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Being a "Regular"

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On the Per Se thread Wilfrid suggested we could have an interesting thread about becoming a regular in a bar, what it entails, what is expected, etc.


I have only been a true regular in 3 bars, of course, I'm quite young and I get pleasant chills down my spine thinking of all the bars I have yet to frequent.


In case you are curious, here are the bars:


Harvey's, Kalamazoo, Michigan, now closed

Green Top, Kalamazoo, Michigan

and Club Lago, Chicago, Illinois


Harvey's was an accident as it was the bar where I turned 21 and it was right down the street. It didn't take much to become a regular there. They used to let you spark up a joint in back by the pinball machines if you were discreet about it :rolleyes: and they used to see me coming down the street and have my White Russian already mixed by the time I walked in. Sadly, the owners closed it.


The Green Top is a fantastic dive bar that I highly recommend if any of you ever make it to Kalamazoo ;) They have a top-notch jukebox and 2 reformed alcoholic bartenders who absolutely love a good bar fight. Their drinks are strong as hell and you can get can beer for $1. The place is so cheap that it really doesn't matter if you are not comp'd. They also have a package license. They like my friends and I and have said they consider us "regulars," although the only privileges we get are never getting cut off even when one of us is face down on the table, and never getting kicked out when the police come to squash the violence. They just let us sit there until the police leave.


I became a regular at Club Lago the old-fashioned way, by diligently spending my money in that bar and only in that bar, often in the early afternoon, and talking politics with the lovely Nardini Brothers (owners and bartenders). I think I first realized I was a regular there when of the Bros. introduced me to someone as "Liz, our culinary student and resident lush." It gave me the warm fuzzies, and it was not long after that that I started to get comp'd. It was also not long after that that they started letting me behind the bar to play CDs, even though I had a bad habit of spinning Steely Dan's "Aja" on repeat for hours and hours.


For me, being a regular is not so much about getting comp'd as it is about getting my drink before the rest of the drunks get theirs. Not having to wave your money in the bartenders' face, etc. However it is nice to bring a big group of people into the bar where you are a regular and have them knock 20 or 30% off your check. It is also nice to be able to decide what kind of music you want to hear.


So what about you? Where are you a regular, and can I come drink on your good vibes?

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The only place I'm a regular these days is my family room.


Becoming a regular? Go at a slow time, the same time every week, talk to the bartenders, the barbacks, the dishwasher, the bum they let panhandle out front, pretty much anybody and everybody.


I do expect the occasional comp, but as Nero said I expect more that when I go in and the bar is three people deep, that my drink magically appears in my hand without having been ordered. In return, I leave ridiculously large tips. Most importantly, I expect to be asked to play on the bar softball team.


The last place I was a regular was a neighborhood place in grad school. More than once it was pretty much just me and the owner. Our deal was basically that he didn't charge me for any beer that I went behind the bar and poured for myself.

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Nice stories.


Yes, the best time to get to know a bar is when it is slow, and it should reward you when it's busy. The effort required with some restaurants pales into insignificance compared with some bars, especially where the owners/regulars pride themselves on being "characters". I drank in the Coach & Horses in London's Soho on a regular basis for almost five years before the manager* would seriously acknowedge me. Ironically, now that I have become an ex-pat, he greets my occasional visits effusively, and ignores all other customers until I am served and comfortable. It was a little easier with younger members of staff, and essential if you wanted to get served on busy nights. Writer Jeffrey Bernard once described drink service in the Coach as like "watching people pour glue".


One is also at risk of staff changes. A year ago, the two bars I used regularly on Avenue C had people working behind the bar I knew well enough to socialize with. I drank practically free every night for months. Then they went and got different jobs. :rolleyes:


*For those who know the Coach, I am talking about the manager, not the owner. I think I would need to put in another twenty years before getting a sodding Xmas mug from Norman.

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Sadly, I know longer enjoy the status of a "regular" at any bar.


When I lived in Memphis I was a regular at:


Alex's Tavern: Rocky (owner) and Art (surly barkeep) have to put up with a lot of crap from Rhodes students, but they treat the regulars and restaurant-folk like royalty. Even a buddy of mine who mistook the kitchen for the men's room and pissed on the stove wasn't banned. They still let him sleep in the back booth.


Zinnie's: You had your choice between Old Stan and Young Stan, but both could make a mean drink. Gotta love a bar where you can pick a fight with someone twice your size and the bartenders kick him out when he takes a swing at you.


Zinnie's East: Sometimes you need a change in scenery, so you walk 50 feet east on Madison. Also, it was so close to my apartment that my cordless phone worked there.


Two Way Inn: Good place for afternoon beer drinking when you are broke. Frozen fishbowls of swill taste fine when you have pillaged the sofa cushions for spare change to pay the tab. Never sit in the last booth. Unless that smell doesn't bother you.

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In return, I leave ridiculously large tips.

Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner. This will get you comped, and this will get you noticed and served promptly. Remember though that even a regular should never "expect" a comp, and in some places (I have learned) they are actually illegal. On the other hand, a good bartender will learn how to use the well-placed comp to keep the business -- and the ricidulously large tips -- coming in.





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club lago :rolleyes:


i felt so stupid when i asked you why they had two fax machines in there. it was also nice how the 'one day' bartender gave me a free drink after i spilled mine.



the two places i used to be regulars at were the map room and the rainbo club. nelson algren used to hang out at the rainbo club, i think it was called the circus in 'the man with the golden arm'. they had the best pinball machine there, i would post about it in the pinball forum if there was one.

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When I was in high school, I was a regular at two places (shocking, I know). The Candlelight Inn in Scarsdale, NY was an unbelievably divey shack on the several mile long strip mall known as Central Avenue. No one was ever carded in there. They served my sister a drink when she was 14. If you wore light-colored clothing to the Candlelight you had the pleasure of seeing the grime you had carried away with you. The drinks were unbelievably cheap, as were the pitchers of beer. My other hangout was the Hilltop in Purchase, New York. The Hilltop was a short drive from my school, which was run by a pack of intellectual, left-wing nuns and had very few rules. There was not, for example, a rule against leaving campus for your lunch period and spending it in a bar smoking and drinking. The Hilltop had a slightly less lax attitude towards underage drinking so I, who was rather tall and well-developed for my age, was usually delegated to purchase the beers. I guess I looked at least 18 even if I was wearing a kilt and blazer with the school crest on it. The Hilltop had excellent food, too and although not by any means fancy was at least not filthy like the Candlelight was.


I am now a regular, I guess, at the Chelsea Bar Veloce. I know most of the bartenders and I almost always get something on the house. I was a regular at Raoul's for ages and ages and while I don't go there so often now I am still greeted like an old friend (the staff hardly ever turns over there), especially by the Sunday night bartender who is a very nice guy as well as being a good artist--I have been to several of his shows.

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The Queen’s Head, Great Wenham. My village pub. Fen doom central.


The Swan, Ipswich. Notable only for George, what my mate Booth called a “regional poet”, i.e., a barking mad mutterer. Overheard exchange between George and barmaid:


Barmaid: What did you have for supper tonight, George.

George: Pig, badger and tomato.

Barmaid (without missing a beat): Oh, your favourite.


Constable Bar (though we didn’t call it that). Hotel bar. Loathsome. I have no idea why we went there.




The Granta. Pleasant setting on the backs but they did it up after my first year and made it looked like a sauna.


A pub on King Street, the name of which I forget. They served Abbot Ale. ‘Nough said.


The Panton Arms. Great pub with occasional bands (Robyn Hitchcock* before he became famous).




The Bobbin Mill. Again hideous and with crap beer. The only excuse is proximity and a good dartboard.




The Moon. Good beer, horrible place, close to work.


The Queen’s Larder. Horrible beer, nice place. Full of Faber and Faber types.


New York


For a while we used to go to the bar of the restaurant where Village is now and the name of which I forget, presumably because of the size of their brandies.


With the exception of the BotRwViN, I don’t think I’ve ever received any special treatment at any of these. Of course, for most of them I was a student and properly despised.


*OK, before he became moderately less totally unknown.

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You know you are a regular when:


-The staff knows you by name.


-The staff knows where you prefer to sit.


-The staff knows who you like to wait on you, and who you very much do not (but that goes to your regularlly scheduled visits).


-The staff knows your pubbing schedule and can set their watches to it.


-The staff knows what you drink, and eat.


-The staff knows your significant other and are discreet when you are seated with someone else for an evening, being apparently charmed by said stranger's company.


-The staff attends to your drinkies despite a large crowd surrounding the bar. They will produce the drinkies and hand them to you all the while others look on without you ever speaking a word other than "Thanks!".


-The staff understands sign langauge, i.e., the old "Peace" sign, turned back and forth (front and back) indicating two more shots and beers.


-The staff always runs you a tab without the requesting.


-The staff will kindly program the tellies to your preference, sometimes without even having to ask.


-The staff will share their own ordered and delivered pizza with you.


-The staff/management quietly indicate you are welcome to remain as they clean and have their "afterhours" shift drinkies for themselves.


-The staff invites you to cool parties.


-The staff will create a drink in your honour, and may even appear on their cocktail list.



How does one get there?


Park yourself at your choice of venue and choice of barstool, with some regularity. Chat with the tenders. Really get to know them, and have some laughs. Large tips aren't always necessary, but are always nice and makes you memorable at an accelerated rate.



What *not* to do as a regular?


-Click your fingers, whistle at the staff like their are lost dogs, forget to tip something (bar staff will also know when you are going through tough times), or worse, forget to pay your tab.


-Never be so arrogant and attempt to utilise your perceived leverage so as to loudly proclaim in large crowd "I know these guys. Hey! Mike! My regular please!" This only works when hundies are being tipped each round, and even then you will still be resented. :rolleyes:



Hmmm, I may supplement with addendums as I commit to becoming an upright, functioning individual (a very late night of movie watching for moi) and of course, chatting with some of our regulars and fellow tenders. ;)




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-The staff knows where you prefer to sit.

Certain staff think it very funny to grab my seat when they're on their break. :rolleyes:

;) omni, his bottom or his chair? Or both? ;)



Back to Wilfred.


That all depends. Mostly, I'm rather unamused by that presumptive rudeness. However, when it is that beautiful specimen of a human being, Doug who works next door, he can have my chair anytime. ;)

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Becoming a regular is not difficult for me. I've achieved it in as few as a couple of visits. I have a certain way of looking the barperson in the eye, a little twinkle, a faint suggestion of a knowing smile that might be saying "Yes, I know you see a hundred different faces every day, but you and I -- we've got something here... we're simpatico. You can see I'm not your average schmoe, but someone with refinement, with understanding. Yes... you can see I am cool." Works every time. That, and the 40% tips.

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New York


For a while we used to go to the bar of the restaurant where Village is now and the name of which I forget, presumably because of the size of their brandies.

That would've been Bondini's, Italian restaurant, with OK food and bar/lounge at front. Interesting small group used to congregate there: a man who was a dead ringer for Gore Vidal; an elderly couple: the wife would sit at the bar with her eyes closed all the time and we thought she was blind, but we found out later she could see perfectly well; a younger woman who came in infrequently who said she was related to Jack Kerouac, I think it was. And of course the 20lb restaurant cat used to join us (how she got onto a bar stool, I forget).


The other place we were regulars at was Texarkana (restaurant had a bar; it's now where Alta is, formerly L-Ray). One of the barmen was an an ex-marine and he squashed with his bare hands the cockroaches marching along the bar. The other barman was a good-looking Irish musician. Both were very generous with drinks on the house, no doubt something to do with the establishment going into bankruptcy. It was quite lively: One time, must've been the 4th of July, an American flag was set alight at the bar. Oh, and there was often free bar food: fried oysters and the like. I still miss that place.

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