Julie WILSON

Look, we all know that Portland is no stranger to lining up for things. Brunch, tacos, doughnuts... the list goes on. All of these places have their own systems to facilitate the waiting process, and that is fine. However, somewhere along the way our city’s obsession with queuing up started to spill over into bars—and that has Got. To. Stop.

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Full disclosure: I’ve never tended bar myself, but I have sunk a hefty chunk of change into the Bally Midway Tapper arcade machine at QuarterWorld. In Tapper, the player is tasked with controlling a bartender with a joystick and using an actual tap handle to serve frothy mugs of beer to thirsty patrons before they lose their temper. Because of the immersive nature of the experience, I feel qualified to present this argument on behalf of our city’s exceptional service industry.

One of the most amazing things about a bar is that the system being used to speed up the waiting process is built right in. If space is available at the bar, then spread out and use it! You don’t need to be a pushy jerk about it, but ask yourself, “What good is it to politely stand in a line waiting for someone to sign their receipt, take a few sips from a filled-to-the-brim drink, and then slowly collect their belongings and move along?” If the thought of this makes you want to pull your hair out, just imagine how the bartender is feeling.

You want a refreshing beverage. Bartenders want to serve you these beverages so you’ll go away and leave them alone. If you’re at a busy and reputable watering hole, chances are the bartender is more than capable of cracking open a few Rainiers or pouring a shot in between mixing up elaborate cocktails for the folks who are feeling fancy.

The worst thing about these needless lines is that they often form right at the entrance of an otherwise spacious bar. Entering a bar that feels like it’s already at capacity isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time. Making your way through a sea of people who are waiting to be served only to find out there’s plenty of space available at the other end of the bar shouldn’t feel like reaching the promised land.

A great bartender will remember you, and more importantly, they’ll remember what you’re drinking. They won’t be offended if you find a small gap at the bar and use the opening to get their attention and signal for another drink. This is why you tip on each drink. Line-lovers at bars will try to side-eye you when you deviate from their misguided attempts at creating order. Pay no attention to them! They’ll learn to adapt, and we’ll all return to our tables with rounds of drinks and let the bartender have their well-earned moment of peace.

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Update: This article about patrons voluntarily forming lines at the bar really struck a nerve. So we did what we could to resolve the debate by asking you to participate in a survey on the subject. Here’s what we found out!

Out of the nearly 500 people who responded to our survey (including bartenders and bar patrons), 42% were in favor of patrons voluntarily forming lines at the bar while 58% believe that lines are a waste of time. About 18% of the people who responded identified themselves as a bartender. About 40% of bartenders were in favor of patrons voluntarily forming lines while 60% of them would prefer that you didn’t get in that line!

That was fun! What we found out is kind of what we thought all along. If a bar has signage directing you to form a line, FORM A LINE. If not, feel free to filter in at the bar and order a drink when it’s your turn. Ultimately when you walk in to a drinking establishment, we’d like to remind you to be polite, be patient, know what you want to order, and TIP YOUR SERVERS!

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