Behind the Counter

By Jessica Jacobs

Photo by Reina Suio

Photo by Reina Suio

Inside the Bartender’s Eyes

La Shea McKinney is a senior at Long Beach State. She’s just like you, except instead of going out for drinks with her friends on a Saturday night, she’s serving them.

McKinney works for The Cocktail Concierge, a catering company that works events such as entertainment industry socials, weddings, festivals, and parties. Along the way, McKinney has met celebrities including Trey Songz, Michael Douglas, Khloe Kardashian, and more.

Her work-life on the surface might seem luxurious; who doesn’t like meeting famous people who provide plentiful tips? However, McKinney isn’t always working expensive parties and serving polite guests. Her general encounters with customers range from courteous to disruptive. One time, a drunk customer yelled at McKinney because she went on her required 10-minute break. 

Photo by Reina Suio

Photo by Reina Suio

In every job there are the occasional rude customers, but with an alcohol-involved work environment, McKinney handles lots of less-than-ideal customers. This is why she wants you to know, for both the benefit of you and your bartender, the etiquette and general knowledge of a bar scene.

What to Know

  • Know what you’re going to order before arriving to the counter. It will save you and your bartender time.

  • There’s no such thing as a bad drink—just different taste buds.

  • General bar price per drink:

    • Beer - $6

    • Wine - $6

    • Top Shelf Liquor - $9

    • Mid Shelf Liquor - $7

  • Any drink can be ordered unless it requires blending or a specialty from a specific bar.

  • Amateur drinkers should start with mixed cocktails like rum and coke or tequila soda.

  • Experienced drinkers tend to order more liquor based drinks such as a long island iced tea.

  • It’s the bartender’s job to be nice to you. You might mistake their actions for flirting, but they are acting in such a way due to customer service and the hope of a big tip.

  • A bartender’s job does not include holding up a conversation with one customer when there is a line of others to serve. Get to the bar, get your drink, and head to the floor. 


  • To purchase a drink, approach the bar and be patient. If you see the bartender preoccupied as they make another person’s drink, wait your turn. They saw you walk up.

  • Always say thank you when receiving your drink.

  • NEVER touch the bartender.

  • There’s no general official bar dress code. Wear whatever makes you happy. However, be mindful of surrounding people and their alcohol status. In other words, don’t wear your new white vans.

  • Understand when the bar is closed. The bartenders are just doing their jobs and following their schedules.

  • Leave your drinks on the counter, not on the dance floor.

  • Know your limits. If you know you become mad when you’re wasted, don’t get wasted.

  • Always tip! There is no rule to how much to tip. Tip the amount you want, just know that 15% is general bar etiquette.