manners. Also, if you spill someone’s drink accidentally, buy them a new one. If you bump into someone, apologize. If someone bumps into you, accept their apologies. There are WAY better things to fight about then getting bumped into.

Drink Grown Up Drinks if You Want to Be Treated Like a Grown Up

Are you a teenager? No you’re not, because teenagers are not allowed in bars. So if you’re not a teenager, why are you drinking things that are bright blue or green? That’s like turning in a report to your boss with glitter on it. Besides the fact that these are not natural colors seen in the plant or animal kingdom (or even in the mineral kingdom of fuck’s sake), you’re doing a disservice to yourself by drinking those drinks. No matter who you are, you look like the 12 year old above when you them .Plus they are all sugar and will give you terrible hangovers in the morning. While Adios Motherfucker may be the best name for pretty much anything in the history of things having names, you still shouldn’t drink them. Blue drinks just taste like blue and regret.

Be a Good Tipper


This could really be an article all to itself, but I’ll try and make it concise. You want good service? Tip well. You ever had every eyeball in the room on you at once and every person who owns those eyeballs wanting something from you? That’s what it’s like working in a busy bar. You know how we choose who we serve next? People who we like and remember. You know how we decide who we like and remember? There is a hierarchy descending from people we like/remember most to least. Here it is:

1. Really incredible tippers
2. Person/people we are fucking.
3. Good friends.
4. Person/people we are trying to fuck.
5. Good tippers.
6. Other friends and acquaintances
7. Everyone else.

So you see, the better you tip, the more we will like and remember you and the quicker you will get served. At bare minimum tip a dollar a drink. If you don’t do at least that, don’t be surprised if everyone seems to get served before you.

Other Tips on Tipping:

Tip on Water: Getting you a water or a soda, or anything really, is still getting you a drink. We’re still giving you our time and attention which is what you’re tipping on.

Tip First: Wanna make a really good impression and guarantee you’ll get fast service? Give the bartender a $20 bill up front and say you tip first. He or she will always come right to you.

Tip Extra on Free Drinks: If the bartender buys you a drink, tip $2-$3, per drink, more than you normally would. Otherwise, no more free drinks for you.

Get off Your Phone: Are you texting me your order? Nope, because you probably don’t have my number. I’m not gonna come to you until you put that thing away. The longer you text the longer you’re gonna wait for a drink.

Got other suggestions on how to behave in a bar? Please leave them in the comments section below!

Please stay tuned for the sequel to this post. It will be equally hilarious and illuminating. 

last call

photos from: Phillip Duff, I’m 41, Lexicolatry, dreamstime, Daily Mail,

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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, TV host, activist, and general shit-stirrer. His website is one of the most influential arts & culture sites in the San Francisco Bay Area and his freelance writing has been featured in Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, The Bold Italic, and too many other outlets to remember. His weekly column, Broke-Ass City, appears every other Thursday in the San Francisco Examiner. Stuart’s writing has been translated into four languages. In 2011 Stuart created and hosted the travel show Young, Broke, and Beautiful on IFC and in 2015 he ran for Mayor of San Francisco and got nearly 20k votes.

He's been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle, "an SF cult hero":SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York.


  1. Mayor of Candor
    February 6, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    If at all possible please order at the well. I really dislike when some idiot elbows their way into my space to try and order a drink.

    Yelling “hey!” to the bartender or throwing your hands in the air like you’re waving off a goal is totally classless.

    Do not sit and block the fucking isle with a chair or stool. After the 10th person bumps into you the hint should be taken.

    If you clog the toilet have the decency to tell the bartender or staff. Otherwise it only gets worse. Same thing if you’ve broken a glass.

    Don’t leave your phone, laptop, wallet, etc, at the bar (or table ) while you go smoke or visit the restroom.

    If someone turns their back to you when you strike up a conversation take the hint and leave them alone.

    If you are paying by credit card and plan on having multiple drinks please open a tab. Running your card three or four times is a big hassle. Also don’t take it out on the bartender if your card is declined or the magnetic strip is compromised.

    If possible please buss your table when you are done. Especially if you’ve brought in outside food.

    Make sure you leave with everything you came in with.

  2. sunnyside
    February 7, 2014 at 10:01 am

    who in the fuck do these bartenders think they are with all their rules. If I read another story about how I should behave while giving my hard earned money to a drink slinger I’m going to puke. Its a service industry – try to remember that.

  3. El Chico Con Carne
    February 7, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    Sunnyside you will definitely spend eternity in hell as a TGI Friday’s bartender. In Cleveland.

  4. Slingy
    February 7, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    @sunnyside. These are all tips on how to get better service. Remember the customer is always right… But each and every bartender has the RIGHT for ANY reason to decide who is a customer and who is not and who is the ass hole that should probably go to another bar. Better yet. Stay home!

    P.S. It is the service industry. NOT the servant industry.

  5. Sean
    February 7, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    OK so I have definitely seen some pretty dumbass things done by customers in the bar. For the most part I chalk that up to the fact that a lot of people can’t handle their liquor and guess what….. The bar is serving it!!!
    However a couple of notes from the other side of the bar.
    1: Sometimes the reason I end up whistling to get the bartenders attention is because after sitting there in a bar with 6 customers for 10 minutes and then trying the wave some money technique, the bartender is still trying to get laid by the chick he’s been chatting up. Who by the way has been ordering Blue and Green drinks all night. I guess common courtesy cuts both ways.
    2: Nobody should ever act like they are better than anyone. Just because your cousin Sal got you a job in a bar doesn’t mean your better than say the guy serving food out the window at the Burger N Dash. Oh yeah and nobody tips that guy. NOBODY! Nobody is entitled to anything. Not a tip, Not a living, not a drink. PS I don’t give a shit what my Mom or you think.
    3: I couldn’t agree more. Let’s all be courteous to one another. We have business to do and there is no reason we can’t be civil about it.
    4: I’ll drink whatever the hell I want to drink. I don’t care if it’s blue, green or purple. I tend not to drink sweet drinks but if I feel like a blue Hawaiian or a tequila sunrise, that’s my problem not yours. Beside you don’t seem to have an issue serving them to that chick your trying to score on.
    5: Tipping….. This is a loaded subject. You should always tip. I have “not tipped” exactly twice in my life Both times the service was horrendous and one of the two times, the service never got completed because it was so bad I walked out.
    “Always Tip” having been said, the amount of the tip is more of a meeting point. You serve me decently, I tip decently. You serve badly I tip badly. No one should be tipping under 10% and I have seldom tipped under 20%. Anyone expecting a tip over 20% on a regular basis needs to re-access their situation.
    I go to bars. frequently. When I do, I try to act in manner in which if the roles were reversed, I would want to be treated. I try to be polite to order promptly when asked and I tip because I believe in tipping. However not one time have I been in a bar and thought to myself this place is so bitchin that I can not walk out, go down the street to another bar and get a drink that is served without the side of “Shit for Attitude”. The day I can’t… well I’m drinking at home and saving the hassle.