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January 21, 2009

Is it OK for bartenders to eat at the bar?

MS reader Dances With Cheesesteaks sent me this email the other day, about his experience out at a local restaurant. Check it out, and tell me what you think:

I was out last night for dinner at a local restaurant and thought of a new blog topic, based on our experience.
Here was our ordeal: We sat at the bar for a few drinks first, then ordered apps and dinner (I would rather not name the restaurant). There were two bartenders serving us. After our main course was served, BOTH bartenders began eating their dinner at the bar ...

Normally, I would have not noticed this behavior, let alone cared.  However, our needs began to be neglected, as the bartenders were feasting on their dinner.
I realize bartenders, as well as the servers, can get hungry during their shifts. I just think that BOTH bartenders should not have been eating their dinner at the same time. I also believe that they should not have eaten their dinner in front of the patrons.
How in inappropriate were their actions? Tacky? What are your thoughts?
The food was excellent BTW!

Dances With Cheesesteaks

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:15 AM | | Comments (27)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


What time was it? and how busy was the bar?

Even if you guys were the only ones in the bar, poor form. Waiters and serving staff don't eat in front of patrons, and neither should bartenders.

if they were actually sitting at the bar, that's a bit much. however, if they're eating behind the bar, i don't think there's anything wrong with that. if they've got a bunch of napkins to wipe their hands off, then everything should be pretty good. there's nothing worse than a glass that's handed to you, with an imprint of a palm made in cheeseburger grease.

As long as it doesn't interfere with service - i.e. both not eating at the same time etc, I wouldn't mind if the bartenders ate in front of me. If anything, it might give me confidence that the food is good.

You know, I hung out with some friends in D.C. over the weekend, and it dawned on my why I love Baltimore's nightlife so much. Places I went in the Capital oozed elitism and pretentiousness, and these were the neighborhood bars! So, I tend to enjoy the unpretentiousness of the Bmore scene, the down-homeism of our city. It's a little messy, but whateve, that's the attractive part of drinkin' in Charm City.

I like this blog, but thought this week has just been a tad bit [gripe-filled] toward the scene in general.

Once again, bad form from service workers in Baltimore. This is ridiculous, un sanitary and rude. I cannot believe we have come to accept this kind of crass behavior. If they are not going to perform their duties as professionals, then they should not expect to paid for their services. Why on earth would they eat at the same time?

Have to maybe side with GMan on this one... Can we talk about something bars are doing right instead?

Thank you Canton Kate~ it seems like the most recent past blogs on here are negative towards bars in Baltimore and their Staff. WTF?

CantonKate and Anon, thanks for the comments.

Since I started Midnight Sun back in April of 2007, I've written about all kinds of bar- and music-related stuff. Good stuff, bad stuff, weird stuff -- a little bit of everything. And I understand if you feel like the past few posts have been negative, but in truth, the posts themselves have just been questions meant to spark a discussion: "Is it OK for a bartender to eat at the bar?"

"Can you put a time limit on a reservation?"

"Is it wrong for bars to ask you for a credit card when they start a tab?"

"What happens when you leave your credit card at a bar?"

And each of these posts has started a pretty interesting (sometimes even heated) discussion. And hopefully, they have made patrons and bar owners think a little bit about the way things are done here -- for good or ill.

Believe it or not, Midnight Sun has actually inspired some bar owners to change the way they think about things, and even add some things to their businesses. And I think if I only wrote positive things about bars, Midnight Sun wouldn't be taken seriously, and I wouldn't be properly serving readers.

When I like something a bar is doing, I'm the first to tell you. And when I don't like something a bar is doing, I'm the first to tell you.

So thanks for reading, and don't worry, it's not all negative here.

When I used to work in the food industry it was a HUGE no no to ever be seen eating in front of patrons.
Maybe times have changed......

I have friends who are bar-tenders and I have watched them grab a meal while working. But they will always make sure the patrons are attended to first, before taking a bite of their food. Which sometimes mean before they finish their burger, they have made 3 drinks and submitted 2 food orders.

I think that the topics lately have been interesting and thought provoking. It's good to hear from patrons and restaurant workers so both sides of an issue can be aired. Sometimes it's negative, sometimes it's positive, but it's always enlightening.

Are they washing their hands afterwards? Think about it. Some bartender is eating french fries -- they are essentially putting their fingers in their mouth. Then you order a drink. They put those same fingers in a dish of limes for your gin and tonic. Sounds delicious, doesn't it?

I eat at the bar I work at. If I serve someone while eating I make sure to wash my hands first.

We've never had complaints about it. In fact a lot of our customers will order food with us when we order our lunch from elsewhere.

Then again our customers come for the cheap drinks and to socialize, it's not really the atmosphere that pulls them in (otherwise we would have no customers)

I have learned a lot from reading Sam's Blog. I have put a lot of what I have read into practice. I now have a water bidet for my glasses, a new awning, and I almost have a working fireplace. I am still looking forward to learning more from this blog. I do believe that employees shouldn't eat behind the bars, it just looks bad.

Thanks for everybody's input.

When (and if) we get fed we have an area behind the bar where we sit out food. It isn't completely out of view but we never ever sit at the bar. We eat a bite of food when time permits. And those are joyous days. I've lost weight over football season due to the kitchen being so slammed.
We try to be discreet when we do get food...but sometimes it's impossible.

I've served in chain and non-chain places. No employee was ever allowed to eat in front of customers, bar or not. We used to have plates sitting in the back, run by and grab something and eat it while still running lol. Similarly, smoking (outside) was always in the back of the building or where a customer walking by on the street could not see.

Not a big deal in my book -- provided it's in a low-key, neighborhood-type bar. For fancier establishments, it's poor form.

Eatting at the bar while serving customers is tacky. Not a practice the Board of Health would approve of either.With people hyperaware of grems these days could turn off and lose customers like me.

I do enjoy this blog, and the discussions. Just thought this week it came a little quick with the 1-2-uppercuts in terms of bar etiquette. For me, the fun part of going out is the adventure. I don't want to see uniformity in my service, atmosphere, etc. There are holes in this town I wouldn't buy a burger in, but that doesn't mean I would want them to change what they were doing. As Azeem said in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves "Allah loves wondrous variety."

Again, avid reader here, and ain't going anywhere.

The only reason I don't like it is because then they start to ignore you. I also understand how unpleasant it can be to eat in the back with all the cooks so I get why they would rather eat at the bar.

Word. :)

what the heck is a "grem" and how can i avoid one?

ss2 - a "grem" is a cross dressing germ and no, you can't avoid either of them all of the time, I've tried. lol

Sam, Here's something that I would like to get people's opinion about. What about bartenders texting behind the bar or just looking at their cell phones? Drives me crazy! It's happening everywhere, not just behind the bar. I've seen it anywhere from City Hall to the local grocery store.


Cellphones/mobile phones, whether voice or texting, seem to created an incontinence or lack of restraint to be in endless contact with friends and/or family and they often take precedence over what their doing as some feel compelled to answer every call.

1) It's rude and inconsiderate of present company.
I spoke with a lady who said the family vacation really started after she took everyone’s' cellphone away because it was only then that everyone was focus on the same activity.
I've also seem such stupidity as co-workers go out to lunch and never speak to each other because their on their cellphone the whole time except when ordering. For some reason a fair number of people speak louder on the phone then when they speak in conversation which enhances other peoples' dining experience.

2) It's disruptive to doing job in not only the actual performance but you tend to feel you're interrupting, and I, for one, wouldn't want to interrupt with such nuisance as tipping after not feeling I wasn't worth this person's full attention anytime while I was there.

Is it OK for bartenders to eat at the bar? yes, if the place is a real dive, someplace you wont find me.

That texting thing, look forward to smaller tip and may be no return to said bartender or bar.

Enuff said!


Not that I think that texting or talking on a cell phone while serving customers is right. I don't.

However, I do not understand what the big deal is with people talking on phones in public in general. Many people have argued the fact that it is rude in a waiting room or elevator setting. I say it's not. In fact, it's less annoying than two people having a conversation because it is in fact, less noise. It's only one voice, not two.

And as far as co-workers going out to lunch. Perhaps some people (myself included) do not feel the need to be friends with their coworkers and do not feel the need to make small talk with people they barely know (and have no desire to know).

I am of the opinion that just because I work with you doesn't automatically make me your friend. I am there to work, not chit chat. I would 1,000 times over rather eat by myself with my phone than eat and have to talk to coworkers. In fact, every job I've had, I eat at my desk and not in the lunchroom for that very reason.

And I am not some mean, unsocial person. I just have plenty of friends and family and just don't see the point in making small talk (ever). Not with strangers, coworkers, or anyone else.


"And as far as co-workers going out to lunch. Perhaps some people (myself included) do not feel the need to be friends with their coworkers and do not feel the need to make small talk with people they barely know (and have no desire to know)."

Pray tell, why waste non-work time in their company all for any reason?

People on cellphones.

1) My sister who is a nurse has fought with people who insist on using them even though it is posted they are forbidden because they may interfer with the monitoring units which communicate by radio signals.

2) In urban areas, I've regularly had to be beware of Yuppy types and young mothers pushing strollers walking absentmindedly into/through traffic.

3) Restuarant/bar situations where the people tend to talk on them louder than normal conversation, like two kids with cans and piece of string.
In close quarters, I'm not remotely interested in being an audience to what they at the next table have to say to person on the other end say* while rudely ignoring and talking across over people's attempt at conversation.

4) There some people I know who are on them so much you can't have a conversation with them because their constantly being interrupted to answer a call they have to answer and usually have no notion of what was being discussed if the call was longer than five minutes.

* and people thought the folks on "Seinfeld" talked about nothing, at least that was occasionally entertaining or I could turn it off.

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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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