You, you young buck, and your buddies, have drunk your way through the early, mid, and late hours of the evening. You can, now, blearily envision the hated clarion bell of Last Call and, shortly after that, the endless drought of No Booze.
For some, closing down a bar is an accident, one quick pint after work that turned into a 12 pint, 24 shot karaoke extravaganza. For others, closing down a bar is a point of pride. You made it to the end of the night. Adventures were had, your bartender was friendly, generous, and all things are right in the world. For still others, closing down a bar is a non-event, a typical Tuesday, the purgatory they must endure for a few hours until the bars reopen and liquor again flows freely (and legally).
Whatever your reason or circumstance, you have made it to Last Call.
From Last Call until you are tumbled lovingly out the door, you are in a strange No Man’s Land full of texture and unspoken agreements. If you want to survive, pay heed to this advice:
Step 1. Bus the Glasses.
In a busy bar, glasses get left everywhere imaginable. Do you part to grab the glasses you can see and drop them off at the bar. This lets your bartender focus on getting the dishes done rather than waste time searching and collecting them like a very exhausting Easter Egg hunt. This, in turn, gets your bartender that much closer to cashing out and to getting a well deserved drink of their own.
Step 2. Your Bartender’s Needs are Important
Your barkeep has just spent the last eight to ten hours serving and serving and serving. They are probably tired. If they seem chatty, chat with them. Take as much time with your drink as the conversation warrants. Ask if you can put up chairs or wipe down the bar or turn your hand to any light activity on your side of the bar. If they are not in the mood for idle chatter or help, drink your drink quietly. At the end of a night, a quiet bar is a peaceful bar. Respect the peace that has been extended to you to finish your delicious beverage.
Step 3. Don’t Dawdle
If you bartender is in a rush to get out, you’ll know. Future You will thank you for sucking down your swill and popping off as rapidly as possible without giving yourself a conniption. The key is, again, your bartender. From Last Call onwards, your time is the bartender’s time. That can mean anything from getting turfed out at 2am exactly, or it can mean a half-pint extra while the two of you figure out why the ‘89 world series sucked so badly.
Step 4. Tip
You final drink of the night is also your bartender’s last drink of the night. You have seen them make countless drinks all night, every one of them wonderful and every one of them for a specific person’s taste. That last drink of the night deserves something special. And, for bartenders, that something special should be cash. If you can afford it, give an extra buck or two to show your appreciation for a job well done. If you can’t afford it, at least verbally commend your barkeep on a job well done.
5. Never Go Back
Once you’ve stepped out the door, go home. Or go to someone else’s home. Or go anywhere except for back in that bar. Unless you have forgotten a briefcase holding your life savings, vitally needed medicine, or your phone to call your pregnant girlfriend who is actively in labor, don’t go back. Whatever you have left to say, whatever you forgot to bring with you can usually wait. It’s not that important. I promise. Go home and sleep it off. You have the chance to do it all again tomorrow and to pick up your forgotten phone, jacket, dignity, whatever.
Jeff has been a professional writer, bartender, and clown, sometimes all at once. He grew up along California's central coast before disappearing into the wilds of San Francisco. He appeared sporadically in those foggy mists as a featured artist for the Ramshackle Farm art gallery, a founding writer for Mockery Press, and an actor and clown on the Embarcadero and in a number of local theater companies. He tended bar in a range of dive bars before heading East to travel Europe and drink in those sights, and he does mean "drink". After his bank account and his liver required a break, he dropped back into the City and was astonished at how much rents had gone up.
Jeff currently resides in San Francisco and is the proud protector of two apartment-sized animals and a rent controlled apartment lease.