Three-Finger Discounts

How do Dallas bar patrons score free drinks?

"I try not to make it come out of my pocket," Williams says flatly.

Bartenders prefer to reserve comp drinks for regulars and big tippers. Each bartender defines a regular in slightly different terms, of course. But they begin extending the courtesies due a regular--a greeting, a handshake, etc.--when they know a patron's name and favorite drink without hesitation.

Tipping seems to enhance their memory. "No matter how busy you are, you remember who tipped well and who didn't tip at all," says Bauman. "The guy who throws out a buck here and a buck there, we know it, and they get service." Big spenders also receive special treatment. "We have customers who spend $50 to $100 every time they come in," says Smokey Hill, bar manager at Sipango. "Of course we're going to buy them a drink."

Location Info


Whisky Bar

1930 Greenville Ave.
Dallas, TX 75206

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: East Dallas & Lakewood

Champps Americana

855 W. John Carpenter Freeway
Irving, TX 75039

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Irving & Las Colinas

Café Brazil

611 N. Bishop Ave. Ste, #101
Dallas, TX 75208

Category: Restaurant > Cafe

Region: Oak Cliff & South Dallas

The Old Crow

1911 Greenville Ave.
Dallas, TX 75206-7438

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: East Dallas & Lakewood

The Londoner Pub

5454 Main St.
Frisco, TX 75034-3599

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Frisco

The Old Monk

2847 Henderson Ave.
Dallas, TX 75206

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: East Dallas & Lakewood

"To say, 'There's no Crown in here,' will get you nowhere," warns Matthew, the surnameless Samba Room bartender. "Put down a five and say that it's light, and I'll pour half a bottle in there."

But flashing a few bucks seems like an expensive route to a free drink. The Burning Question crew tried it with some success, but we were using crisp bills pulled surreptitiously from our editor's petty cash drawer. (Editor's note: He's lying. We don't consider any amount of cash "petty.")

The most effective trick patrons use to score free drinks involves female breasts and the public display thereof. "Something that always works for a free drink is showing their tits," Bauman confirms. It's a fairly common practice at Dallas-area establishments, and the Burning Question crew considered it so crucial to this week's research that we spent an inordinate amount of time spotting flashers--you know, to confirm the information. Hell, it even works on female bartenders. "I bought a girl a drink for that before," Seer admits. "It gets guys riled up, and they start buying drinks."

Unfortunately, no male equivalent exists. We tried.

But attractive women often receive preferential treatment at bars, including free drinks. "A pretty woman will bring 20 guys to the bar, and the guys tip," claims Hill. "It's our payoff."

All in all, however, it seems slight recompense for an evening subjected to complaints, lies and fraud. "It's just part of the business," Williams reasons. "It's not a surprise, but it's definitely annoying. It's just a $3 or $4 drink. People will lie for nothing." Still, that nothing may end up costing bartenders or the bars plenty.

"If they're really good [at scamming], we'll never know about it," Morgan says. "We'll just come up short at the end of the night and say, 'How'd that happen?'"

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