“Dear Leila”: Help, My Coworkers Want Too Many Free Drinks!

By Leila Wagner |

Whether it’s a fine dining restaurant or a neighborhood dive, restaurants and bars are the back-drop for many of our lives’ most significant (and insignificant) moments. We’re here to let our hospitality expert answer your most vexing questions.

Whether you’re drowning your sorrows in the bottom of a glass or the bottom of a tip jar, Leila Wagner is here to help sort out your problems. Have a special situation for Leila? Email her already: leila@

Dear Leila,

I just started bartending at a new place, which is in a restaurant. I was told all employees are allowed one free shift drink, and anything beyond that at a discount. However, the staff seems to expect more. Should I give them the on-the-house drinks they expect after the manager leaves?

Overwhelmed in Omaha

Short answer: If you want to keep your job, no.

Every bar and restaurant has a different culture around shift drinks and drinking on the job. Yet, if your hiring manager took the time to tell you there’s a one shift drink policy — presumably there were no exaggerated winks or morse code caveats tapped on the table during these instructions— assume that’s what they expect of you.

Slightly longer answer: Maybe down the line you’ll find out out that there are times when the policy can be relaxed. Many managers will allow for an extra round after a super busy night, staff shots with regulars, or a second drink for whoever sells the most bottles of wine or desserts that night. Still, play it safe and consider it solely the manager’s discretion.

If the staff gives you shit because you adhere to the rules I recommend you politely ignore it. There are other ways to win them over, like being good at your job. If that fails, bring candy to work.

Dear Leila,

I may or may not have gone home with a customer. Now, said customer that I may or may not have gone home with keeps showing up at my bar with great regularity. On my shifts. Every shift. Ugh. What should I do now?

Stalked in Savannah 

Based on your tone, it seems like it isn’t an experience that you are eager to repeat. Was this guy a regular who’s been coming in for years or just some random dude who chanced in one night? If he’s a true regular, be straightforward with him. Explain that it was unprofessional of you to sleep with a customer and it is not going to happen again. He’ll get the picture. He might keep coming in all the time, as is his right, but let the awkwardness be a lesson to you.

If he wasn’t a regular I’d take a different approach. You probably can’t ask him to leave because he’s a paying customer; I doubt your boss would take kindly to business turned away because of an awkward one night stand. Serve him, be hospitable, but once he has drink in hand, make yourself busy elsewhere until he gets the picture. Stay occupied with cleaning, stocking the bar, organizing things, chatting with other customers. Look at your phone and exclaim “Wow, I have so many matches on Tinder today!” If the night is dead, invite a friend to come in and pay a lot of attention to them. If you have another coworker behind the bar, clue them in on what’s going on and have them handle the interactions with him.

Read more Dear Leila here.

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