The Thin Man‘s Nick Charles generally had things figured out
There’s home, and then there’s home. More incisively, there’s the place where you reap the benefits and suffer the burdens of claiming personal residential space, and then there’s a safe haven where your only responsibility is to indulge, i.e. a bar.
Whether it’s a barely standing watering hole where you share welcomed tales of woe, a more sophisticated saloon that provides familial camaraderie, or the kindly corner pub that welcomes you as if you’re the mayor of Anytown, U.S.A., one’s relationship to their local tap house is essential to a long and happy life.
In many ways, courting the favor of your preferred bar’s populace is like wooing a romantic conquest.
So call this the “Don’t be an Asshole” doctrine, which will ensure you’ll always have a stool for your ass and a smile on your side, no matter who’s against you at the homestead. Or think about it as a call to common sense. But there is nuance to becoming a beloved bar regular, embraced by fellow frequent customers and longtime staff alike. Here are some tips on guaranteeing that you’ll always have a place go where everybody knows your name, even if they’re too drunk half the time to remember it.
1. Be mysterious
In many ways, courting the favor of your preferred bar’s populace is like wooing a romantic conquest. At first blush, don’t seem desperate. Be cool, keep to yourself without seeming entirely standoffish, and appear occupied with more than just endless pints of beer. Bring a newspaper or crossword book with you, welcome polite conversation when it comes and stay above the fray when it beckons. Interesting, established regulars will eventually open their ranks, and your kindly servers will have determined you can be trusted and let down their guard. Both sides will have passed the other’s unofficial test for not being a weirdo, and friendships will emerge.
2. Ask questions
Once you and surrounding crew/patrons have cemented that you’re all flesh-and-blood human beings bound by chance and circumstance, dispatch the clichéd entitlement that buying a shot of whiskey means you get to selfishly bend someone’s ear for a while. Get to know that graduate student or mother of four behind the bar, assume the sot to your left has a story to tell that may just rival yours, and generally appreciate that at their best, bars can be a microcosm of community. And you can contribute to that. Or you can just live in some fantasy where giving a place regular business puts them forever at your behest. Not to mention that’s a pretty shitty fantasy.
Thought you’d get through this article without a Cheers photo, eh?
3. Be a hero
This one’s tricky, because when handled sloppily, it could amount to you looking for trouble and being cast out, left to slum it at some inferior outpost a la Jerry and the Seinfeld gang’s disappointing lunches at Reggie’s. Nor do you want to inaccurately size up a developing fracas and get your ass kicked. But if you truly see unwieldy customers acting outside of the business’s implied code of conduct (whether harassing their neighbors, damaging bar property, etc.), and there’s no one else around to put an end to the insanity, be an advocate for your second home and instruct the offending parties that their behavior is unacceptable. And if they challenge you to defend your position in a round of fisticuffs, run. Your work is already done, and when the owner or manager hears of your valor, they will forever be grateful—especially that you didn’t get your ass kicked and sue them for liability.
4. Never get too wasted
This is like the old trick where your buddy calls for two shots and swigs his down while you mimic the act but really toss the liquor over your shoulder like wedding-day rice. The reality is, if you’re a fixture at the bar who gets dependably drunk every visit, and those visits turn into mini-residencies, you likely have a drinking problem. But per the aforementioned community ethos, think about the overall environment you feel comfortable in, and do your best to lead by example. Or, at minimum, not contribute to the degeneration. Not to mention the last thing you need are new faces to stare at with hung-over remorse after a long night of exhibitionist carousing. It’s a lot easier to feel un-conflicted about your own steady tavern attendance when you typically leave with your head held high and speech un-slurred. And it will ensure you’re the kind of guy weary bartenders want around, especially in case they need a hero.
5. Don’t be cheap
It’s amazing how so many people feel like this is the venue to demonstrate they’ll be as frugal as they wanna be. Save your saving for transactions that require less personal interaction: online shopping, slot machines, last-second holiday gifts for your in-laws. But if you want to be part of a bar’s club of regulars, you gotta pay your dues. And who’s more deserving than the poor schmucks laboring on their feet to serve you one glass after the next of liquid escape? Even if you’d never ordinarily ration your funds with such whimsy anywhere else, tip that extra five percent, buy the kind-but-lonely regular to your right a Jameson and offer a congratulatory round for the veteran barkeep leaving for the greener pastures of a 9-to-5 job. Do this, along with following the other, above-listed steps, and you’ll have more than just your own real-life Sam and Norm—you’ll have a home.