Bartenders can be very protective of their work areas. As they should be. Any bartender worth his salt knows where every single item is located – and who should and should not be allowed behind the bar.

Your Bartending Work Area: Protect It!

Rookie Mistakes in the Interview: Not knowing who is actually allowed behind the bar. This is a biggie! And, of course, failure to know the basic equipment behind every bar.

The actual set-up behind the bar is discussed in an upcoming lesson about Bar Equipment. This lesson is more about how bartenders need to protect their work environment.

Please – don’t stress about this section. All bars are going to train you (at least I hope they do), and you’ll know where everything is by the end of your first shift. You’ll also be given a list (hopefully) of House Policies regarding what you are responsible for behind the bar – and who is allowed behind the bar. House Policies are discussed in an upcoming section.

The most important thing to remember is that a bar manager is going to have his bartender stations set up exactly the same way so there is consistency – and the bartenders don’t get mixed up and confused.

Get out there and look at real bar setups

Really pay attention to where everything is. You’ll find that most bars follow a general setup pattern with slight variations. It’s also important that you observe the “flow” of work – and who’s actually behind the bar.

Take a seat, and look at how the bar is set up. Ask the bartender questions. Watch and see where his “bartender tools” are. Observe how he uses the bar equipment.

There’s nothing worse than being extremely busy, reaching down for that bottle of rum – and you find yourself pouring gin. Ouch. Who put the gin in the wrong spot?

Brand-new bartenders frequently get into trouble by wanting to do things their way. You may have a better idea, but it’s not how the bar does things! Go with the flow until you get some experience.

Never leave the bar unattended! There’s money in that cash register. And valuable equipment. And your safety is obviously, important. A good bartender knows this, and takes his responsibilities seriously. I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to leave my bar unattended – and open to theft or mayhem.

Who’s allowed behind the bar? You are, of course. And the managers and owners. That’s it. Customers should never be allowed behind the bar! There are, however, some exceptions:

Some People Are Allowed Behind The Bar

  • Managers, of course!
  • Repairmen
  • Health Inspector
  • Fire Marshall
  • Barback
  • Bouncers
  • Who’s bringing you ice? (Could be busboys, servers, bouncers – even cooks)
  • Law Enforcement (They better have a very good reason!)
  • Some vendors (Hanging beer/liquor signs, etc.)
  • Whomever is authorized to give you a break
  • Some bars have really weird set-ups. Food and Cocktail servers (as well as “runners”), may be allowed for short periods of time

All of the above should conduct their business – and promptly get out of your way! You’ll find that most bartenders are very protective of their workspace. I know I am. I’m working here, Dude!

Health Inspectors, Law Enforcement, and Fire Marshalls show up whenever they want. Ask for their ID, if appropriate, and allow them behind the bar – and notify management immediately!

Listen, it’s not just about unauthorized people behind the bar. Bartenders are busy! They’re used to having their space so they can move. A good bartender is always aware of his surroundings – and who’s behind his bar.

If you’re following along in the Basic Bartending Course:

Next Lesson: Setting Up/Tearing Down/Sidework

Previous Lesson: Introduction to Hard Skills

Back to the Course Start Page: Basic Bartending Course