Anybody can be friends with a bartender -- there are a lot of bartenders out there, so the odds are pretty good everybody knows at least one of them. But just because a guy knows someone who makes drinks for a living doesn’t mean he’s a friend of the bar. In fact, it might make him the bar’s enemy, or “nemesis” if you want to get fancy. We talked to a ton of bar folk (then forgot most of what they said, then talked to them again) to nail down the differences between a “friend of the bartender” and the much more valued “friend of the bar.”
A friend of the bartender shows up whenever his bartender friend is working.
A friend of the bar shows up whenever any bartender is working.
More Like This
A friend of the bartender brings in friends just so he can brag to them about all the free drinks he gets. He arrives with the expectation that his VIFree status will be conferred to his buddies, who will all tell him that he’s totally awesome once they realize their entire vodka tonnie bill is only like $23.
A friend of the bar is an ambassador for the business. He brings in friends because he thinks they’ll think the bar is cool, and because he thinks his friends are the kind of people the bar would want as regular patrons. He probably gets his fair share of free drinks, but he doesn’t talk about it, and doesn’t expect his friends’ bills to be cut in half just because they’re his friends. They can earn their own damn buybacks.
A friend of the bartender wants his buddy to ignore the rest of his customers and hang out shooting the shit with him. He demands a lot of attention, either because he didn’t bring anyone with him and doesn’t know anyone else, or because he wants everyone to know he’s boys with the guy behind the bar (or both. Both happens too).
A friend of the bar doesn’t rely on the bartender for conversation. He knows everyone on staff, and he knows the other regulars. He might even break out a goddamn magazine or something because he’s so damn comfortable in this place, he doesn’t care if non-regulars think he’s some kinda nerd for reading in a bar.
On a busy night, a friend of the bar helps with the little things (like busing the occasional table, because why not), and is more than willing to run a quick errand (buying more limes, etc.) -- or even do some real work, if he has any experience in the bartending, barbacking, or carrying-stuff fields.
On a busy night, a friend of the bartender just makes it feel even busier.
For a friend of the bar, hooking up with a member of the bar staff is like hooking up with a close friend, only more complicated, because considering how much time both parties spend in the bar, for all practical purposes they pretty much live together. This isn’t to say a friend of the bar would never hook up with staff, but he’d at least give a lot of consideration to what a bad idea it was before ultimately giving in to nature and making a terrible mistake.
For a friend of the bartender, it’s just, like, “Yo, bro, can I hit that?” At which point the bartender has to say, “I work with her, dude,” and the friend of the bartender is all “Yeah man I know” but then he starts trying to hit that anyway and everyone is mad uncomfortable and then later the bartender has to apologize for his friend being such a d-bag.
A friend of the bar won’t try to do the bouncer’s job for him, but he will keep an eye out for trouble, and at the very least help ease tensions. However, if crazy s*** happens, he is ready to jump into the crazy s***.
A friend of the bartender will just stand there watching as the bartender tries to pry off a crazy dude who’s arm-locked himself to the bar and refuses to leave until someone goes and fetches his wife and kids so he can work out an entire life’s worth of emotional issues with them. In the bar.
Half the time, a friend of the bartender isn’t even a particularly good friend of the bartender. A good indication of this: when it turns out their “friend” isn’t working, they helplessly ask someone else at the bar “Hey, is so-and-so working?” instead of just texting the bartender and asking what’s up.
A bar's a place, not a person. Be its friend, and you'll end up friends with every person there.
Special thanks to Nino Cirabisi and the Bonnie Vee for the location. If you haven’t been, they also have a hell of a back garden.