I’m bartending the hotel bar, it’s around 10PM, I’ve got a group of people sitting at the bar, all pretty soused. They’re being loud, typical reaction from customers that have consumed over five glasses of wine. My manager approaches, tells me, you need to cut them off. Ugh. The worst part of my job as a bartender is cutting someone off. You’ve been “working with them” for 2-3 hours, interacting with them, dealing with all the things you have to do when they become drunk. And then, in the final stretch, you have to figure out how to cut them off, without pissing them off. And truly, there is an art to cutting them off.
It’s a fine balance. You don’t want to walk on egg shells with them, but on the flip side, you don’t want to be too blunt. Just saying, sorry, I’m cutting you off, doesn’t work. They become extremely defensive, and things get weird. It’s very rare, if unheard of, when you say, I’m cutting you off, that they say, really? Thanks for keeping my best interests in mind. I appreciate that, so give me my tab, and I’ll give you a generous tip. Nope. No one said ever.
It’s more like, you’re cutting me off?!? That’s bullshit. I’m not drunk. Gimme another one. They almost become defiant about it, and want to drink more. And guess what? Here you have a customer you’ve been working with all night, and when you give them the info that you’re cutting them off, there goes a solid line thru the tip line. And that’s not really fair, is it? They’ve been taking up precious real estate at your bar. You’ve been patient with their actions. But then again, you got them there, so it’s your duty as a bartender to sometimes have to clean up the mess of their drunkenness.
But it truly is important to learn how to not over-serve. In the hotel setting, it’s a little bit different, because they’re probably a 30 second walk to the elevator, and up to their room. But when you’re working at a regular bar, they’re probably going to be getting in their car, and you as the bartender might be liable if they get into a car crash, and God forbid, kill themselves, or worse yet, kill someone else.
But as bartenders, we need to man up. This is just part of the job, and you need to come to peace with it. Like every job, there’s aspects that you don’t like to do. For me, cutting people off is one of them, and I’m still trying to perfect it. The outcome of cutting someone off will a lot of times not benefit the tip line. But the alternative might be getting sued for something tragic that happens after they leave the bar, and the responsibility of that might be on the shoulders of the bartender, and the bar he or she works at.
If you take anything away from this, dear drinkers, know that your bartender doesn’t want to cut you off. When they do, try not to take it personally. Know that they’re doing it NOT because they don’t like you, but that it’s in your best interest, and the interests of others. We’re not kicking you out, and we’d love for you to chill out with a glass of water, or help you call an Uber to get you home safe and sound. We know you want to enjoy yourself, and blow off some steam at the end of the workday. But when you’re slurring your words, and can barely ask for another drink coherently, do you really need another drink? Probably not. Let’s get you home, or in your hotel room safely, so that there’s a tomorrow for you to enjoy another drink.