The ultimate guide to good bar etiquette (as explained by bar staff)
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Britain’s bar staff go through a lot, from argumentative customers to endless ID checks.

The big question is: why is going to the pub still so much of a challenge for people?

We asked some Edinburgh bar staff to explain some of the many things you’ve been doing wrong.

Any refusal is fair refusal

Kevin at Malt & Hops hasn’t been working there too long, but the one thing he does know is that it’s a public house – you’re on other people’s property and adhering to their rules. If they don’t want to serve you, they don’t have to. Stop arguing.

Don’t expect a Michelin-starred kitchen

It’s okay to expect good food, but Kevin has seen a pub where the kitchen was literally a converted cupboard. The Malt & Hops “only do food on Friday, for locals,” and “don’t expect table service”.

But try telling the tourists that.

Asking ‘What do you have?’

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People often ask: “‘What kind of lager do you have?’ and you say ‘we have Tennent’s, we have blah blah blah’ you go through the whole thing.

“You’re waiting and then, ‘What kind of cider do you have?’ and you go ‘we have Strongbow, we have bottles in the fridge blah blah blah’ and in the end they say ‘can I just get a pint of coke then?’. In quiet times it’s alright, but in busy times…”

You can’t complain if your food is cold, if you’ve abandoned it

Credit: Dave Collier, flickr

 Dave Collier / Flickr / CC

Benjamin’s colleague, John, couldn’t stress the dangers of moving tables or messing about with your food order enough.

“Often they say it’s gone cold and they’ve been outside smoking for 15 minutes”

John is the proud owner of a YouTube channel which has dealt with a few of these issues in the past.

Don’t wave money

The ‘lean and wave’ is hated by basically everyone. Benjamin in particular:

“Lets say it’s a Saturday night and someone walks in, it doesn’t matter how many people are at the bar, they’re going to come up waving their money shouting ‘Can I get some service?’. Usually that guy is the last one I serve.”

Stop playing with the candles, it’s not a séance

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Just leave them alone, as Megan at The Black Bull says:

“They ruin them, by stabbing pens inside them, they pour alcohol in them, they pour wax on the table and leave it for us to clean.”

Have you ever tried to clean wax off a table?

Don’t complain about double ID checks

The penalties for not ID-ing people are massive, bar staff are going to ask you, a lot.

“We don’t know if the bouncers have ID’d them [on the door], they might be one of those testers from the police. It’s judgement as well, the bouncers might think ‘oh that person is definitely not under 25’ so they won’t get ID-ed, but if I think think that person looks definitely under 25, I might ID them.”

Read the signs

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“People stand in the hatch or ask to get served in the no service area, when there is a sign clearly in front of them saying ‘No Service Area’. Then you tell them multiple times and they’re always like ‘Oh sorry, I’ll move” and then they go right back there again.”

You know Guinness takes ages. You know that by now

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Always order the Guinness first, we all know that. It’s probably the most famous bar staff gripe.

Kriss at The Mash Tun goes as far as to add: “If you order your drinks separately you should be made to rejoin the queue each time.”

Beer mats are not for tearing

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Grant, Manager at The Mash Tun, was just as bothered about this as he was about people using new menus to prop up wonky tables. Animals.

Don’t step behind the bar

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Never set foot on their turf. Not even a little bit.

Never ask ‘What’s good?’

Paul, a barman who shall remain anonymous in his place of work, said: “What’s good? There’s a whole selection in front of you. We don’t keep ‘special stuff’ underneath the bar, it’s not prohibition America.”

Manners cost nothing

Rachel, who again shall remain bar-less, probably had the biggest collection of advice out of everyone. Apart from wishing people would stop acting surprised when they had to pay, people not looking at you when they order and people ordering a minute before time; her key advice was:

“Just say please and thank you, it’s not hard”

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All Images by Tom Crosby (unless stated otherwise)

Main image by johndal / Flickr / CC