“Hey! Chief! Hey, you!”
The patron leans over the bar waving a twenty dollar bill, snapping their fingers at the bartender.
“Lemme git a double vokka soda. Pint glass. Double lemon.” Waves money. Snaps fingers. Whistles. Curses.
Does this horribly obnoxious bar patron get their drink? More often than not they do. Bartenders reward bad behavior all too often. It’s unfortunate but most tenders want to keep their jobs and so refrain from handily throwing the worst patrons out on the street.
These people exist in every city and continue to holler and behave like children to the people providing them a service.
“Being called ‘boss’ and ‘chief’ makes my skin crawl,’ bartender Neil Kopplin says.
What ever happened to the days of etiquette and social graces? Only a few bars exercise house rules these days, with Milk and Honey setting the tone with rules like “no star fucking”. While some establishments do their best to dictate appropriate behavior it all starts at the bartop.
“A bartender that is capable of communicating,” notes Trevor Eastor of San Francisco’s Rickhouse, “is more likely to convert that customer into a proper drinking member of society.”
Try as we might there are just some people who bartenders dread seeing across the wood. In my years behind the bar I’ve encountered a significant cross section of scumbaggery. Here’s a broad, sweeping look at some of the personalities bartenders have to deal with on a daily basis. Or at least caricatures of them…
You just met this one. This character whistles and waves their arms wildly in search of attention. Other known habits of misbehavior include a rude and confrontational demeanor and a general disdain for the establishment and its employees. The Loudmouth commonly ignores the menu, calling out orders, and expressing a general disdain for the establishment, its employees, and its patrons.
I’m not talking about the tourists in floral shirts that take pictures of everything in sight, but the tourists that don’t know their way around a bar. These are easily identified by their requests for drinks from other establishments or ridiculously named shots. Tourists are typically the messiest kinds of drunks, more so even than Loudmouths, and can go from sober as a pickle to wasteyface in the lemon-drop of a dime.
While generally well mannered and somewhat refined the know-it-all can be just as uncouth as the sloppy Tourist on the next barstool. They love to play ‘stump the bartender’, quizzing the barman with innocuous details of forgotten cocktails or the secret ingredients in Chartreuse to flex their self proclaimed acumen. Ever wonder what the mash bill is for Black Maple Hill? Find yourself in a conversation with a Know-it-all and you’ll have answers to questions you never cared to ask. And if you forget any of these pearls of wisdom don’t worry, they’ll be blogging about it later.
Worst of the worst. They’ll sit right where the waitresses have to walk just so they can get creepily close. They hit on everyone in the bar, one by one, until their options are exhausted or they get lucky. Then they hit on the bartender. They’re at the same bar with a different partner each week, often with a spouse at home. And just because they’re far too old to behave this way doesn’t mean they can’t act lecherous and shameful. Keep your eye out for ladies in animal print and gents in Ed Hardy, they’re wearing the Creeper gear proudly on their prowl.
Ok, lemme get this right the first time: the moon revolves around the earth, the earth around the sun, and they all concentrically revolve around the Egotist. Who else would order four Ramos Gin Fizzes from a busy bartender at the peak of a Saturday night? One at a time, chain ordering drinks each trip to suck the time of other patrons and bar employees. When the check arrives they play slow draw with their wallet or dissect the tab to arrive at the maximum number of ways to split a check. And should you find yourself near an Egotist be sure to tell them that a verbal tip doesn’t spend the same as hard currency.
So what have we learned? The essential decency of beverage culture shall not be deterred by the indiscreet patronage.
As bartender extraodinaire Ali Tahsini says, “my skills as a communicator and as a "bartender" are my draws to successfully compounding positive stimulus that result in happy guests.”
A grand idea to be sure. While there will always be abusive and generally unpleasant guests adorning barstools surely the good outweigh the bad significantly. By providing a genuine experience bartenders can shape the experience of their clientele and thus positively affect behavior on the whole. And as bartenders continue to focus on providing exceptional guest service the trend will continue to shift to the utopian nature of peace, love, and booze.