The Rules of the Bar…


Drinking, in the majority of cultures, is so acceptable it’s the social norm. It’s something most of us do as a sort of second nature that we forget there’s a science to it, that it has its own rules and etiquette or that when it happens there’s actually a human being the other side of whatever you’re saying you want.

This is something I’ve experienced first hand for many years now and figured, in my professional opinion, maybe I could shed some light on the subject and just maybe educate a few people out there into not being the bar-staffs worst day ever.

The only Bar Rules anyone should know. (Pic from


Rule #1: Know what you want BEFORE you approach the bar. Nowhere serves “Umm…”.

We’ve all experienced it at some time or other. Middle of the busy period, a group unknown by anyone in the place rocks up to the bar and starts asking questions about your selections and their prices, then settles for 2 cokes and 2 tap waters and toddles off outside. Or asks about the food on a Sunday lunch while they’re stood next to a carvery unit. It doesn’t help anyone.

Rule #2: The phrase “And a Guinness.” should never be uttered.

It is a faux pas of almost biblical proportions to order a Guinness last. Even if your group is the only one at the bar.

Rule #3: Know your environment. Know your audience.

Sitting yourself down and waiting half an hour before coming to berate the only barman about how no one has been to serve you, in a place that doesn’t give table service, is no one’s fault but your own. The question “Can I have a drink?” is not something you say, ever. The same as complaining about the price of your drink isn’t going to make it any cheaper.

Rule #4: Bar Staff are NOT animals (or strippers).

This means that clicking fingers, whistling, sucking teeth or waving notes around are forbidden. This will put you back of the queue even if someone new arrives. A simple smile or head nod for recognition is all it takes then politely wait your turn. On that note…

Rule #5: You’re next when you’re asked what you’re drinking.

No one wants to form an orderly queue at a bar (I’ve seen it once because I literally refused to serve anyone otherwise- over 4hrs I kept that going!) so telling the barman you’re next because you’ve pushed past 2 other people already and he’s started serving someone else does not make you next. He who controls the booze controls the queue my friend.

Rule #6: The regulars are the regulars.

If the old guy at the end of the bars glass is getting low and you see the barman start him another one in the middle of your round, don’t question him (maybe make sure you’re not paying for it).  That’s John. You may not know but John’s in at the beginning, middle or end of almost everyday, same drink every time. He doesn’t need to order plus we can get our job done faster.

Rule #7: Time is time.

No ifs. No buts. It’s nothing personal it’s a legal requirement to stop selling alcohol. And let’s be honest, after 15mins of being told no, the conversations gotten a little boring. Like it says in that Semisonic song, “Closing time, you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here”.

And there we have it. Pretty simple stuff right? Yet somehow many of us neglect one or many of these simple little tricks for a relatively painless service experience.

Quick note: tips aren’t essential, but it’s preferable. The same as buying the barman a drink will always work in your favour.

Have you broken any of the Bar Rules above? Can you think of any I could add? Let’s start something in the comments below.



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