Here at Northern Gentleman we enjoy an occasional pint or two (or three…). Having been a pub patron for quite a while, I’ve noticed that there seem to be two types of people who go to the pub:
- People who go to pubs regularly; and
- People who went into a pub thinking it was a bar or club.
Before we get into proper etiquette for the pub, it is important to understand the difference between a bar and a pub, so we created this handy reference chart:
|In a pub, you’ll find…||In a bar, you’ll find…|
|Patrons||A cross-section of the community. A stock broker might pull up a stool next to a waste management engineer (that’s a garbage man for those who aren’t yet fully politically correct).||Depending on the location and ambiance of the bar, you may find either a crowd of drunken university-age people or the senior management of a Fortune 500 company. But you won’t find them in the same bar.|
|Selection||A wide selection of beer, whisky, wine and, if it’s a more traditional pub, cider. They will also have harder alcohol, but the selection is typically limited and is normally of a high quality.||Hard alcohol. Vodka and rum are the main ingredients in the drinks served in a bar. There will also be a selection of beer, but it is typically limited to the larger brand names and you’re lucky to find more than four or five options.|
|Food||Traditionally filling meals such as bangers and mash, liver and onions, shepherd’s pie and fish and chips. You can also find burgers, but they’re typically a bit more gourmet and have “fancy” toppings like goat cheese or avocado. You’ll also find a selection of salads and appetizers like wings or bruschetta.||French fries, cheese burgers, wings, chicken fingers and basically anything else that can be par-cooked, frozen and then heated up by dropping it into a deep-fryer.|
|Music||Depending on the pub you go to, you’ll typically either encounter classic rock, easy listening or traditional British pub music.||Deafening rock, techno, dance or house music. Often run by a DJ in the later hours of the evening.|
Now that we’re all on the same page regarding what a bar is and what a pub is, we can examine the proper etiquette that should be employed on your next pub visit. Based on extensive research and experience, Northern Gentleman presents… “The Five Pub Commandments”.
#1 – Thou shall not slap your server on the ass.
Your server in the pub is probably a university student or someone’s mom, not a piece of meat. She doesn’t need you groping her. She may smile and not raise a fuss, but I guarantee that she’s thinking “What a tool”.
#2 – Thou shall not get so drunk that you have to be carried out.
Really, this applies to anywhere you drink, but a pub is a community place to relax, enjoy a pint and have a conversation with interesting people. If you can’t string a sentence together or are trying to pick up every female in the place, you must have gotten lost. You meant to go to a bar or a dance club.
#3 – Thou shall tip at least 15%.
Again, this rule typically applies to anywhere you eat or drink (unless your food comes on a tray or in a Styrofoam box), but a pub is a civilized place where the staff will bend over backwards for you if you show the proper level of civility. Remember, many of the staff are working parents or students and they’re already generally earning less than minimum wage because they count on the tips to bring them to or above whatever minimum wage is.
#4 – Thou shall learn the staff’s names.
If you decide to make a particular pub your go-to place, take some time and get to know the staff. Learn their names, their interests, what they do when they’re not slinging food and drink. Granted, there is a fine line between genuine interest and lechery, so be careful about what questions you ask and how you phrase them.
#5 – Thou shall be sociable.
A pub is a micro-community. As we saw in the chart earlier, you may sit down next to someone you’d never encounter in your day-to-day activities. Talk to them, they’re probably pretty interesting. Just make sure you read the room first. If someone is hunkered down at the bar with an arm around their food, eating prison-style they’re probably not up for a chat. However, if someone’s reading a book or the paper, that’s a great conversation starter for you.
As an example of the five commandments in action, I’ll invite you to a typical night in my favorite local pub here in Toronto. It’s called the Duke of Somerset.
The barman’s name is, no, wait, I’m not going to tell you. Go in and ask him yourself. While you’re there, introduce yourself to the serving staff. They’re nice young people who remember my name and my usual order. They’re also quick to suggest a new beer if they think I’d like it based on my order history. On a typical night I walk in and sit in my usual seat and take out my book or the newspaper. Within a few minutes my usual server walks by to say hi and confirm my order (which I haven’t made yet, but she remembers it from last time). She’ll also let me know if there’s a new beer on tap that she thinks I might like and has, on occasion, been known to bring a sampler with her when she first comes over. If it’s not busy she might sit or stand and chat a bit with me before heading off to fill my order or help someone else out.
After I eat I usually take a seat at the bar. This gives me a chance to catch up with the barman and see what he thinks of the newest offerings on tap or chat about the trivia league he runs on Tuesdays. I might also strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to me about whatever is on the TV or the book they’re reading, but it’s just as likely that they’ll strike up a conversation with me first.
What you won’t typically see in the Duke (or any pub) is someone who’s so sloshed they can’t stand up or someone rude enough to reach over you or shove you while you’re grabbing a pint at the bar. It’s a civilized place for civilized people where they can have a civilized conversation and meet new and interesting people.
At the end of my evening, I walk out of the pub and head home. I’m not sloshed, I haven’t got my pockets full of fake phone numbers and I still have my hearing. Very much not the experience I had in my younger days in the bar scene.
Next time you walk into a pub, keep the five commandments in mind (or print them out and laminate them if you’ve got a bad memory) and I guarantee that you’ll have an enjoyable evening out that you’ll actually remember the next morning.