Bar etiquette for idiots

by Troy Anderson 6 months ago in bars

or how not to be a dick

Bar etiquette for idiots
Photo by ELEVATE from Pexels

After 14 years in the hospitality industry (working in bars, venues and restaurants) I have held pretty much every role on those hallowed grounds from manager to lowly bitch boy. Now you may refer to these establishments as the local, the boozer, the hunting grounds and for some less than honest spouses the office. For me it was hell. Not because of my colleagues or working within a high pressure industry (and trust me 20 impatient drunk people makes for a pretty high pressure environment) no! The single solitary component that made working in a pub feels like purgatory is you, the general public! However do not threat. For I am here to amend your horrendous habits and wicked ways. And teach you the correct way to behave in a drinking establishment. In essence this is a guide on how not to be a dick.

Some of you may be thinking that your pickled pilgrimage begins when you enter the holy guzzling ground but you would be mistaken my primitive pupils. In fact our lessons begin before you even leave the house.

Do a little research

Before you reach your chosen location of lubrication make sure the establishment suites your needs and crowd. I'm not going to preach to you about how you should be spending your social time, I am merely suggesting that you take into consideration the other patrons that will be present at your chosen destination. If your going out on a stag/hen do and you are dressed as a giant phallus, you wouldn't go running around your local kids playground would you? Of course not. This is a sure route for incarceration.

So using the same principle if you are going out with "the lads" for a "good ol' knees up" and your likely to be caught up in a cloud of testosterone, mixed up in a shouting tournament to insert your dominance. Then maybe, just maybe. Choosing a family restaurant as your proving grounds might not of been your greatest eureka moment. If you've just finished a hard days graft at the building site and fancy an ice cold beer (which by the way you well and truly deserve) maybe the fancy wine bar round the corner isn't an ideal port of call. I highly doubt they would provide the ice cold craft beer that you so desperately desire. Plus maybe the couple that would be sat next to you (one of which is a young lad trying to impress said girl on their first date after hooking up on tinder) Probably don't want to smell your armpits whilst supping on their ridiculously over priced Picpoul De Pinet.

On the flip side if you are going for an evening with your family or wish to spend a quiet romantic evening out with your spouse or better half then going to raucous, rambunctious and rowdy late night bar may be a questionable choice. If you do think a place such as this is a suitable environment for your children then I fear you may need a lot more help than a satirical article you have come across online.

To summarize. If you want to dance, go to a club. If you want to take your kids out, go to a family restaurant. If you want a boisterous bevy maybe a pint down the local boozer and so on. If your not entirely assured of your selection there's always a wetherspoons.

Enter the drunken

So now you have arrived at your well thought out and suitably chosen destination of debauchery. Before entering said establishment if you have any food or beverages from elsewhere dispose of these in a responsible and appropriate manner. By appropriate manner I obviously mean the bin and not the external window sill, entrance doorway or on the floor by the outer walls. Quite frankly this is messy and incredibly annoying. The doors might not be open yet. Maybe you've arrived just in time for opening. If so allow them to open up the doors before trying to charge in to buy a drink or grab your favorite seat. The alcohol isn't going anywhere. In fact it's awaiting you with baited breath so I'm certain you can wait 5 seconds whilst the staff pins back the front door.

Upon entry if the bar is barren, there are a few things you need to consider. If you were hoping for a quiet drink then excellent you've found your nest and make sure to graciously greet the staff as they will be serving you for the rest of your stay. Whether it's joyful Julie or hungover Harry (This comes as a surprise to some but people that work in hospitality also enjoy getting positively and proficiently plastered) You want to build a good rapport whilst you have their time and attention before business starts picking up. Remember these mysterious mortals can supply you with booze and nourishment. You want them to be your best mates for the next several hours. Trust me it'll make your plans run a lot smoother and more enjoyable. Some people when faced with an empty establishment have an annoying habit of not even acknowledging the staff, doing a 180 and promptly vacating the premises. I can only assume this is because they are hoping for the atmosphere of an Ibiza super-club in a small bar 5 minutes after they've opened their doors. Now this seems unreasonable...and that's because it is. You'd be surprised how many of these people are out there though. And for those people just bare these 2 things in mind. You can still be polite. A simple hello is not the equivalent of entering into a verbal contract of imprisonment that you can not escape from. We will still allow you to leave. I promise. The second thing that you should contemplate is this: If everyone had the same chain of thought then bars would never reach capacity. Be unique, be courageous, be a pioneer and be the first one in to get that party started.

Alternatively you may arrive and the venue is packed to the rafters. This is exactly what you was hoping for, a jumping jamboree. Only problem is the mob at the bar has filled every space like expanding foam and is 10 bodies thick. This is the most crucial element of your venture and this is also the part where most people fail. Miserably.

Getting SERVED

If you follow my advice here carefully, service staff won't consider you as the scrotum of humanity. And if that's not rewarding enough you'll probably even get served quicker. The first thing you need to remember is BE PATIENT. There's an ancient lost proverb that states that patience is a virtue. As far as I've ascertained that virtue is about as forgotten as Victoria Beckham's singing career. Most people can't wait 30 seconds for a beverage these days so you'll have to fight that most basic human instinct. So wait. If you'd like to wait an extra half an hour before you get served however here's three sure fire ways.

  1. Wave: Here is the first common misconception about bar staff. They are neither pitch black (or if your american yellow) and they don't have 4 wheels so you cannot hail them down like a cab.
  2. Whistle: The second common misconception about those that work in the hospitality industry is that they are some breed of canine. They will not sprint over to you, tongue hanging out and tail wagging if you whistle at them. You are more likely to get bitten. Surprisingly they are not very good at fetch either.
  3. Money: Waving is bad enough but waving money is the worst. The staff do not care about how much money you have. Their salary remains the same. Which brings us to our third misconception. Bar staff are not strippers in some seedy strip club that you wave money at for a lap dance. Unless of course you want Vinnie the 6ft 5, 500 pound, sweaty, hairy Italian to take off his clothes for you, in which case...well fair enough. I'm sure he'll be happy to if you just ask nicely.

Don't wave anything for that matter. Empty glasses for example. It's very impressive that you have an empty glass don't get me wrong but they also have a sizable selection of empty vessels on the other side of the counter so they probably won't be as captivated. Clicking your fingers or shouting "oi" are other examples of the other things that will throw a staff member into a PTSD like rage. Oh and by no means necessary should you ever reach over and physically touch the staff to get their attention. Not only is this guaranteed not to get you served but it's also likely to get you ejected from the building.

Here's how you get served as quickly as possible without coming across as a complete asshole. As I said before be patient. Casually make your way to the bar. Once at the bar the trick is eye contact. Choose a member of staff that is serving near you and try to link eyes. Once you've locked eye's like in one of those romantic movies (except in this movie your going to get alcohol and not your one true love) just smile and give a friendly nod. The staff now has no choice but to acknowledge your presents and most importantly your patience. I assure you, you will get served way before that customer trying to physically mount the bar in an attempt to filch their focus.

Photo by Juliano Ferreira from Pexels

Ok so now you have the staffs attention. First of all wait for the bar staff to ask you what you would like. This will be your signal that you are actually being served. If you just shout out your order without first being asked, not only is this rude but you might be mistaken and the member of staff might still be serving someone else. You see bar staff are like toilet seats. They are designed to cater for only one asshole at a time. However there are some toilet seats that can deal with multiple. This is less common with bar staff.

Once you have been acknowledged then its time to place your order. First of all make sure you know your order before going to the bar. When your being served is not the best time to ask your 75 friends what they actually want to drink Mr Popular. The staff want to serve you just as quick as you'd like to be served. Also order the drinks in multiples not just one at a time. We are able to remember more than one beverage at once (we're even able to poor more than one drink at a time, the mind boggles!) and we don't need throwbacks to the beanbag races at our primary school sports days. Running back and forth with one item at a time. This is even more infuriating when your doing your best impression of DJ Khaled and ordering multiples of the same drink one at a time. Another one...and another one.

Another thing to remember is whilst your waiting to be served have a look what is on offer so you can make an informed decision when you order. If your still not sure ask for advise from the bar staff but try and be specific. "What 'drinks' do you sell?" really doesn't narrow things down. Also if you do inquire what lagers a bar sells and the staff lists them off for you don't then ask if they have the three lagers you happen to know the name of. You wouldn't do that when asking your millennial friend's what flavored teas they have.

"I have earl grey, green tea, camomile and peppermint"

"Ah I see. Do you have blackcurrant and blueberry?"

"No...I have earl grey, green tea, camomile and peppermint"

"Oh right right...but do you have lemon and ginger?"

"What is going on right now? I told you what I have"

"I know I know. But do you have..."

You get the picture and I'm sure you can appreciate how frustrating that would be. Obviously try to remember your please and thank you's. This one doesn't bother me too much personally though. Politeness to me was kind of like getting a girls number. It was a welcome surprise when it occurred but it was so rare I began to forget that it was considered as normal human interaction. There are still some out there that appreciate good manners though so at least give it a go for them yea.

DO NOT JUST POINT when ordering. Even if you don't know how to pronounce the latest fancy craft beer give it a go. Chances are we don't know how to pronounce the damn name either and we can have a good ol' chuckle about it afterwards.

So you've ordered and the barman is fetching your refreshments. Your doing great and the staff believe you to be a decent human being. Well done, I'm proud of you! Now it comes to paying. Now I know what your thinking. We all think it every time it comes to settling up. Please please please! Just give me the drinks for nothing. However it won't be for nothing it never is so get your payment ready BEFORE you have to pay. Lastly when given the price of the round do not react with "How much!?" You will never be able to conceive the amount of times we hear that on a daily basis and trust me when I say the staff are just as outraged by the price as you are. But that's commercialism for ya!

Table manners

So we've covered what to do when going to the bar but what happens if you go to a table. To begin wait to be seated if you are asked. Don't just help yourself like you would to the last bland cheese sandwich at a wedding buffet. If you are able to select your own slab of real estate make sure its suitable for a group of your size. Don't be that couple that take up a table for eight. Honestly what do you need all that space for? Do you intend on playing an impromptu game of twister atop the table? Are you concerned about flash floods and intend to use the table as a make shift raft? No? In that case I'm certain that the table for two in the corner will suffice.

Unless you are in a restaurant (a place that sells pub food no matter how boujee does not count) do not just assume there is table service. If not for any other reason than the fact you may be forced to wait a very long time. Especially do not just demand drinks from some poor sap collecting glasses. There's about as much chance of them bringing you your drinks as there is of them bringing you that Barbie Dreamhouse you've always wanted. You know the one with three floors, seven rooms and a working elevator. Don't worry your secret is safe with me. On the topic of glass collecting if someone is leaning over your table trying to get glasses give them a hand. I'm sure you'd prefer it if their soggy chest didn't slide up against your cheek as they try to reach them. Also if you see someone carrying a stack of empty glasses try to move out of the way. I know we've already discussed your obsession with empty glasses but you sure as hell don't want a load of them crashing down on your head.

If you claim a table in a bar this does not make it become your property. If you leave a table unattended do not be upset when someone else lays claim. As the saying goes "Move your seat, lose your feet" so don't be surprised if they amputate your trotters as well. Speaking of property do not move around the furniture. This is not an opportunity at some drunken decorating. I can't imagine you'd be too amused if someone moved around your purposefully arranged furnishings and you arrived home to discover your couch in the kitchen. Lastly keep track of the location of your drinks on the table. Everyone will know that it was your elbow that knocked the glass causing it to smash, not the ghost of Ella Fitzgerald and her glass shattering pipes.

I smell a chat

So your propping up the bar and the bar staff are currently idle so you fancy a chin wag. This is perfectly fine and usually welcomed with open ears. Providing of course they are currently unoccupied and not trying to serve 15 people single handed in which case now is probably not the moment to try and tell them about the time you saw your cousin Cathy naked and its left you feeling sexually confused. So if they have been standing there for the last 20 minutes polishing the same spot of the bar and started wearing away the paint feel free to initiate a conversation. But here's a few things to remember.

Don't open by making a joke about being in the hospitality industry. You wouldn't approach a man who's just had his arms cut off and offer to shake his hand cause you think it'd get a laugh. You are right. Any sap can poor a pint. However it takes a person with a strong character and enough patience to fill the Knock Nevis oil tanker to work in hospitality. Just speak with them normally. I understand that we seem like these ethereal enigmas floating around like wraiths but the pale completion is only due to lack of sleep and natural sunlight. Offering to buy them a drink is always a good way to open dialogue. If they refuse to drink with you though do not take this as a personal attack. Chances are they are not permitted to drink on duty and do not wish to lose their source of income. So don't start trying to coax them. When working behind a bar it is a constant struggle not to grab a bottle of whiskey a neck enough to paralyze a small elephant, so you suddenly turning into Mrs Doyle doesn't help.

Another poor way to open dialogue is anything along the lines of "Give us a smile" or "Well your cheerful". The most idiotic idiom ever invented by the service industry is 'Service with a smile'. This gave the consumer a predetermined perception that every single person in hospitality needs to be continuously cracking a smile like a hyena in a Disney movie. This is simply idiotic. People who work in hospitality do have lives outside of the bubble in which they are there to serve and there could be any number of issues going on in said existence. Not to mention they could be on the tail end of an AFD. For those of you not in the know an AFD stands for 'A Full Day'. We tend to refer to it as 'All Fucking Day'. This could be anything between a 12 to 16 hour shift. You try smiling for 16 hours straight. How about just asking if they are ok.

So the chat is flowing but please try to be aware that sometimes the staff might not want to chat. Human interaction is a large portion of our jobs so sometimes its nice just to have a few minutes to yourself. If your a carpenter and you suddenly have a moment to rest you wouldn't appreciate someone suddenly asking you to make a set of shelves. So if they seem to be trying to disengage from the conversation just think of the song from Disney's frozen and let it go.

Sack the DJ

Let me know if this sounds familiar "Hey man can you ask the DJ/Band to play [insert your favorite song here]". Sure thing dude let me just tell the horde of thirsty patrons here to wait so I can leave my station to relay a message to the entertainment just for you. Ask them yourselves. They don't bite. However don't get upset when the blues band that is playing that night won't play your favorite Ed Sheeran song. I get it I do. Your having a good night and you want to hear the music you love. This kind of goes back to my initial point though. Do the research. You should feel sorry for me in this case. I've been forced to work old skool garage nights before. They still give me nightmares.

Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels

Calm down I know your angry

Now I have huge respect for anyone in the service industry as you can probably gather but sometimes things do go astray. One thing I will suggest is if your trying a beer or a wine for the first time ask if you can taste it. I'm sure they'll be all too happy to oblige. That will avoid the confrontation that I'm about to discuss. The COMPLAINT. Now you can use the advice I'm about to give you in more places than just bars and restaurants. If there is an issue with your food or drink do not throw a hissy fit like so many of you are prone to do. Your fancy craft pale ale not tasting quite the way you'd like, or being slightly flat isn't going to ruin your entire night and there's plenty of reasonable explanations as to why this has occurred. So approach a member of staff in a calm manner and just be friendly and explain your quarrel. If you treat them as if they was your best mate they will return the sentiment and sort you right out. Marching up to them and acting like they've just shot your cat however will get you nowhere.

Contagious viral affection

Look. I'm happy for you I really am. I don't know the specific set of circumstances that culminated in this dazzling display of cardinal attraction. If you arrived with some comrades and you caught the scrutiny of this stunner or this is your first face to face meeting after connecting on some deplorable dating site. Maybe this isn't your first date and your soulmates or maybe, just maybe, this isn't your partner and this is some contemptible concubine. Either way we really don't care and we get that your thirsty for more than just drink. But we don't need to see you trying to use another humans uvula as a maize ball with your tongue as we're trying to do our jobs. By all means do this at your table in the corner of the room but its just a little distracting if your eating another persons face whilst we're trying to take an order.

Some people take this even further and get a little handsy. Ok listen, if your trying to pull and your already nearly at third base in the middle of packed bar I think its safe to say your in there. Do not assume your in a room full of voyeurs so feel free to find a nearby hotel (or alley, I'm not here to judge) and go wild. Just please leave your public displays of excessive affection away from my work area. Thank you.

Your HOME time to go DRUNK

So the night is getting on and you've had a few too many alcopops and shots of sambuca. Now I suggest you know your own limitations when it comes to the consumption of intoxicating substances but nobody ever does. Judging from the number of times I've woken up in random locations, neither do I. It will come to a point in the night though where like a baby sitter looking after a child who's consumed too much sugar, we will need to cut you off. Everyone's rudimentary response to this is exactly the same. So lets have a little interactive activity.

I would like you to go to a mirror. First of all you need to pull in your neck like a turtle receding from danger. Similar to when you try to give yourself a double chin. Whilst doing this raise your hands to your sides at about a 45 degree angle. Now try and force all of your facial features into the center of your face so your face looks like a crumpled up piece of paper and repeat this phrase "Wha!? AI'm not dwunk. I'b hadth lik too dwink"

That is exactly what you look like when your trying to convince us that your sober. Now this is fine. It's actually a source of great entertainment for us. But as much as you deserve an oscar for your incredible performance we are able to see through the act. At this point be a well behaved hyped up juvenile and go to bed. Do not start lashing out. Surprising as it may be, throwing abuse at us and hurling every naughty word your cockeyed cerebrum can muster will not convince us to change our minds and serve you another drink. I can understand how you think shouting "Your a prick mate" is going elicit the response "Oh my deepest apologies sir, now that you've pleaded your case in such a reasonable manner allow me to offer you another drink on the house" but I'm afraid to say that is never going to happen. This will only get you ejected quicker and probably with more force. The best thing to do is just leave peacefully and go home to bed. It's probably in your best interest. The same approach should be taken with door staff. If you are refused entry there will be a valid reason. Kicking up a stink will not suddenly gain you entry. It's a futile cause.

The fightings on the wall

I'd like to think that I don't have to tell you that you shouldn't conduct in callous confrontations. And I'm sure that most of you realize that participating in acts of aggression just makes you come across as a bit of a knob. Unfortunately there are still some of you out there that after a few beverages, feel the need to assert your imaginary authority. This usually involves displays of vigorous chest puffing and some form of shitfaced shotokan. And why is it you feel the need to go after the biggest mother fucker in the building? After he halts your humiliating attempt at harassment with one blow we're the poor bastards that have to calm that now ballistic behemoth down. In the interest of equality I should probably mention that women are just as bad. For a period I had a big clump of hair missing on my chest to prove it.

Don't start trying to provoke the security staff either just because it makes you look 'ard. I've never understood this, you must realize they are security for a reason. I've had one member of security that literally looked like Wesley Snipes ate Wesley Snipes (and I mean badass vampire slaying Wesley Snipes not the new ex con tax dodging Wesley Snipes). I also had a security guard that looked like he was hitting 70 but had a grip that could crush a walnut and he probably could've thrown me through a wall with one hand. In fact once he nearly did and I am not a small guy.

Basically just don't fight. If your faced with a dilemma in which violence is an option then take the higher ground and walk away. This way your night won't be ruined and you won't come away from the situation looking like a bit of a twat.

In case of an emergency

God forbid something bad happens whilst your on your nutty night on the town and you've already had a bit of a tank full. However it can happen. In these rare situations just try to stay out of the way and allow the schooled, skilled and sober staff to get on with their jobs and follow their instruction. If someone is injured don't start screaming at a staff member (who's already clearly on the phone) to call an ambulance. I assure you they are not just ordering a pizza. And a wino wielding a fire extinguisher is never going to help in any situation.

Closing time

It has come to the end of the night. You are one of the brave few who managed to go the distance and last till the bitter end. Well done, your overwhelming achievement is not lost on us. We applaud you for your unwavering stamina and grit. However when we ask you to leave it would be greatly appreciated if you would do just that. The bar is closed and we would like to clean up and leave before the sun starts rising and we have to greet the next day. No you can not have ONE MORE shot. I'm sure you will be able to survive without that last drink after knocking pints back for the last 5 hours. And no matter what you may think you will not be able to get that girls number that you've been so persistently attempting to do if we just give you another 10 minutes.

Now I have no doubt that those of you that are reading this that work in hospitality will be infuriated that I haven't mentioned that one habit that Alan, the regular at your pub has that annoys the shit out of you. I apologize. I realize this is but a bucket of water in a sea of stupid shit that customers do and I would love to hear some of your horror stories from working as a slave to service. These are merely the most common things I have experienced in my time in pub purgatory and I will no longer get shocked from the naivety and stupidity of the modern consumer.

If you are reading this as a customer then I hope you can see the funny side of this article. Obviously I don't think you all have these horrific habits and if you don't then you have nothing to be offended by. I can guarantee though that a large number of you thought to yourselves "I think I do that" on several occasions. Just remember some of my advice when your next out and about and it may make your evening run a little smoother and more enjoyable. Hell who knows it might even make you less of a dick.

Thanks for reading

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Troy Anderson
Troy Anderson
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Troy Anderson
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