Being a regular at a pub is pretty simple - just show up a lot. But being a good regular, one that the bartenders actually like having around, is an art. It’s all about restraint. In addition to knowing when you should stop drinking, and how to not be an outright dick, the secret to having an enjoyable presence in a pub involves two things which, historically, I am not very good at: being quiet sometimes and not demanding a lot of attention.
The perks of being a regular that bartenders actually like - good gossip, occasional free drinks and food, and the feeling of a slightly elevated social position - outweigh the discomfort of not talking constantly. In addition to that, I have found that there are a few behaviours that pub staff seem to appreciate.
Speak when spoken to
Even though it seems like a relatively fun, social job, your bartender is still at work, and they have tasks to complete. Some of those tasks, like taking your order, require talking to you. Some of them, like making your drink, do not.
Interrupting a bartender who is busy making a drink or taking someone else’s order is rude and disruptive. If you were at work, trying to fix a spreadsheet or a line of code (or whatever it is you do), and someone waltzed into your office space and started chatting at you, you would probably find it annoying. Don’t do it to your bartender.
Bartenders are in the hospitality business. They are not your babysitter, your therapist, or your date. If your attempts to start a quick conversation fizzles out, don’t take it personally.
They might have a sudden rush of orders (read the room), be trying to count money, are busy working on a staffing issue, or are thinking up new menu drinks. If they want to make conversation with you, they will! If they don’t, they won’t, and that’s ok. You have plenty of alternative options: look at your phone, read a book, stare into the abyss, et cetera.
Of course, if you need a drink, get your bartender’s attention and ask for one. Making drinks is the job, but providing you with scintillating conversation is not.
This is particularly important to keep in mind if your bartender is a woman. It never fails to amaze that, in the year 2019, grown men still get wounded if they don’t feel they are receiving enough attention from a female bartender or, worse, interpret attention and pleasant conversation as a sign of true love.
Have normal conversations
If you do find yourself in a conversation with a bartender, resist the urge to challenge their knowledge or expertise. One of the most cringey things I see is when people at bars ask questions they already know the answers to, just so they can impress a date or show off some obscure liquor knowledge. Ask questions you genuinely want to know the answer to, and you will have a much more pleasant, and educational, interaction.
Don’t play ambassador
No matter how many hours you’ve spent at this particular bar, and no matter how well you know the menu, resist the urge to play unofficial spokesperson. You do not work there.
If someone asks the bartender a question, don’t answer it, even if you know the answer. Tempted as you might be to enthusiastically recommend a drink or menu item, let the actual bartender answer the question, and do not invite yourself into a conversation you were not asked to be part of. (If, however, another patron asks you for a recommendation, then feel free to answer it.)
Make your own decisions
“What do you feel like making?” is the worst possible response to “what would you like?” Assuming you’re not ordering a Ramos gin fizz, which is a pain in the butt to make, most cocktails require approximately the same amount of time and effort.
One will not bring more joy to the maker than another. Though being a regular can afford you certain privileges, like getting to test drinks before they appear on the menu, do not expect custom, off-menu drinks every time you show up. Have a drink in mind, or pick one from the menu and order it.
Don’t be a creep
Being a bartender means that anyone can show up to your place of employ every single time you work and stay there, hanging out indefinitely and talking at you. This adds extra vulnerability to the job, as there is nowhere for a bartender to retreat to—particularly if they’re working alone.
This is why it is imperative that, if you want to be a regular at a particular pub, do not try to sleep with the employees of that pub. Don’t even ask them out. If you do, and it goes badly, you have to forfeit your right to that pub because showing up to your ex’s place of business and watching them work is creepy, if not outright cruel.
Being a calm, reasonable adult who doesn’t demand a ton of extra attention and special treatment makes for a great regular visitor. Bartenders want their patrons to have a good experience, especially if those patrons want them to have a good night as well. A squeaky wheel may get the grease, but a cool, quiet regular gets the (occasionally discounted) ethanol.