An open letter to anyone who goes to the bar

As a bartender, I usually hear news before it happens. Somehow, this story slipped by me, and I’d like to share it since I think it slipped by a lot of other people, too.

On the night of Feb. 19, a female bartender in Chicago was savagely beaten by an off-duty police officer after cutting him off from drinking.

Quite a few things about this story set me off, first, and foremost, that no one did anything. Security camera footage is easily found on the Internet that shows three male patrons standing by and watching the attack. Had he not been a police officer, he would most likely have been arrested and would face stiffer charges. The sad part is, I think this could have easily been avoided. There are a few things I, as a bartender, would like to share with you, the consumer. My only hope is such an act of violence and disrespect never happens again.

Few people go to the bar looking to get wasted and start trouble. Most people are just looking to go out and have fun. I love working behind the bar, and generally feel safe. Cutting people off is sometimes a scary situation because people can get belligerent, but it’s part of the job. I am there to make sure everyone is taken care of to the best of my ability. The better you take care of me, the better I take care of you. Here’s a few easy things you can do:

Tip, duh. The standard is $1 per drink. Forgive me if I don’t kiss your butt for a quarter, and please don’t act like you’re doing me a favor by leaving me that much, either. Don’t jump up and down, shout my name over and over, or shove your empty drink in my face. I see you. If it’s busy, I get to you as soon as I possibly can (hint: if you tip really well, you’ll usually get quicker service even on the busiest nights).

I, personally, do not usually drink on the job, so I consider myself the clear-headed voice of reason. Every drink you have passes through my hands. Individual tolerance aside, if I feel you’ve had enough, accept it—it happens to the best of us. If you really want to drink more, go to another bar or grab a 12-pack and go home. Don’t give me lip about it or try to beg for another one. I’m just doing my job and looking out for myself, and everyone in the place, yourself included.

You men also like to get a little frisky. I don’t mind flirting, but I do not want my butt grabbed or my back rubbed by anyone other than my boyfriend. Please, do not persist in these matters. Unfortunately, I cannot leave if someone is being offensive or making me feel uncomfortable. I usually just ignore you if that happens, but if you don’t stop, it’s my call. Respect that, and move on. If you’re looking for something more, find a friendlier bartender.

I’ve seen people do pretty much anything when they’re drunk. I’m always on the lookout for something that could happen; bars at closing time are unpredictable places. Just remember that you’ve been partying and drinking all night, and I’ve been working. I bust my butt back there to make sure everyone is taken care of all night long.

Fellow bartenders, you know our job can be difficult enough. The slightest pleasantries from a few people can make our nights a whole lot better. Please, extend me the courtesy I extend you, and we’ll all have a lot more fun.

Thank you,

The Bartender

from the May 2-8, 2007, issue

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