Love Your Bartender

No, not that way. But a little respect would be good

We here in God's country are a civilized lot. And most of us go about our days with a mindful eye on decorum, keeping our inner jackass in check because that's what Mom would want us to do. Plus, that guy over there is way bigger than us, and we've never technically been in a fight that didn't happen on Xbox. Let's not stir things up too much.

The exception too often comes in our dealings with those in the service industry: the noble folks who feed us and ply us with booze, and who nonetheless get dumped on by us because ... why is it again? You're better than they are? You've got the corner cubicle? They work for tips? You're drunk?

Stop it. And while you're at it, call your mom. She worries.

The bar should be a heavenly retreat, and the bartender can be your best friend. But there are rules for being a good patron — some so simple they shouldn't need to be repeated, and for most of us, they don't. For some, they obviously do.

Here now, two of Cleveland's finest share their wisdom for keeping on the bartender's good side.

On Tipping:

It's a dollar a drink. Rule number one. Rarely broken, but, ya know, it gets broken.

"When they say, 'Take care of me and I'll take care of you,' you know right then it's a lie," says Daniel Novak, manager at the timelessly endearing Harbor Inn on the west bank of the Flats. "It's a guarantee you'll get a shitty tip."

On Getting a Bartender's Attention:

You should nod, or make eye contact, or slip the empty bottle or glass toward the edge of the bar. They're probably not ignoring you; they're just busy.

Though it's not recommended, you can also send a "Hey" their way, hold out your cash (again, not the best option), or otherwise make a show of yourself if you must. But keep your shirt on, and refrain from using terms like honey, darling, champ, or commandant.

"The reality is, you're there to push as many beers as you can and make money, so I don't mind when people try to get my attention," says Novak. "And if they're out of line, usually it just takes a word or two to get them to knock it off and realize they aren't getting a beer any quicker." But there are limits.

"I love when I'm mixing a drink and they yell at me, 'Hey, get me a Bud Light,'" Novak says. "Like, stop what you're doing and help me."

Heather Bise, who works the bar at the Spitfire on West 117th, concurs.

"It's the sense of entitlement," she says. "If you're a bartender, you belong to them."

"And don't stand on your chair and try to act really, really tall," Novak says. "Just don't."

Noted. And if you're really, really tall, squat down. It's the least you can do.

On Lady Bartenders:

Yes, we love the women who serve us, but holy Lord do some jerks venture into Mad Men territory. Maybe that comely lass is flirting with you, but probably she's not. Chances are she's just being friendly and doing her job. Which is not your cue to bust out the potty mouth.

"We get the, 'Let me buy you a shot, darling,'" says Bise. "That's just going to happen. But I don't understand the guys who say, 'Let's get some breakfast later.' I'm not even putting that vibe out there, and it's not like I'm working at the Tilted Kilt. I think it doesn't matter, guys or girls. The bartender is just a god or goddess. I've had my crushes. But when it gets crude, sexual, it gets really, really uncomfortable. Who thinks it's OK to say that stuff?"

Bise, it is obvious, has encountered half of West Sixth Street, all of Parma, and our Uncle Terry.

On Closing Time:

Yeah it's 2:30, but you're not ready to stop yet. Sorry. You gotta leave. The bartenders have to yank your drinks and start cleaning up. Don't be a dick.

"They want to stay and stay and stay and stay," says Novak. "When we ask you once or twice, just go. Don't make us ask 10 times and act like we don't exist."

Bartenders are not ghosts. And the fact that you dropped an extra two bits on the bar doesn't make you a VIP. As the old saying goes: "You don't have to go home, but please at least mosey to the sidewalk before you pass out and vomit on yourself. I have enough to clean."

On Scoring Free Drinks:

Stick around long enough, be polite, get to know the bartender, and tip well, and you might get some freebies tossed your way. Just don't ask for them — and don't whine if it doesn't happen.

"I'll buy drinks and comp drinks," says Bise. "And no one really asks, but don't ever say, 'Make this a heavy pour.'"

Also, avoid saying, "Make this a stout pour," which is more confusing than it is inappropriate.

Things No Person Should Ever Do:

"When it gets busy and loud, sometimes we lean over the bar just so we can hear what you're saying," says Bise. "A guy once grabbed my face when I was doing that and kissed me. He wasn't even hammered. I'm normally polite, but ..."

So yeah, add that to Puking Publicly, Going Behind the Bar, and ordering anything made with Pucker. No-no's all.

"Hey, we're the ones fueling them with booze," says Novak. "You're dealing with drunk people. You can tell them how to act, but they'll never listen."

But maybe they can read. Well ...

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About The Author

Vince Grzegorek

Vince Grzegorek has been with Scene since 2007 and editor-in-chief since 2012. He previously worked at Discount Drug Mart and Texas Roadhouse.
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