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A Bartender's Guide to Good Bar Service on New Year’s Eve

It can be difficult to get a bartender’s attention in a packed bar on New Year’s Eve. Here are a few tips from bar staff on how to play your cards right.

Next to St. Patrick’s Day, New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest nights of the year for bars. And while that’s great for their bottom line, it also means that patrons will have a tough time fighting through the crowd to actually get a drink. We spoke to a couple of current and former bartenders for tips on grabbing the bartender’s attention and getting decent service in a packed bar.

In short, it’s all about the Benjamins.

“Briefly, the key is always money,” says Alex King, who owns the BW Tavern in Georgia. “Bartenders on a busy night know that they are going to make money, and when it is an open field of bar guests, they are going to flock to the ones that they can make the most money from.”

In other words, if you want good service, be a good tipper. And if you want good service for the duration of the evening, establish yourself as a good tipper early on.

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“On the first round, give a huge tip,” says Cheri Flake, a former bartender. “It won't matter if you ever tip again – which I certainly suggest you do! – that bartender will keep coming back for more in search of another chance to ring that bell.”

That means that even if you plan on opening a tab on your credit card, you should probably pay cash for the first round so you can give your big tip upfront. King says that after establishing yourself as a big tipper in this way, you can switch over to your credit card for subsequent round and give whatever tip you please at the end of the night.

While money talks the loudest, a good attitude can’t hurt either. The bartenders understand that everyone has been waiting a long time, so King notes that it doesn’t help to wave money like an impatient child or look upset about your long wait time. And he reminds patrons that time is precious for bartenders on a night like this.

“When you do get the bartender, do not ask a bunch of questions,” he says. “Have your order ready and speak clearly.”