Life

Bartenders Tell Us The Signals They Look For Before Cutting You Off

Even those of us whose job requires them to visit a large number of bars, saloons, and watering holes, have one too many from time to time. Maybe we got a little overzealous sampling some pub’s vast whiskey collection. Or we lost track of how many pints of discounted lager we enjoyed during happy hour. Either way, we drank too much and (hopefully) left without incident, called an Uber, and slept it off. Life goes on.

But some bar patrons enjoy a few too many drinks and don’t have the wherewithal to give their friends an Irish goodbye and head on out the door before things get out of hand. Alexander Carlin, beverage director of Infuse Hospitality in Chicago knows that someone has had too many when they start to bother other guests.

“Before I start counting the number of drinks the guest has enjoyed or check to see if they are showing physical signs of inebriation, I evaluate if they are intruding on another guest’s experience.” He pauses and adds, “Every person has their limits but when you insert yourself negatively into someone else’s existence I see it as my time to pull you aside and have a little friendly conversation. Sometimes this solves the issue and other times it turns into an Uber ride home. I always offer to take care of this for a guest to make sure they get home safely.”

This isn’t the only bad customer habit exacerbated by inebriation. And maybe, just maybe, hearing from our favorite bartenders about the negative signs that signal them to cut you off will help you recognize them yourself. You could even self-moderate to enjoy your night (and the next day!) more.

Ruining Other People’s Fun

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Cody Henson, beverage director at The Alida in Savannah, Georgia

As soon as you start making a negative impact on anyone else’s fun, it’s time for our relationship to end. Just walk in the door and be respectful. Be respectful to the staff and to the other people at the bar. We’re all here to have a good time.

Slurred Speech

Hjalmar de Boer, food and beverage manager at Conrad New York Midtown in New York City

In my opinion, there are many signs — some very obvious and some slightly less. Tiredness, slurred speech, no coordination and many more. But please — bartenders — don’t just ignore intoxicated guests, get them a glass of water and some food.

Being Belligerent To Other Guests

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Christian Clotter, bartender at The Chester in New York City

Aside from the classic tell-tale signs (slurring, stumbling, glassy eyes), it’d have to be when a patron begins talking belligerently to other guests who clearly do not want to interact with them.

Lack Of Self-Awareness

Sophie Burton, beverage director at Politan in Chicago

If they can’t slow down on ordering another round, even to drink water. Stubbornness and lack of self-awareness is a huge indicator that this person may be nearing a place where it is irresponsible for both their well-being and the business to continue serving.

Buying Drinks For Neighbors

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Eric Reeves, general manager at City Mouse in Chicago

It always stands out to me when people start buying drinks for every stranger around them and then offer to buy me drinks, too. I appreciate your generosity right now, it’s certainly better than a mean drunk, but save some of that money for your cab ride home, friend… it’s time to go.

Aggressive Behavior

Mark Syben, bar managaer at Buccan in Palm Beach. Florida

There is a multitude of signs that a guest is clearly at their limit, such as aggressive behavior, bothering another guest, and slurred speech.

Being A Jerk

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Alexander Carlin, beverage director of Infuse Hospitality in Chicago

This can mean many things but mostly don’t be a jerk. Don’t run around the restaurant at 4 pm screaming the name of your favorite presidential candidate or jump on the bar and profess your love for Jessica Rabbit (but really who doesn’t), or worse hit on someone that isn’t into it.

It is more of a service to a guest to maintain decorum and civility before things get out of hand and they do something they might have to apologize for later. It’s always a sign of a great host and bar professional if they can create an atmosphere where everyone is having a great time and the fun peaks and it’s time to go home before you do something that will require an “I’m sorry”… or worse.

Complaining About Weak Drinks

Steven Staney, general manager of Sombra Jackson in Jackson, Mississippi

Obvious signs are loud, aggressive behavior. Saying drinks are too weak, ordering another when not finished with the drink.

Getting Much Louder

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Bryan Mayer, bartender at Azabu in Miami

When someone around the bar gets much louder than when they started their visit. As Maestro of the bar, it’s your duty to make sure that you’re aware of your bar and everyone at it.

Major Personality Change

Natasha DeHart, founder and master blender of BENDT Distilling Company in Lewisville, Texas

Service industry personnel have to be constantly aware of their customer’s condition. Although one customer may be able to consume one cocktail per hour, others may have one cocktail and be intoxicated. Some signs to look for are loud/slurred speech, change in behavior — becomes rude, sad, angry, inappropriate, aggressive, flirty — and/or a change in balance or overall coordination.

Disrespectful Behavior

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Daniel Sedora, bartender at Time Out Market in Miami

Slurring, disrespectful behavior. I can’t go much in-depth about it other than this, but I consider it part of my job to stop you when you’ve had enough. Safety should always be the main priority.

Confessing Love

Abraham Millett, head bartender at Plunge Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

One perfectly clear sign it’s time to give someone the least favorite number for anyone at a bar (86) is after they’ve started loudly confessing “I love you man,” for the 3rd time and loud enough for the entire bar to hear. Trust me, time to give them water the check and an Uber.

Fighting With Partner

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Andrew Lamkin, lead mixologist at The Alex Speakeasy in Washington, DC

When you’ve done this as long as I have, you just sort of know. Their speech changes, attitudes change, you can sense they might pick a fight with their significant other. Beautiful people can get ugly quick and we want to try and keep that from happening. It’s a bit harder when the person just walked in and they are already a mess. Cutting off the person that you’ve built some rapport with is easier.

Sleeping At The Bar

Leah Stumbo, bar manager at Bar Moxy in Nashville

One of the first and easiest signs to catch is a customer raising his or her voice. Another, perhaps more obvious, signal is when they start dozing off at the bar. As a bartender, we see all personalities across the bar, but those two signs are pretty universal.

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