Thursday, August 21, 2008

Drinking in a Down Economy

There's a rule made popular by Modern Drunkard that says "if you can't afford to tip, you can't afford to drink in a bar. Go to a liquor store." This is a rule I generally believe in and try to live by. But events over the past several weeks have me asking questions about this.

On my way back from New York I was in a bar wasting time. The server was an outspoken man, in his mid-twenties, and while I was there enjoying my beer and burger he started chatting. In what was a horrific moment he began to complain about customers over the past several months who weren't tipping the amount he was used to. I was mortified, this sort of conversation is so completely inappropriate I finished my one drink and food, left a not-so-generous tip and left, certain I'd just be another point of evidence that people today are cheap because of gas prices and the economy in general.

Then there's been the other bars since then, the empty ones. I think most people understand Rule 28 and don't want to be the dick that orders his or her drinks, at happy hour price, and leaves with little tip left. I was curious enough at this that I've spoken with some bar owners to get some feedback, opinions, and right about now I admit I'm a bit befuddled.

Is it cool to cheap on a tip? Hell no. But is it so bad that we stay at home to drink bottled beer bought at places with shitty service and marginal quality? I guess I'm thinking about the owners of the bars more than I am about the servers, and maybe that's where my argument goes south, but I just can't help but think it's better to drink and be "cheap" (or economical) than it is to stop patronizing your local watering hole - be it a bar, brewery or pub. Is it cool to just order drinks, cut the food (eat at home), and call it a night?

I know where you're sitting this must just seem like an absurd post, but I'm really trying to wrap my head around things. I don't claim to have the answer and don't want to be used as an excuse for being cheaper than you need to be. If you can spare the buck, leave the buck... but then it all goes to pot for me.

I'll be thinking about this topic for some time, it's just the way my brain works. If you have thoughts or different perspectives, I'd love to hear them. For now I am leaning to supporting the bar to the extent possible (reasonable), especially if it's a small place that provides good beer and good service - it's a shame every time one of these closes because people stopped coming in.

I have to close with the reality check. If you're counting pennies to make rent or pay bills, then hopefully the answer is clear - it's only beer.