When things are hectic, bartenders are so busy slinging drinks and pouring beers that they don’t really get a chance to look around much. But during the slower times you’d be surprised at what they notice. Your slick pick up lines? They hear them. Your sly ear dig? They catch it.
Of course, some behaviors can’t be missed — whether because they’re so bizarre or so funny. We asked some of our favorite bartenders to share their stories of customers going beyond the standard “taking staff for granted” and veering into pure strange territory.
Tomas van den Boomgaard – Travelle Kitchen + Bar
“One of the strangest things I have seen from behind the bar is when a guest paid with cash and we gave him exact change back and he got extremely offended that we gave him coins. Like coins apparently are for peasants and not for the uber rich finance guys. Another story which is not mine but given by our bartender, Grace Carl. She once had a pretty intoxicated guest come into the bar and light up a cigarette. After she told him he was not allowed to smoke, he went over and sat underneath a table and continued to smoke. They called the cops and when the cops came, he ran into the bathroom and locked himself in. They ended breaking into the bathroom to remove him from the property.”
Trevor Bierwirth – SideDoor
“I’ve had a pint glass thrown at me for cutting off a young lady’s friend on her 21st birthday. I also had a guest who was trying to be a hot shot and buy everyone at the bar drinks – this went on for about an hour and a half. Shockingly, when he received his bill, all three credit cards he tried to use were declined.”
Nikos Mantzaridis – Gin + Collins
“The strangest thing behind the bar I ever saw was a so-called bartender yelling at a customer about an order because he didn’t think it was a cocktail. He told him if he wanted the drink, he had to have it at home and kicked him out of the bar!”
Danielle Lindow – Hyatt Regency Chicago
“I went out for drinks after work in Logan Square and decided to sit at the bar instead of waiting for a table. I ordered my drink, and the bartender began to do some flair. That part was normal until he grabbed three ping pong balls, instead of a normal juggling trick he began to juggle them with his mouth. When one of the balls fell into my drink, the bartender called it ‘garnish.’ I called it waste spillage.”
Amy Witz – Stetsons Modern Steak + Sushi
“I was talking to a bartender in the Gold Coast who said she was recently her friend’s assistant in a magic show. She asked if I wanted to see a trick, and she blew up a three-foot-long balloon and then swallowed it.”
Zach Rivera – Headquarters Beercade
“My favorite is when drunk people drink things they’re not supposed to. Years ago, I worked at a college tiki bar, and we would put out display fish bowls. Obviously, we didn’t put alcohol in them. People would drink out of them all the time and pretended that they had purchased them. Most of the time it was warm water and food coloring. More recently, somebody took my bar spoons out of a glass of soda water and chugged it. That glass had been there for hours. Remnants of apple sauce among other things we’re sitting at the bottom. Delicious.”
Billy Nichols – Faun
“One night when I was bartending, the upstairs neighbors gigantic dog got loose in the restaurant. The stairwell that led up to the apartment also had a door that opened into the back of the restaurant and somehow the dog made it through. The dog was knocking over tables and jumping up on people. That dog knew how to have a good time.”