Unless it was recommended to you by a trusted pal or source (like Supercall, for example), walking into a new bar is always risky. It could be great—any unchartered bar you stumble into can end up being your new favorite neighborhood hang. Or it could be a garbage heap disguised as a bar that serves warm, skunky beer from dirty taps. The next time you set foot in a bar for the first time, keep your eyes peeled for these telltale signs that it’s probably not the best.
You step in a mysterious puddle the second you walk through the door.
It’s not water, it’s not beer—did it just move on its own? If it’s not raining, a mystery puddle inside the entrance of a bar is a harbinger of worse things to come. Better to carefully lift your foot out of the liquid (if it lets you) and return from whence you came.
The only other customer in the bar is the owner of the bar.
And even he looks like he doesn’t want to be there. He just stopped in to pick up the cash from last night and have a quick shot of whiskey.
Or, conversely, the bar is packed—but with new 21-year-olds.
Unless you also just celebrated your 21st birthday, then you probably are not going to enjoy this loud, Instagram story-ing, Fireball shot-filled space.
There’s a strobe light.
Just try and think back to the last time you had a good time when there was a strobe light.
It’s a Saturday night and the bartender looks surprised to see you.
If the concept of someone coming to the bar is novel for the bartender, chances are there’s a good reason people aren’t regularly frequenting the joint. It could always be that it’s just an undiscovered gem, but it’s much more likely that it’s a terrible bar—or some sort of money laundering front. And in our experience, money laundering fronts serve terrible Martinis.
The only beer on tap is Tequiza.
It was discontinued in 2009. So you either walked through a time warp (congratulations and enjoy hearing Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.” for the first time, again) or a bar that hasn’t changed a keg in nearly a decade—at least.
There’s a laminated “bartender wanted” sign on the window.
If the bar is so incapable of holding down a bartender that the “help wanted” sign is now a permanent fixture, then it probably can’t keep customers either.
There’s someone outside trying to bribe you to come in.
Good bars don’t need street hawkers to get people in the door. Even if that hawker is nearly naked or dressed like Pikachu and offering you free shots, resist.
The cocktail on special ends in “tini” but doesn’t start with “mar.”
Unless the bar is having some sort of retro night with an ironic menu of Flirtinis, Islandtinis and Choco-Strawbo-tinis, then there’s a good chance this tini-tastic bar is not the bar for you.
The staff is required to wear “flair.”
It doesn’t matter if it’s pins, quirky hats or Mardi Gras beads long after February is over; forced flair does not a fun atmosphere make. In fact, it usually breeds discontent amongst the staff, which is occasionally transferred to the customers who were lured in by waiters in lederhosen adorned with punny pins.
The owner clearly put more time into coming up with a clever name like “Wish You Were Beer” or “Wine Not?” or “Gin and Beer It” than the menu or cleaning the taps. Chuckle at the funny sign and keep walking.
It’s only ever received press because it’s been the site of a few dozen stabbings.
If you didn’t recognize the bar at first because it wasn’t wrapped in police tape, it’s probably time to calmly collect your things and slowly back out.
People walking out of the bar are saying “Man, that bar sucked.”
It’s a pretty clear sign. Trust it.