Sometimes you really do want to go where everybody knows your name. If you've played your cards right, your favorite place will know your drink order, have a secret parking spot for you and let you stick around after hours. The art of the regular takes practice, so here are a few tricks to stay in the good graces of your home away from home.
Let's just start with tipping. It's not that you have to over-tip, but a consistent 20% tip or more is important because you know you will be back and, as a regular, you are paying for more than attentive service. Learning where the employees park, walking in without being ID'd, an invitation to the round of shots the bartenders take on duty: These are just a few of the perks, and your generosity will be rewarded with a free round or a heavy pour. Put faith in the system and it will all come out in the wash.
The bar is more than the bartender. While he or she may certainly be the high priest or priestess in our temples of inebriation, don't forget to show love all around the club. In business, it's long understood you should be nicest to the assistants, and the same idea is true here. Don't forsake the busboys, the occasional cook who pops out of the kitchen, the cocktail waitresses and, my god, the doorman.
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Guess who can grab you that late-night taco from the back when the bar is slammed? That cook. Not quite ready to leave at 2 a.m.? Now the doorman will kick you out last. Or, better yet, all the cocktail waitresses will tell you to go to back tables and hide - now you're after-partying with the staff till 3, all because you were friendly to some fine folks who were going to take care of you, either way.
The etiquette of a good regular isn't unlike the etiquette of a good guest. It's not about tipping your way into favor or drinking enough to pay the rent on your favorite watering hole. It's about being the kind of guest who gets invited back, and taking an extra step or two to add to the festivity of a place you care about.
Learn the names, and learn their kids' names. Learn a birthday. Know the other regulars. Bring a Christmas gift, or a plate on Thanksgiving, a night the service industry is always working. Don't be the guy who never leaves, don't be the lady crying at the end of the bar.
These are our town squares, where we watch our teams win, where we toast new years, where we make fools of ourselves and have regrets. Find one place and make it more your home than others. Just don't forget to treat it like family, and damn it, you've got to be kind.