Bartenders are like the unseen, untapped, unheard fountain of wisdom. We don’t even realize they’re often present during our most painful moments and our most celebratory ones. This makes bartenders privy to the general public’s most vulnerable activities – including dating.
As a former bartender, I’ve seen it all. The awkward flirtations, the completely unwanted advances, and the disastrous first-date dialogues that make me think, “Dude, why’d you tell her that?” while rinsing out a tumbler.
I’m by no means a relationship expert, but my time behind the bar has provided me with some (usually unsolicited) insights into what works and what doesn’t. So, from someone that has seen dates crash and burn more times in front of them than they care to count, there are a few things I can recommend from my view on the other side of the bar.
#1) Don’t ask us to be your wingman.
It doesn’t matter how much we like you, or how well we get along, don’t ask us to help you pick someone up. Not only would it be unprofessional on our part, but the chances of us knowing you well enough are slim, making it morally incorrect. Remember, our job is to be friendly, but that doesn’t mean we’re part of your friend group. Save this position for them.
#2) Don’t ply your date with drinks.
If you keep asking her if she wants another drink, you’ll seem suspicious. Even if your intention is polite and considerate, she may get the wrong impression. You don’t want your date to think you’re trying to get her drunk, so just be mindful. If she wants another drink, nine times out of ten, she’ll come out and say it – or order it herself.
#3) Avoid lulls in conversation.
It can be easy to think that the vibrant atmosphere of a bar will make up for any lulls in the conversation, but it’s very much untrue. Especially on a first date, you’ll want to avoid that awkwardness. Come prepared with various talking points. Or, when it does get quiet, take that as a cue to move on to a different activity. Your date likely doesn’t want to sit in a bar all night. Ask her if she’d like to go for a walk.
#4) Pick-up lines don’t work.
And we’re not just talking the corny “Did it hurt when you fell from Heaven?” pick-up line. We’re talking any and all overused lines to get a girl’s attention. If you see a girl at the bar you’re interested in, just be real. Go up to her, make conversation, issue a small compliment, and then pick up on the signals from there. Body language speaks louder than words.
#5) Neither does cockiness.
Showing off how much you can drink, how “tight” you are with the bartender, or bragging about the kind of car you drive are all wrong ways to get a girl’s attention. For some reason, a bar atmosphere (and liquid courage) can have the cockiness effect on even the most down-to-earth guys. Try to avoid the temptation.
#6) There’s a right way to buy her a drink.
I cannot stress this enough: Do not order a drink and then hand deliver it to her. Women are more vigilant than ever about accepting drinks from strangers. If you’d like to buy her a drink, there are two ways to do so. You can approach her, offer to buy her a drink, and then walk up to the bar with her and order it from the bartender together. Or, you can go to the bartender directly and have him/her relay the message.
#7) Pay attention to drinking habits.
Your date’s drinking habits are a major telltale sign – and so are your own. If you’re on a first date, do not keep pounding back drinks. It’ll give your date the impression that you drink too much, or that you need the alcohol to get through your time with her. Similarly, if she is drinking too much and getting sloppy, you may want to take that as a sign that things won’t work out.
#8) Don’t bring us into the conversation.
If it’s a first date, and you’re struggling to make conversation, you may decide to converse with us to ease the tension. This has the opposite effect. It puts us in an awkward position and will make your date feel uninteresting and forgotten. We’re not prepared to jump in and save your date. And, if your attempt to loop us into the conversation starts with “Can you please tell (my date) that…” while your date is sitting right there, just forget it.
#9) Avoid trite departure phrases.
You know the ones. “Do you want to get out of here?” or “Let’s go somewhere quiet where we can talk.” No, no, no. Your date will see this as a red flag, even if they don’t know how to get out of it. It’s also sleazy lingo that’s inauthentic and highly suspicious, even if your intentions aren’t.
#10) Don’t bring all your dates to the same bar.
The staff can’t help it. We’ll recognize you if you’re a regular patron and give you away, much to your dismay. This will not leave a favorable impression on your date. In fact, you may even get hit with an “Oh, so you come here pretty often.” This isn’t just an observation, it’s a judgement. And, even if you do come to the same bar twice, don’t overstate your familiarity with it. This has nothing but negative connotations when it comes to a first impression, unfortunately.
Bonus Tip: Keep It Real
Authenticity is your ultimate ticket to getting the girl. Something about bars and drinking has a tendency to turn people into boisterous, over-confident alternatives of their real selves. If the bartender can tell, so can your romantic interest.
As bartenders, we’ve nursed people through all sorts of life circumstances: breakups, depressive episodes, and even grief. We may just be an apparition pouring booze between the day-to-day events of your life, but we’re also keen observers of human behavior, and have seen our fair share of heartbreak. That also means we’ve seen our fair share of complete and utter happiness.
Fortunately, our front row seat at every momentous human occasion makes us a rather trustworthy source. So, next time you’re at a bar and see someone who catches your eye, take these tips into consideration before you make your move.