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September 18, 2008

Quick tips: Getting a bartender's attention

mothers grilleI want to start a new occasional feature on Midnight Sun called Quick Tips.

Every so often, I'll talk to someone who works at or goes to bars regularly and post their replies. Don't thank me -- thank MS reader Jason, who came up with the idea.

First up is Queen Colleen, a longtime bartender who currently works at Mother's Federal Hill Grille.

Here is (in her professional opinion) the best way to get a bartender's attention ...

After the last Purple Patio, I knew I was definitely more prone to waiting on the the people who weren't obnoxiously flailing their arms or waving money around like their pants were on fire. 

I definitely stay away from those yelling at me and "pssting" at me to get my attention. When it's busy, it's hard for both sides of the bar. But my best advice is make eye contact with the bartender if possible (sometimes when I am SLAMMED I don't even look up), have your money or credit card available and know exactly what you want to drink.

I'll totally remember this the next time you come to the bar, which ensures quicker drink delivery to you the second and third time around!

I realize this is more of a "what not to do" in a busy bar. I guess my best advice is to just be patient. We want to make money. That's why we are there. Oh and it never hurts to know us personally.  :)

(Sun archive photo) 

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:21 AM | | Comments (20)


Sam, you are so funny!!!! My hubby used to get so angry when he'd wait for drinks. lol

it also helps to be hot. Which I am not. Which is why I wait....and wait....and flail my arms in the end.

Colleen is right about the eye contact. I also like to smile when I make eye contact, so the bartender knows I'm not annoyed and that I know they are busy. I think they like to help pleasant customers when it's busy.

i usually do a combo of waiting for eye contact, and a courteous head nod. more often than not you get a small nod back, and you're good to go

also never, ever, ever snap your fingers. bartenders seem to hate that more than anything in the universe. (not guilty of this practice)

I show off my man-boob cleavage. Works every time.

sometimes it also helps to stand near the where the cash machine is, or if it's a place that does a lot of mixed drinks, to position yourself near the fruit thingy. more opportunity for them to see you

2 cents.

- Don't be afraid to speak up if someone tries to snake up to the bar while you have been waiting. Understand, it can be a free for all but some folks need to be put in their place. Politely, direct the bartender's attention away from the pushy meathead or the b**** and offer to let a nearby young lady whose been waiting, order before you, followed by your order. The only loser is the meathead or b****. The girl gets her order, you tip the bartender well for his/her attention, and you get the satisfaction of [peeving] off some jerk and getting your drink before them. All the while, you possibly earning points with the an eligible girl. Be prepared to deal with a little hostility but it is worth it.

Having your money in your hand and not waving it works the best and definitely know what your order is beforehand. Polite courtesy and a thank you always works and being the Sun columnist that blogs about bars might get you a beer a littlw quicker.

A quick nod with money in hand gets my attention.

Just because you yell out what you want doesn't mean your drink gets to be fixed next, more likely it'll guarantee a last spot behind those waiting.

Also, if you tip well the first time around you'll definitely be watched out for the rest of the night even if your tip is less in the following rounds.

Do not yell "HEY!" Quick way to piss bartenders off and get weaker drinks.

Jade, where do you work?

I'm lucky to know Queen Colleen personally! (lucky not because I get drinks, lucky because she is the coolest - give her big tips!)

I'm not sure why, but strangerthanfiction's post annoyed me. We're all out for a common goal, get more boozie in our collective belly! If a spot opens up at the bar and I can squeeze myself into it, and if the bartender who is clearly in the weeds is slinging drink after drink after drink and runs over and breathlessly asks me what I want, I'm not going to say, "kind barkeep, please serve that gentleman over there with the $20 bill in his hand, I believe he was sitting there when I walked up and I surely don't want to be seen as a b**** by placing an order for adult beverages at this inopportune juncture" - I'm saying "3 miller lites and a vodka tonic please!"

Perhaps, you miss understand, I am not talking about a casual "right place, right time" order at the crowded bar. That is like when you pick the right lane at the toll plaza or the right line at the ATM - "to the victor goes the spoils". I am talking about the D'bags (male and female) that have a sense of entitlement and feel their 3 ML's and vodka tonic's are more important. The ones who reach over you, shout over you, or elbow you in the kidney as they weasel up to the bar. Those are the folks I like to shut down and send to the back of the line. I'm not in a big hurry to get wasted, so I have a few seconds to kill while I inconvenience this type of tool. A small amount of patience and tipping goes a long way toward insuring that you get prompt attention. Be nice, you'll get a turn - I promise.

On the other hand, if the service is overloaded and it is a pain to get a drink, I head for a less crowded place. Why do I want to pay inflated prices to stand around waiting at the bar rather than enjoying myself?

Here's what works for me..first I saddle up to the bar....not behind a chair and not two people back...right up to it...then I get eye contact...then I wait..taking several deep breaths and chilling....then, when the bartender makes his/her way over... I order..say thank you..leave a nice tip and enjoy my drinkie!!! Everybody is happy!

All these tips are very helpful, but what about the next steps? Should i give the bartender some form of payment in exchange for the drink? Is haggling encouraged or frowned upon?

And what do i do when i finally have the drink in my hand? Pour it on the floor? Hurl it at my enemies? Help me!!!

Place called Mallards. off Ingleside

By no means is it a great bar, but it serves it's purpose, getting people drunk for a cheap price. Known for huge shots. No $3 shots of Blue Label though. Good thing, I'd be drunk at work.

BA, it's funny sometimes people do haggle. I tell them you're at a bar, not the flea market!

Its called tipping... if you tip well a bartender will ALWAYS get you first... if you dont tip at all a bartender doesnt care if you need a beer or not

I was thinking about this last night when I found myself at a place where nobody knows my name... I guess my secret is I go to places where I know people, and when thats not possible, I work my way up to the bar, wait patiently, order quickly, tip respectfully and drink responsibly!

I think that in a really really busy bar your only hope is to know the bartender and even then it's tough in a really crowded situation. When I was younger I could deal with that but now I just get so fed up with it so I just go to the same bar and tip really well-that's your only way to guarantee special treatment. The reality is that a bartender who likes you and knows you is probably going to make your evening better so that's worth a little extra money..

It's not all about tipping. Just because you tipped me well doesn't mean you're entitled to not have to wait like everyone else. I'll serve a polite person with manners who tipped me 5cents before I serve a douchebag who through $5 at me.

Know what your drinking, and know how to order it properly. Give me the order in one go, if I forget, I'll ask you. Don't ask for a miller and then when I give it to you, ask for a g&t and a guinness. Don't ask for something like a pina colada that takes time to make when the bartenders obviously getting slammed.

Also, if you pay for every small drink order by credit card, and decline cashback, you're a lowlife waste of a human

It may seem like I'm rude, I'm not. I'm always polite, mannerly and smile, unless someone pisses me off by having zero common sense

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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