10 Annoying Things You’re Doing at a Bar, According to Bartenders

Don’t commit any of these faux pas on your next night out.

Working with customers can be a challenge — anyone who has been or knows someone in the service industry is aware of this. Being on your feet all day, dealing with disgruntled patrons, and meeting high demands isn’t easy, no matter how much you enjoy your job. This also becomes exacerbated when alcohol is involved. And while there are certainly a few blatant lines that should never be crossed, sometimes we end up unknowingly annoying bartenders. To help you brush up on your bar etiquette, we’ve asked a few bartenders to weigh in on what they wish customers would stop doing.

Related: 7 Annoying Things You're Doing in a Restaurant, According to Industry Experts

Female bartender making cocktails

David Fuentes Prieto/Getty Images

 1. Snapping, Yelling, or Whistling

Rude gestures are not the way to get your bartender’s attention. In fact, Ray Tremblay, the corporate beverage director of COJE Management Group, says that it’s a surefire way to ensure that you don’t get promptly served. Instead, Jessica King, co-owner of Brother Wolf, suggests customers put the phone down and maintain eye contact. Bartenders frequently scan the room and “no amount of waving, whistling, or wailing will ever surpass a locked pair of eyes.”

2. Unwarranted Touching and Comments

This should go without saying, but keep your hands to yourself. Touching your bartender is inappropriate. Additionally, keep any judgments on appearance to yourself — sexualizing anyone, bartender or not, is unacceptable and rating people is uncalled for. Telling someone to smile is also unnecessary.

3. Not Knowing What to Order After Flagging Someone Down

If you have a question, this is completely understandable. Otherwise, as a general rule of thumb, know what you’re getting if you’ve asked for a bartender’s attention. Trevor Easton Langer, head bartender at Jac’s on Bond, says this is particularly pertinent to busy periods and when you’re ordering on behalf of a large group.

 4. Touching the Garnishes

To put it simply, garnish stations are not buffets. Tremblay reminds us that “bartenders clean their hands hundreds of times per night while washing their tools and making sure [their] spaces are sanitary. Having people stick their hands in our garnish means we have to throw away the whole lot.” It all comes down to common courtesy: “If you absolutely must have an olive or a slice of fruit, please ask.”

5. Diminishing the Job

When you’re having a casual conversation, some seemingly innocent questions can actually be rather insensitive. Sam Lee, principal bartender at Yvonne’s, says that inquiries along the lines of “What is your plan after you’ve finished bartending?” or “Did you go to school?” can be demoralizing and come off as insulting. “As an individual [in the service] industry, I’ve made a career out of my profession and have poured countless hours into education, accreditation, and mastering the craft of hospitality,” Lee adds. To assume that bartenders are in the business temporarily before they move on to some other great passion is not only presumptuous, but unfair.

Related: 10 Things You're Doing That Annoy Flight Attendants

6. Stealing

Not only is petty theft a crime, but it can also be incredibly damaging to businesses. Head bartender Laura Unterberg points out that the Fox Bar & Cocktail Club spends thousands every year on replacing stolen glassware, garnish picks, menus, and more. “For a small business that pays for employee health care and staff outings, that money could be much better spent.”

7. Classifying a Drink as “Girly”

Never be ashamed of what you’re ordering and how it’s served. While Lee admits that this is fading away, some guests will ask for different glassware or pick flowers out of their drinks. “As a cocktail enthusiast, I feel everyone should be allowed to enjoy a colorful, fruity, fun, and, God forbid, pink drink,” says Lee. “To think an orchid or a stemmed glass can cause offense is hilarious, but also sad to me.”

8. Not Reading the Room

Many bartenders will agree that you should spend your money however you’d like, but there are certain drinks you shouldn’t order at a bar when it’s busy, like a time-intensive Ramos Gin Fizz. When orders are coming in every few seconds, time is money, and the last thing you should do is slow down service.

9. Dancing in the Bar Area

It’s perfectly fine if you want to bop or do a little shimmy while you wait for your drink. However, don’t clear out an entire floor for you and a friend when it’s busy, says Josee Moua Do, a former bartender-turned-caterer. This also applies to blocking any staff passageways with your moves. Be respectful to other customers waiting to order and employees who need to get in and out to do their jobs.

10. Excessive PDA

A quick kiss or peck on the cheek doesn’t hurt, but if you’re getting too frisky, it’s time to head out. “Making out at the bar gets really awkward, the vibes get weird,” Do admonishes, “nobody likes it, go home!”

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