The Right and Wrong Way
to Act in a Bar
Bar etiquette can be described as the way a bar goer should act while out enjoying themselves at a club or at a bar. Just as there is a certain way of ordering drinks in a bar, there’s a certain way of behaving yourself while in a bar. Here are some club etiquette tips that will make you look like you know what you’re doing in a bar. Follow these bar etiquette tips and it’ll ensure that you won’t annoy the bar staff and other customers and you’ll have a more enjoyable experience without the possibility of being thrown out of the club or barred.
30 Bar Etiquette Tips
to Ensure you Have a Great Night
Bar Etiquette DOs
- Always Use Please and Thank-You – yes bartenders are there to serve you drinks but that doesn’t make them your slaves. Be polite, use please and thank-you like your mom taught you and the bartender will love you for it.
- Have Your Money Ready When You Order – when you get to the bar, know what you want to order and have your money ready for the bartender when they come back with your drinks.
- Order All Your Drinks at Once – don’t order two drinks and then when the bartender comes back, another one and then another one. Know all the drinks you want and order them all at the same time. When you ‘Yo-Yo’ the bartender, you’re taking away from the other guests who could’ve been served in your stead.
- When Ordering Shots, Order them all the Same – there’s nothing worse than 6 people coming up to the bar and each of them wanting a different shot. The time it takes to make 6 different shots is the same time it would take a bartender to serve 6 different people. Try to order the same shots each round, two different ones max.
Bar Etiquette DON’Ts
- Don’t Assume Soft Drinks are Free – even if you are the designated driver, ask if the club provides free soft drinks for DDs. Most clubs should, but some don’t and its not your God-given right to free soft drinks just because you happen to be driving that night. Look at it from the bar’s perspective – here you are taking up real estate in their bar and not only are you not going to be ordering drink after alcoholic drink, but you don’t want to pay for the one or two soft drinks that you are going to be drinking. And no, the bartender doesn’t know that you are driving that bus outside carrying 50 of the biggest drinkers in the place.
- Don’t Order if You’re Not the One Paying – this makes it very confusing for bartenders. Only order drinks from a bartender if you are the one paying for those drinks or if you’re on someone else’s tab – and the bartender already knows it.
- Don’t Question the Bartender – don’t ask for a Stoli and Cran and then sip it and question the bartender about whether or not its Stoli. If you are absolutely sure its not the alcohol that you asked for or you saw the bartender pour the wrong alcohol, find a very polite way of bringing it up like “Sorry, I really don’t mean to be an ass but…”
- Don’t Ask for Trays to Carry Your Drinks – although some bartenders may give you a tray, they shouldn’t. Customers are not insured and so, if ever there was an accident, the bar could get sued. Don’t bring that upon the bar. Make two trips or get your friends to help you carry the drinks away from the bar.
- Don’t Complain about Prices to the Bartender – the bartender doesn’t make the prices and doesn’t have the authority to change them. If you don’t like the prices, order something different or don’t go to that bar.
- Don’t Leave Your Drink on the Bar Unattended – in addition to the very real possibility of some sleazy bastard putting something in your drink, leaving your drink on the bar will only result in it getting poured out.
- Don’t Order From the Cocktail Section – most clubs have a section where the cocktail waitresses go to order drinks. This section may be the only section that doesn’t have people standing in front of it – and for good reason, its only meant for cocktail waitresses. If the bar’s busy, wait your turn, don’t jam up the cocktail waitress’s section of the bar in hopes of getting served faster – ask the cocktail waitress for your drinks instead.
- Don’t Order Drinks from the Bar Back – this one’s sometimes a little tougher because you may not know who is the bar back and who isn’t. The bar back is the guy (or gal) who is lugging cases of beers back and forth, filling up the ice, sweeping and mopping and cleaning the bar. They are not bartenders and are unable to get you your drinks. Be patient and wait until a bartender makes eye contact with you.
- Don’t Make Eye Contact Unless you Want to Order – if you make eye contact with a bartender, its a signal that you are ready to order a drink. If you’re not wanting to order but just love looking at those sexy bartenders, remember to lower your gaze when they look your way (or make it less obvious by looking over your drink while sipping on it).
- Don’t Cut in Line for Water – just because you are ordering a water doesn’t give you the right to cut in front of paying customers to do so. Wait your turn just like everyone else.
- Don’t Play with Your Ice – this one seems to go without saying but if it did, we wouldn’t have to mention it here. Don’t grab the ice cubes out of your drink and start throwing them around – at other customers or, especially, at the bartender. Not only is it dangerous but its just plain stupid.
- Don’t Toy with Table-Top Stuff – some bars have napkin holders, tea lights or other candles, salt & pepper shakers etc on top of the cocktail tables. These are not toys for your enjoyment. Don’t play with them, break them, throw them, steal them, spit in them or put your gum in them. Be civilized.
- Don’t Spit out Your Gum – as far as bar etiquette goes, this one seems obvious but…The underside of tables is not for the disposal of your gum and neither is the floor. Ask for a napkin, spit your gum into it and throw it in the garbage. How would you like to be the one cleaning the underside of the tables or walking around all night with gum on your shoe? Not so cool then, huh?
- Don’t ask to Store your Stuff Behind the Bar – a bartender can’t take responsibility for your valuables and can’t be expected to keep an eye on them. Your stuff may get lost and will likely get dirty behind the bar. Keep your valuables with you, leave them in the car or check them in the coat check. Just because you know the bartender (and most everyone does), doesn’t mean that he / she is your caretaker for the night.
- Don’t Use Your Credit Card Multiple Times – many people may not realize this bar etiquette faux pas. If you’re going to be using a credit card to pay for your drinks, ask the bartender to keep a tab open and give them your card until you are ready to settle your bill. Running credit cards through is a time-consuming process that takes away from serving other guests.
- Don’t Order Multiple Drinks and Ask to Pay Separately – the same as using your credit card multiple times, this severely slows the bartender down and they therefore can’t serve the other guests as quickly. If you’re with a group of people, order rounds so that only one person is paying each time.
- Don’t Order Dumb Drinks – some bar etiquette tips you may not think about before you unwittingly do it. Dumb drinks can be classified as any drink that you yourself have never heard about before until you read about it in your new bartender’s manual or you got from the bartender app on your iPhone. Save the odd cocktails for the pub when the bartender will be glad to mix them up during slower hours.
- Don’t Ask the Bartender to Hold Extra Drinks Behind the Bar – if you order a vodka Redbull and you still have enough Redbull to last another drink, don’t ask the bartender to hold onto your Redbull until you get back. Behind the bar is a busy enough place without the bartender trying to find room to store customer’s drinks.
- Don’t Bang on the Bar – banging on the bar is barbaric. You’re not a caveman are you? The bartender will see you when he / she gets there. Banging on the bar will only annoy the bartender and the customers around you, making you look like a jerk.
- Don’t Talk on Your Cell Phone While Ordering – you’re in a club so you shouldn’t be on the phone in the first place. Worst yet, is chatting on the phone and making the bartender wait until you’re finished talking. This will only happen the one time and then you’re likely not going to get served too quickly the next time.
- Don’t Get Offended if you get ID’d – its a bartender’s job to make sure you are legal drinking age. Don’t get upset that they are asking, just supply your ID, ask for your drink and get on with having a good time. Bartender’s can lose their job if they serve to underage guests and the bar could lose their liquor license so don’t take it personally, take it as a compliment.
- Don’t Argue Your Tab – unless you are ABSOLUTELY sure that the tab is wrong – and I mean soberly sure, don’t argue about it. Bartenders are not in the habit of adding drinks to people’s tabs. If you have 12 drinks on your tab, then its a safe bet that you ordered 12 drinks. Remember, the bartender is the sober one.
- Don’t Pay with Change – bars and clubs don’t typically use small coins so don’t count up all the coins from your piggy bank and give them to the bartender at the club. Cash your change in somewhere beforehand and use bills when paying for drinks (plus, it just makes you look cheap).
Bar Etiquette NEVERs
If you break any of the above bar etiquette tips, it may or may not cause your ejection from the bar. But if you break the following bar etiquette tips, you’re gambling on getting tossed out of the club and possibly barred or arrested (especially #29!)
- NEVER Beg for After-Hour Drinks – after closing time, it is illegal to serve any more drinks. Just because you are willing to tip better after hours doesn’t mean the bartender is going to give you a drink. Asking a bartender to do so is putting their job at risk and the establishment’s liquor license if they were to get caught.
- Never Lay Your Hands on the Bartender – this is one of those bar etiquette rules that’ll get you thrown out of the club. Just because you left a $5 tip on one drink doesn’t give you the right to hold hands or try to caress the bartender. If you wouldn’t touch a McDonald’s employee that way, don’t use alcohol as an excuse to do it to the bartender. If they like you or want to interact with you, they’ll initiate it.
- Don’t EVER go behind the bar – you, as the customer, are not allowed behind the bar. That’s like a customer walking behind the cash register at a retail store. If you did that, you’d be escorted out at best, arrested at worst. Show the same courtesy at a bar or club.
There you have it – 30 bar etiquette tips that’ll ensure that you have a great time at the club and the bartender’s won’t cringe each time they see you walk into the club. A lot of bar etiquette is simply common sense; but having been in the bar industry for almost 20 years, we realize that common sense isn’t too common anymore – especially after a couple of drinks. Be nice, use common sense and enjoy your time at the club.
Now that you’ve learned all about bar etiquette and how to act in a bar, check out our page on tipping etiquette and transform yourself from a bar bum to a bar star.