The bartender just cut you off. What did I do to deserve that? Unfortunately, I have had to cut many people off in my time as a bartender. Or, simply find reasons to slow service time.

So, what did you do to tick him off? Most likely, you have either a serious attitude problem or you’re intoxicated. There can be any number of additional reasons, but these two are probably responsible for 90% of the incidents which resulted in you getting cut off.

There are many ways that you, as a customer, can really tick off the bartender to the extent that he ignores you – or has you removed from the bar. What can he do? Well, a lot, as it turns out.

But aren’t bartenders supposed to provide great customer service no matter what? Yes, in theory. But this is the real world.

A liquor license is a very valuable commodity, and every experienced bartender knows that it’s his job to protect that license. And his other customers and fellow employees.

Which brings up the question: “Isn’t the customer always right?” Nope. Not when it comes to serving alcohol. If you’re going to exhibit behavior that irritates other guests – or puts the liquor license in jeopardy – you’re never right.

Bartenders can be fickle. Insult or harass them and they’re liable to simply ignore you. Or short pour you. But aren’t they supposed to give me the drink I ordered no matter what? Yes. Again, that’s the way it’s supposed to work, but the real world doesn’t operate that way.

On the flip side, many bartenders overreact. Usually inexperienced bartenders, or those that shouldn’t be behind the bar in the first place. Some good bartending experience alleviates so many of these problems.

On a side note, many people applying for their first bartending job miss a very big point here. Bar owners and managers do prefer experience – but not for the reasons you may think. Handling daily situations, in the appropriate manner, requires a great amount of hands-on experience.

What Bartenders Do When You Tick Them Off

Sure, knowing drink recipes and navigating your way around a POS system is some great experience. But how much experience do you have in dealing with unruly customers? Checking ID’s? Spotting an intoxicated person?

Let’s first take a look at why bartenders cut people off. Keep in mind that they can cut you off for any reason they see fit. They do have the power, misguided at times, but power nonetheless.

Reasons Why Bartender Cut You Off

A bartender can cut you off for any number of reasons. In fact, as with any private business, they have the ‘right to refuse service to anyone.’ It may not seem fair, but we’re dealing with alcohol here.

And we’re dealing with the law here. Liquor licenses are very valuable these days, and there are very strict laws that govern how a bar serving liquor should operate. Interesting stuff.

Here are the most common reasons for being cut off:

You’re intoxicated

Yep. The number one reason for cutting someone off. You may not believe that you’ve had too much to drink – but who does? Sure, you came into the bar to have a few drinks and relax. Have a good time. Mind your own business. However, the effects of alcohol do tend to creep up on people.

This is where bartending experience comes into play. Sure, people do drink to alter their mindset. For some, one drink accomplishes that purpose. For others, multiple drinks. And still others get totally wiped out – intentionally.

However, just because you may have overindulged doesn’t mean the bartender is going to cut you off. A person with just one drink under his belt can be cut off. Even someone who has had no drinks.

I have seen many people enter the bar intoxicated hoping to get served. Maybe they tossed off a pint or a 12-Pack before coming in. Or, were cut off at the bar down the street. The experienced bartender can usually tell what the deal is.

Arguing gets you nowhere. This ticks off the bartender even more. Accept the free coffee or soda, mellow out a bit, and then be on your way. Most bartenders will happily serve you the following day.

You’re Under the Influence of Drugs

If you’ve been tending bar for any length of time – you will encounter people under the influence of drugs. I’m not talking about using marijuana here – I’m talking about hard-core drugs. Cocaine, meth, heroin, etc.

Bartenders are certainly not experts in the field of drug use and abuse, but’s it’s relatively easy to notice someone ‘just not acting right.’ And don’t even get me started on those attempting to deal drugs in your bar.

You say that it’s none of the bartender’s business if you’re using drugs? Think again. Obvious intoxication, no matter what the drug, puts a bartender in a bad situation. And the bar.

Side Note: Bartenders need to be careful with this. Accusing someone of illicit behavior is serious business – so tread lightly.

I’ll give you a real-life example. I was working at a very busy sports bar early in my career, and one of our regular customers was a survivor of a pretty bad car accident. He was left with some minor brain damage, and acted a little bit ‘differently.’

Great guy, and I was well aware of what he had gone through to get back to a certain amount of normalcy. Anyway, the state Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC), guys were in checking out the place as they would do periodically.

I was behind the bar, and one of them specifically told me that we should cut this guy off because he was intoxicated. He then proceeded to “give me the business” about over-serving bar patrons. I immediately corrected him by explaining the situation.

Not taking my word for it, the ABC Officer engaged with this customer, and I noticed that they talked for quite a time. Turns out the officer agreed with me and apologized.

There’s a lesson here: Experienced bartenders need to be aware of the signs of intoxication – but should never assume that someone is acting ‘a bit off’ simply because of drug or alcohol abuse.

You’re Physically Abusive

A very quick way to tick off your bartender is by physically abusing a fellow customer. Or any employee. There’s no reason for it. And, intoxicated or not, you’re going to be shown the door. Physical abuse is no longer tolerated in any situation – why should a bar be any different?

You also have a very good chance of being arrested. The last thing a bar wants is a reputation for fighting – or generally being out of control. The police and other authorities pick up on this real quick – and start monitoring the bar’s activities.

You’re Verbally Abusive

Some people do have a tendency to get verbally abusive after a few drinks. Of course, some people don’t need any ‘encouragement’ to act in this way, but if you expect to continue being served alcohol – using abusive language is not the way to go. Towards other guests or the bartender.

Harassing anyone on staff at a bar is not a good idea. You’re probably going to be cut off, and, if necessary, the police may get involved. The actions of an abusive customer spread like wildfire among the staff. No one wants to wait on these types of people.

Verbally abusive behavior has additional repercussions. What about the rest of the customers at the bar? They didn’t come in to listen to someone spout off.

Bartenders must take into consideration the needs and well-being of all his customers – not just those of the guy playing the role of big-shot.

You’re Underage

Green And Blue ID Fraud

If you’re underage, why are you trying to get served in the first place? Bartenders have zero tolerance for underage drinking as they fully understand that it puts their job in jeopardy. Not on my watch, and it’s going to tick me off.

Do you want to see a bartender mad? Then let him catch someone underage drinking. Nothing infuriated me more than to discover that a minor is drinking in my bar. No respect, and you’re putting everyone’s job in jeopardy.

Reasons Why Someone Under Age is Drinking In a Bar

  • Another customer gave them a drink
  • They stole a drink off a dirty/vacant table
  • They used a fake ID (A really good one)
  • No one on staff is paying attention
  • The bartender/bouncer knowingly allowed it

The above are all common, but the last one, knowingly allowing it, has no excuse. Any bartender/server/bouncer, etc., that knowingly allows minors to drink alcohol in their establishment should be fired immediately. And prosecuted.

OK, so they can cut you off. But what if they don’t? What if they maintain their professionalism and “put up with a little of my crap?’ Well, they do have other options. Here are a few:

The Bartended Short Pour

Yes, bartenders will short pour you. Nefarious reasons (ripping off the house), aside, bartenders are known to short pour those people that are ‘difficult.’ I don’t know of too many bartenders that haven’t done this.

Right or wrong – it’s going to happen. The key is to not let it happen to you. Waving money, yelling for attention, or banging on the bar isn’t going to work. Be smart.

And, of course, there’s always the “Hey man. You hook me up and I’ll hook you up.” I see. So, if I rip off the house by over-pouring for you – you’ll leave me a big tip? Yeah, that’ll happen. There’s nothing more obnoxious than this type of customer. I might just short pour you for that reason alone.

The Bartender Ignores You

Yelling or waving money to get a bartender’s attention is not the best way to get served. Sure, it gets busy sometimes, but just know that he’s looking for you. He sees you, and he’ll get to your needs just as soon as possible.

If you continue with this behavior, many bartenders will continue to ignore you. They’ll suddenly find something more important to do than get you a drink. Instead, try to gain eye contact and you’ll be just fine.

So what do I do if I’m polite and he continues to ignore me? Maybe he’s the one that’s being unprofessional. It happens. Find a different bartender, or complain to management.


Don’t tick your bartender off. Bartenders, like everyone else in the food and beverage industry, are in place to provide excellent customer service – and bring those customers back. It’s can be a bit tricky when alcohol is involved, but experienced bartenders know how to handle sticky situations.

Being polite, in any situation, goes a long way. Remember that bartenders must protect their employer’s liquor license. If you’re being an idiot – you’ve probably ticked off the bartender enough to either be cut off or ignored. Don’t be one of those people.

Related Bartending Topics

Can a bartender confiscate my ID? The short answer is yes. Is it fake? Are you using someone else’s ID? If so, they probably can. For more about Fake Id’s, read my post on how Bartenders Spot Fake Id’s.

There are many different laws regarding this matter as states vary in what bartenders and bouncers can do is this type of situation. Check your local laws.

Remember – bartenders can always call the police if they believe you are in possession of a fake ID. They’ll let the police make the decision.

Will I go to jail if I get caught with a fake ID? Maybe. We’re talking about a false or counterfeit document here. Most likely, if you were using a fake ID to buy alcohol, the police may write you a ticket on the spot and require you to appear in court. Not good.