I’m sitting at the bar of an Oakland restaurant where my husband and I have eaten before. We intend to have a cocktail or two and eat dinner, something we’ve done there twice before.

The bartender’s slow to take our drink orders, and when he does it takes forever to make them (he’s scattered, walking back and forth to get an ingredient he’s forgotten he needs, apparently; jumping in on random conversations up and down the bar). Soon I realize why: He’s semihammered. In the hour-fifteen we spend at the bar, I see him drink two shots offered by patrons; the bar back is throwing them down, too. This makes me really, really angry.

Look, a dive bar where the dude behind the stick gargles shots of Jameson is one thing. A restaurant, even a casual one, is something else. Diners have a reasonable expectation that service staff will all act in a professional way: no drinking behind the bar and no sitting down in the dining room, even on the fringes of service, with a bowl of carbonara and an iced tea.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not about being impaired—if my waiter does bong hits in her car before starting her shift it’s none of my business, as long as she does a good job. It’s the implied disrespect of role-switching: consuming food or drink in front of me, instead of being there solely to assist my own pleasure. A restaurant is not a democracy, where customers and servers have an equality of need. A professional server (that includes bartenders) should subordinate his or her own needs for eating or getting a little buzz off the Syrah to the customer’s.

I was so put off by the Oakland shot-pounders I decided I won’t be back. Enjoy the buzz while it lasts, guys.

Read these other Pet Peeves:
Servers Who Sneer at What You Want
Servers’ Condescending “We”

What do you think? Are you cool with restaurant staff eating and drinking in front of you? Let us know in the discussion box below.

Photo by Chris Rochelle / CHOW.com

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