Unfortunately, I have had to fire many bartenders throughout the years. So, why do bartenders get fired? Usually for theft, but there are many additional factors that will determine how long a bartender keeps his job. That’s what we’re going to discuss in this lesson.

I don’t wish to alarm you here. Yes, there are some people that just don’t belong in the bartending profession – but that’s not you. I’m sure you’ll do fine if you follow House Policy and just be nice!

While performing some new research on this subject, I realized that there have been few changes in the last I don’t know how many years. And, everything fits with my experience. Some things never change.

This is a rather short lesson – I just want you to be aware of the main reasons that bartenders are getting fired these days. You’ll find that many of these reasons are the same across any industry.

Common Reasons Why Bartenders Get Fired


The #1 reason. There is a reason why I devoted the previous three lessons to theft. Some people just don’t get it. It’s not your bar. It’s not your booze.

But it’s not just over-pouring or giving out freebies. Or not ringing up drinks and stuffing cash in your pocket. It’s also blatant theft by walking out the door with food, liquor, supplies, etc. Bartenders (and other employees), get caught doing this all the time.

I thoroughly discussed theft in the previous 3 lessons – no need to go into detail here.

Disrespectful Behavior

Uncooperative, aggressive, escalating bad behavior, harassment, misconduct, insubordination – I could go on and on. Bartenders are in the “People” business for gosh sakes!

We went through the “Soft Skills” that all good bartenders should possess in Section 4. Disrespectful behavior is on the opposite end of these skills. Be nice! To customers, fellow employees, your bosses, etc. Leave the crap at home.

Customer Complaints

This is a biggie. The bar manager will tolerate only so many customer complaints. If you’re consistently being complained about, especially during your first few weeks or months on the job, you’re toast.

Bartenders Get Fired For Over-Pouring

Complaints don’t have to be coming from the customers only. What about fellow employees? Are you playing nicely? Your first few weeks on the job should be spent trying to learn all you can while maintaining a polite, positive attitude. Be a team player!

Again, It really doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to be nice to people. And becoming more proficient at your job. Follow the rules, ask questions, and focus on helping to provide a great customer experience to everyone who walks through that door.

Chronic Tardiness/Missing Shifts

Common across all industries. As a bartender, you put in a grueling 8 hours shift. It’s 6:00 pm, Happy Hour is over, and you’re ready to cash out and hit the road. Oops….the night bartender hasn’t shown up yet.

What about the opening shift? If you’re late, guess who has to set up the bar? That’s right – the Bar Manger. I’ve been in that situation way too many times. Chronically late bartenders don’t last long, believe me.

This will happen only so many times until the Bar Manger starts looking for a new bartender. The Food & Beverage Industry is a bit different than so many other industries. We can’t put people on “hold.” Our customers expect to be waited on.

Not showing up for shifts? You’re gone. Sooner rather than later. I won’t even discuss this further. If you think you can show up for shifts whenever you wish – you’re in the wrong profession.

Social Media Negativity

This is a newer way (along with chronic cell phone use), to get yourself fired. Keep your Social Media clean when it comes to your job. I mention more about Social Media in the “Job Preparation” section coming up. You better scrub it…

No, your manager, or the bar owner, is probably not monitoring your Social Media. What about your fellow employees and new-found friends at the bar? It’s just a matter of time before negative postings about your job get back to management.

Cell Phone Use

Bars are all over the place when it comes to House Policies on cell phone use at work. All I can tell you at this time is to follow the policy.

As a bar customer, there is nothing ruder than trying to order a drink while the bartender is on his phone. Don’t do it. Leave your phone in your locker, your car – or silenced in a safe place in your work area.

You’ll get a few warnings. Maybe a write up. The main complaints will come from customers. Bar managers aren’t stupid – and they’re always around (or should be). If you’re constantly on your phone – there’s trouble brewing around the corner.

Cell phone use at work is becoming a huge problem. Business News Daily dives deep on this subject.

House Policy Violations

This goes without saying. Please, know and follow the house policies. You may think that some of these policies are not important. Maybe to you they’re not, but they are in place for a reason.

If you’re consistently violating or ignoring these policies, it’s just a matter of time…


This will get you fired real quick. “I’m not feeling well this morning – I’m going to stay home in bed.” That’s where you better be. Enough said on that.

What if the bar manager asks you if you just gave out a free drink (you did), and you lie and say you didn’t? Oops. What if you’re asked if you checked that table for ID’s? You didn’t – but said you did. Ouch. Be honest – be fine.


Yep. Some bartenders get drunk. Before work, during work, after work. Even if the law, and House Policies, say it’s OK to have a drink once in a while – it doesn’t mean you get drunk.

Bartender Presenting Blended Blue Cocktail

And, yes, you can smell liquor on another person’s breath. Even vodka – so let’s destroy that myth right now. Bar managers and fellow employees aren’t stupid.

There are laws in place for employee substance abuse. The bar has to follow them. I won’t go into it here, but if you have an alcohol abuse problem (or your boss thinks you do), they may send you to Human Resources and off to a treatment program.

High/Drug Use

Same as alcohol above. Drug laws are constantly changing, and I have noticed a lot of marijuana use lately – while on the job. Just because something is legal doesn’t mean you should be “partaking.”

Careful with this. I’m not the drug and alcohol police – but remember that there is a time and place for everything. If you’re showing up for work high (again, bar managers are not stupid), you’re asking for trouble. And, please, forego that bong hit 30 minutes before your interview!

Failure to Meet Expectations

You always have the lowest till amount – consistently low sales. You move slow. You don’t “suggestive sell.” Your physical appearance is sloppy. You’re always hung over. You’re habitually late for work.

You have a hard time dealing with pressure. Fellow employees cannot rely on you. Customers don’t like you. Your cash drawer is consistently off. You don’t know the difference between “shaken” or “stirred.”

You get the picture….

New Management

This happens more often than you would think. Bars do change hands – and the new owners have a completely different idea of who they want working in their bar.

Move on. There’s nothing else you can do. Don’t bad-mouth the company – or the new owners. You’re experienced now, and there are plenty of jobs out there for good bartenders.

New Place – Overstaffing

This happens quite often – through no fault of your own. Or is it? When a brand-new place opens up, they always over-hire. Always. Will you be one of those bartenders that is let go after things calm down and management has a fairly good idea of how many employees they need?

This is why my bartending course here goes into much more detail than any other course. It’s not just about getting your first job – it’s also about “knowing the ropes” so you can survive situations just like this.

Protect your job. Show up on time. Continue learning. Follow house policies. Be nice! You want the bar manager to make an easy decision – keeping you on as a bartender!

OK – that’s it. Common sense goes a long way here – don’t be a doofus!

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

Next Lesson: Introduction to Bartender vs. Customer

Previous Lesson: How Bar Managers Prevent Theft

Back to the Course Start Page: Basic Bartending Course