Dear Salty: A friend and I were going out for a drink recently at a new-ish spot neither of us had been to before. While we were on round two, a dude came in, obviously altered in some way—maybe drunk, maybe high, not sure. Whatever it was, my radar beeped immediately, because he walked in, took one look at the pair of us, and locked on. It was one of those situations where I just knew we were going to have to work really hard to shake him, and that we might need to finish our drinks and leave.
Weirdly though, I wasn’t alone in it this time. The (male) bartender also saw what was happening, pretty much immediately. As this guy hovered, leaned a little too close, eavesdropped, interjected at random, and generally inserted himself into our conversation, the bartender watched like a hawk.
Well, pretty quickly, I’d had enough, and the bartender immediately told the guy he needed to move to the end of the bar and finish his drink, and that if he said anything else to us, he’d be out the door. Not even a minute later, the dude muttered something under his breath about “classy ladies” and that was it. The bartender came over, grabbed him by the arms, frog-marched him out the door, and locked it behind him, standing there until he left. Start to finish, it was maybe five minutes in total. Maybe shorter.
Obviously I’m glad the bartender was so aware and moved so quickly. What struck me, however, was that this is the first time anything like this has happened to me. Not the guy being “harmless” until it was a problem, that happens all the time, but the bartender knowing immediately what was going on and stepping in so quickly, before anything had really happened. My question is this: How do bartenders decide when to kick somebody out of a bar?
Surprised And Impressed
We servers have a saying: Your right to have a good time ends when you get in the way of someone else’s good time. We all want to have fun when we’re out, right? But if your idea of fun is messing with someone else, you’ve crossed a line. And it seems like more service professionals—like your bartender—are getting tuned into this, which unfortunately was not the case a decade or so ago.
I asked some of my bartender pals your question, SAI, on what would make them toss someone from their establishments, aside from outright violence. One longtime bar veteran said that “men harassing women”—like the situation you describe, dear—is “number one by a mile” in patron behavior that will get you tossed out. Most of my friends agreed that everyone should get one warning, but if your wannabe Casanova can’t keep it together after that, he needs to hit the pavement. Your bartender that night had probably seen enough “altered” customers to know what was bound to come next, and was able to cut all that off at the quick. Later, letches.
It should go without saying—and yet…—that any kind of unwanted touching should not be allowed. Same for bar fights. Sometimes, it’s just a gut feeling that someone’s about to cause a scene, my woman bartender friend says: “I have asked maybe a dozen people to leave. I did not know them, so I wasn’t sure of their drug or drinking history. I didn’t want to serve them. Their behavior was off—lack of eye contact, weird speech, etc.”
What can also be a straight ticket outside, my friends said, is when a customer starts harassing staff, a definite no-no. Bars should be loyal to the hard-working souls employed there and hopefully will not stand for their employees being badgered. Says my female bartender friend, “We had a couple people who were banned forever. It was very personal, as we knew them well. We liked them when they were sober but hated them when they were drunk,” so out the door they went.
I have to say, your question led me down a few paths I wasn’t expecting, considering I haven’t thrown too many folks out of the door in my long (long) serving career. A few of my friends answered that once you’ve fallen off the barstool, or have fallen asleep, your fun times are at an end. One pal caught a guy trying to steal money right out of the till (hopefully, the police were also called). There are degrees, though. One friend pointed out, “Asking for free shit or heavy pours will get you ignored, but not removed. Same with telling me it’s your birthday. That’s about it.” After all, he says, “People are trying to have fun and I’m their host, so it’s important to be understanding.”
So, it’s not so much about a specific list of behaviors as it is a guests’s effect on other people. If someone’s ruining someone else’s good time, they’ve got to go.
I hope you all remember this the next time you go out—make sure fun doesn’t trump safety. SAI’s helpful bartender is part of an extremely welcome trend: bars stepping up efforts to keep women safe, like telling them to ask for an angel shot if they’re feeling uncertain about their date, or putting lids on drinks so they can’t be roofied. Some are hiring plainclothes detectives to hang at the bar and training staff in sexual assault prevention.
Hopefully, like our letter-writer above, your favorite tavern is one of those kinds of places that keeps the safety of its patrons top of mind. (And SAI, I hope you reward that place with frequent visits. Maybe a complimentary mention to the manager about your bartender’s quick thinking that night.) If not, and you feel unsafe, sorry babies—I don’t care how good the happy-hour specials are, but you need to find a new fave place. Salty needs all her readers safe and sound at all times, okay?
Got a question about dining out etiquette? Or just a general question about life we can help you with? Email us: email@example.com