8 Simple Rules at the Bar

clip_image002When I am traveling alone, I normally look for a restaurant where I can eat at the bar. Sitting, eating and drinking at a bar isn’t rocket-science, but there are certain expectations and a person who disregards one of these, stands out very quickly. I added one to my list last night and I realized that I have 8. Since this is the second time I’m posting a list of 8-Things, I should give credit to John Mancini for the concept; thanks John!

Respect what you don’t appreciate – I think the first time I started taking note of these violations was in Boston, while eating dinner at Jacob Wirth’s. I like Sam Adams, and Jacob Wirth’s has a variety of Sam brews along with about 40 other great beers on tap. While I was sitting at the bar, this guy and his girlfriend squeeze in next to me and the guy orders a Miller Lite. The bartender explained that they only have Bud Light on tap. The guy nudged me on the shoulder and said, in a condescending tone: “someone told me they had a good beer selection here”.

Understand that the home team / home sport rules – I have lived by this rule since my father refused to serve an Oakland Raiders fan in the bar that he worked in near Pittsburgh. This was in the 1970’s, and the back wall of the bar was a large print picture of the Steel Curtain. After ordering a beer, this guy started talking about how good the Raiders were. My father dumped the beer down the drain and when the guy complained, he pointed to the sign allowing them to refuse service to anyone. He said “if this is how you talk when you’re sober, I don’t want to see you drunk in this bar because it won’t end well.”

I add “home sport” because my favorite bar in NY is the Molly Wee Pub, and there’s always a soccer game on and a few soccer fans in the room. I know better than to ask them to switch to baseball.

Don’t get me wrong, wear your team gear; root for your team if the game is on, even if they are playing the local favorite. Just don’t start trash-talking without reason.

If you sit at the bar, be prepared to talk – One of the best things about sitting at the bar, is the chance conversations you are likely to have. I have met some of the nicest people at bars. Memorable conversations include a political discussion with a man who had been on Bobby Kennedy’s campaign staff, a discussion of automotive fasteners with a mechanical engineer; war stories from a consultant in my field and a conversation with a truck driver from Pittsburgh that kept us at the hotel bar long enough for me to forget what room I was in. People who refuse to talk at a bar should be made to sit alone at a table.

Take a chance, buy a round – If you sit at a bar often enough, you will develop a sense about who to buy a drink for. Note: I’m not talking about picking up men/women, just conversation. The best person I ever bought a round for was Brad Lewis, author of “Celebrity Gangster” among other great books. Brad and the bartender were discussing how much/little scotch the guy had poured when I offered to pay for the scotch if they would shut up. $14 later, Brad had his Macallan’s and I had begun an interesting friendship.

This rule also applies to bartenders. The Molly Wee, Jacob Wirth’s and my favorite bar, Tunxis Grill are all places where you might be treated to a round on the house.

Quick patron rule – Bar stools are like urinals. Unless the bar is crowded, leave some space.

Quick bartender rule – If you aren’t one of those great bartenders who just knows what I want, wait for me to tell you that I’m ready for another or that I’m ready for the check. This was inspired by a hotel bartender who kept asking me, starting with my first beer: “will that be all sir?

Crowed bar etiquette – Don’t spread out 2 of last 3 stools and then put your pocketbooks on the 3rd one. That’s what the hook is for. If you don’t want someone sitting next to you, sit at a table.

3-Part Karaoke rule – I wasn’t at this dinner but the story inspired the rule the moment I heard it from a friend. 1) Don’t go to a bar that features Karaoke. 2) Don’t volunteer to sing. 3) If you’re male and you broke parts one and two, don’t sing “Dancing Queen by Abba

Feel free to add your own rules below.

10 thoughts on “8 Simple Rules at the Bar

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  1. Picture Reference – Illustrating the 7th listed but most recent addition to the list. I have been in those two stools often enough with friends and family to know that the thing to do when it gets crowded is to pack up your stuff, move toward the wall and make room for one more at the bar.


  2. Reblogged this on Hollywood Pop Candy and commented:
    I am re-posting this piece for “the young and the clueless” who mostly these days have no idea how to behave in any public setting, much less how to apply the nuances of public etiquette which should be considered when dining alone in a bar or tavern and sitting at the bar. It impressed me that there are still observant individuals around who actually consider these kinds of unspoken rules. Hat tip to the author, whom I now consider to be rather genteel. I say this with the utmost respect, as frankly I note that “well manneredness” in public is disappearing everywhere in American life. Seasoned travelers do notice the both application and absence of good conduct in public.


  3. Great rules and I really enjoyed reading them. I rarely (read – never) sit at the bar even when I’m alone. It’s that rule #3 that stops me ;)

    … and trash-talking deserves its own multi-purpose, all occasion rule. Just don’t.

    Liked by 1 person

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