How To Tell A Good Bar From A Bad One

3/6/14 11:29AM EST

How To Tell A Good Bar From A Bad One How To Tell A Good Bar From A Bad One

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Oftentimes, we’ll find ourselves stepping into bars expecting a fun night and ending up with… well, an early hangover and tab that grew in the vain attempt to enjoy yourself. Before you make this mistake again, here are some tips to separating the good from the bad when it comes to intoxicating watering holes:

1. The Regulars

Are there any? If yes, that’s a good start. If it’s just one, wasted ninety-year-old, then maybe rethink this as a negative.

2. Happy Hour

How long is it, how much do you get off drinks, etc… All these can tip the scales in favor of or against the place you go to imbibe.

3. The Bartender

The bartender can make or break your experience at any place you go to get your drink on. A grumpy, old man serving your beverages could be a great touch. So could a sardonic and sexy, young woman. Just so long as they’re not bland—that’s a literal buzz kill.

4. Number Of Empty Shot Glasses

If there are too many, that’s a skanky bar. If you can’t see a single one, that’s just bullshit. Aim for the healthy balance when it comes to ratio of shots taken vs. shot glasses cleared away to indicate the level of fun.

5. Pool Table

A pool table is an obvious plus, but a less obvious indicator of a good bar includes…

6. A Variety Of Table Games

Shuffleboard, foosball, and even air hockey will help strangers mingle and give you and your friends something to do other than complain about your problems while you drink.

7. Sawdust On The Ground

This means the place is old and has character. Stick around for a while—you’ll definitely end up getting some free beers.

8. Unexpected Specials

Imagine unexpectedly receiving two steins of beer when you asked for one! (McSorley’s, Manhattan’s oldest bar located in Cooper Square, does this.) You can also get a $4 beer in a giant, foam cup from Williamsburg’s Rosemary’s.

9. No Beer Pong

Self-respecting bars do not stoop to the level of high school house parties and college frat fests. Don’t get me wrong—beer pong is great, but it has its time and place, and the place is not in a bar. This also relates to the following:

10. No Sea Of Backwards Hats

In other words, bro city is not where you want to spend your Friday night. This probably remains the case even if you are a “bro.”

11. Not Everyone Is Slurring Their Words

This indicates a healthy medium between fun and gross. If everyone is slurring their words, you’re going to get puked on, I promise.

12. Long Island Ice Tea is Not the Perpetual Drink Special

This simply means: avoid bars on the Jersey Shore.

13. You Can Move

Any bar so crowded that you can’t make it from friend A to friend B without pushing several people into a puddle of beer on the ground is going to be way less fun than it looks on the outside.

14. A Variety Of Patrons

If you step into a bar that houses only white men in suits in their forties, leave Midtown happy hour and try someplace that attracts a wider demographic.

15. A Jukebox

The wet dream of anyone who appreciates a solid watering hole, the jukebox is a staple that allows you to set the mood and bond with strangers over song choices.

16. DĂ©cor

The walls of a bar should never be covered with photos of large groups of people “enjoying themselves” at that bar. If they have so desperately to prove how much fun you’ll have in this way, the owners know a secret: their bar is not a fun place to be, at all.

17. Drink Options

Snooty bars that only showcase their best gin and scoff when you order anything else have already been condemned to a life of boredom and clenched-teeth smiles.

18. TV Content

Sports bars that air the big game provide camaraderie for those rooting one way or the other, while quirkier dives featuring an 80s horror flick will also add a positive vibe to the room. Bars that show the news, on the other hand, are probably too close to the UN to be interesting.

19. Karaoke/Trivia

Some bars have karaoke every night at 9pm, in which case it becomes overkill (trust me, I used to work at a place like this). However, a healthy dose of trivia or singing along to the blue screen gives a place some character.

20. Strangers Talk To You

Sometimes you do want to go to a bar just to quietly catch up with a friend in the corner, but if you’re making it your mission to really have a night, take a look around to see how much groups intermingle. If it looks a little bit like a middle school dance, try the next spot.


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