We Chicagoans can stumble out of our apartments or offices, throw a rock and hit at least three bars. The likelihood that one of those bars will be our regular bar is pretty good. And since you'll be there all the damn time, here are some tips to ensure that you are your bar of choice's favorite patron.
Be low maintenance
If you're "that guy with the complicated order," the bartenders will remember you, and not in a good way. As with every other job and every other industry, the client who has the fewest ridiculous demands is the FAVORITE client. Similarly, know what you want to order, be it food or drink. Bar staff will be more than happy to help you make a decision if you're unsure, but don't monopolize their time—they've got a lot of other people to help.
A lot of people are on the "buck a drink" tip system, which works fine in college because all drinks in college (all drinks where I went to college, anyway) are less than $5. But we're not in college anymore. We have graduated to a lifestyle of craft beers and awesome cocktails, and those things cost more money. Tipping $1 on a $12 labor-intensive cocktail or an $8 craft beer kind of sucks. Do the math and be fair about it.
Know your bartender
This is a no-brainer. If you're going to post up at their bar three nights a week, it is absolutely to your benefit to get to know the people pouring your beers. I used to work at a place that was almost entirely populated with regulars and I knew ALL of them. I knew their drinks and food orders and jobs and who they were dating, and they knew a similar amount of information about me. At that point, it makes it feel less like you're going out to get drunk and more like you're going to hang out with your friends and have a few beers. It makes the bar feel like family, and that is a seriously wonderful feeling.
Don't expect freebies
Just because you come into a business a few nights a week does not mean you are entitled to free things from that business. Some customers seem to think that statement doesn't apply to bars. I used to work at a place where guy told me that he deserved something because of all the money he'd spent at the bar. Well I spend a lot of money at J. Crew, but I don't expect them to hand me free cashmere. A bar is still a business, and no one is entitled to free things.
Show the love
Your regular bar is a haven, a home away from home with a better collection of booze. It becomes a place to share stories and make friends and poor decisions. Treat the staff at your regular bar with love, and they'll be sure to do the same to you.
RedEye special contributor Stacey Andeen is a Chicago bartender.
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