Hey, bartender! Can I buy you a drink?
Buying a bartender a drink or a shot is a show of appreciation guests will occasionally extend when they’re having a good time. It’s also a way of building loyalty among guests. However, depending on where you live, it also might be illegal.
For example, I live in Vermont where the state forbids bar and restaurant employees from consuming alcohol while working. According to William Goggins, director of education, licensing and enforcement for the Vermont Department of Liquor Control, “violation could result in a warning, a $510 fine, suspension or revocation of the liquor license.”
But even if it is legal in your state, house rules may prohibit bartenders from accepting a drink. The thing is, letting a bartender drink is a slippery slope. Nursing a drink or two over the course of a shift or joining in for a couple shots is one thing, but depending on how disciplined the bartender is, it may not end there.
Drunken bartenders are bad for business. They will make mistakes at the register and at the well. More than that, it’s irresponsible. If they are drunk, they will not be as aware of what’s going on in the room, and will likely not be in any shape to take charge should something happen that requires them to step in.
If you want to treat your bartender, keep in mind that even if he/she can have a drink, he/she may still decline. Some people prefer not to drink while working, or they may not drink at all. Respect that. Another option is to offer to buy him/her an after-shift drink.
And remember: while a drink is a fine gesture, being a good tipper is still the best way to show your appreciation for good service.
In the time-honored tradition of bartenders telling jokes, I’m going to end these columns with a standup clip. Enjoy.
Jim Sabataso is a freelance writer and part-time bartender living in Vermont. Have a bar- or cocktail-related or question, you’d like answered? Send it to him on Twitter @JimSabataso with the hashtag #heybartender.