Bartenders Are Revealing The Red Flags You Should Keep An Eye Out For When Trying A New Establishment

We asked bartenders (and some chefs) of the BuzzFeed Community to let us know what "red flags" they look for when at a new bar or restaurant with a bar.

Cece from New Girl pouring a drink from a bottle of Coors Light into a glass
FOX / Via

Here's what those bartenders and chefs — as well as some bartenders from Reddit — had to say:

1."When a bartender scoops ice from the well with the glass they’re using."

—24, Connecticut

*When you scoop ice using a glass, the glass has a risk of chipping and then contaminating all of the ice.

2."If the draft beer tastes funky or off compared to the same beer in a can, the bar isn’t properly maintaining its draft system. That means yeast and bacteria are growing in the lines tainting the beer. Then ask yourself what else they aren't cleaning. A decent bar should be cleaning its lines, keg couplers, and taps at least every two weeks."


A hand holding a glass of beer being poured from a tap at a bar.
Cavan Images / Getty Images/Cavan Images RF

3."If they are cutting up fruit for drinks on the bar instead of getting them from a container of prepared fruit from the kitchen, that's a recipe for germs and bacteria. And if you can't actually see them make the drink, they are likely subbing for cheaper alcohols or reducing the amount of alcohol in them."

—27, Illinois

4."When your Cosmo comes back blood red (should be a 'whisper' of cranberry…not a gallon)."

—55, Illinois

5."When they make an old fashioned with lime juice."


Two Old Fashioned cocktails garnished with orange slices, lemon twist, and cherries, served on slate coasters
Rez-art / Getty Images/iStockphoto

6."If I see a bartender touch the tap spout with a glass someone was just drinking from, I immediately leave. That’s, like, common sense sanitation shit."


7."If the bar counter is dirty or has streaks from being wiped down, it was wiped with a dirty cloth — that's a red flag that means none of the rest of the bar is any cleaner."

—27, Illinois

8."ALWAYS hiring, or hiring all positions. Similarly, you never seem to see the same face twice when you go in."


A white sign on a glass door reads "We're Hiring" in bold black letters
Kinga Krzeminska / Getty Images

9."If the bartender is also a server in the restaurant: They might know what they're doing or be covering for the actual bartender, or the restaurant might just be cheap and refuse to employ an official bartender. Either way, not worth your time or money."

—27, Illinois

10."If the bartender keeps saying they don't know how to make requested drinks, or pushes the same drinks on every patron, they don't know what they're doing, and you will ultimately be disappointed unless your order is very, very simple."

—27, Illinois

11."Any bars with incredibly large/deep ice tubs. If you're going to have ice in your drink, ask when it was last emptied and cleaned. Deep tubs aren't normally emptied in a busy bar; they'll just have more ice dumped on top."

"Trouble is, if the tub isn't clean, then bacteria (most notably E. coli) can be present at the bottom. It looks like black or very dark green spots. It's pretty easy to spot against the white inner lining of the tub.

I worked in two large nightclubs, and it was never cleaned during a normal shutdown at the end of the night, because they're so large. I assume that it would normally be done during a deep clean, but that depends on the venue.

I don't have ice in my drinks for that exact reason."


A metal scoop sits in a large container filled with ice cubes, ready for use
Nicholas Free / Getty Images

12."I was asked once if I wanted my old fashioned up or on the rocks. I went with a bottled beer."


13."Number one evaluation effect for me is smell. If it’s a sour smell or disinfectant smell — red flag."


14."Dirty glassware all over the place when it's not busy, bartenders that would rather shoot the shit with coworkers than take care of their guests, dirty bar stools. Honestly, my standards aren't that high."


Two empty wine glasses sit on a table outdoors, surrounded by greenery
Fhm / Getty Images

15."Sticky bar top. I always have a habit of running a hand under the underside lip as well — any bar worth its salt knows that's where the run-off collects, and it's super important to clean."


16."Abundant fruit flies."


17."A sick waitstaff. If restaurant owners encourage their waitstaff to work while sick (or don't help to find a replacement), you can count on getting sick, too."


A person with curly hair, wearing a white shirt and an apron, leans on a wooden table in a restaurant, appearing deep in thought
Yakobchukolena / Getty Images/iStockphoto

18."If the staff grabs clean glasses at the top when handling them."


19.And finally, this green flag: "If the place is at least clean, I’ll pretty much forgive anything and take my hat off to you that you’re keeping the doors open."


A sign on a glass door reads "Come in! We are OPEN," indicating that a food establishment is open for business
Andresr / Getty Images

Some submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.