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First Date Advice from Bartenders Who Have Seen It All

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Bars are go-to first date spots for a reason. They have forgivingly dim lighting and comfortable noise levels, and it’s easy to slip out if you have to pull an Irish exit on your date (just remember to bring cash). And what better way to settle first date jitters than with a little bit of booze? Naturally, bartenders have seen more first dates—from the love-at-first-sight kind to the comically disastrous—than any other type of professional, and they’ve learned a thing or two in the process. So whether it’s a Tinder match, a blind set-up, or (gasp!) you met someone in real life, here is the best advice from bartenders for having a successful first date.  

Keep the Conversation Flowing

"Awkward silences are inevitable. I suggest coming to a date with a few backup topics to talk about, even if it means catching up on the last episode of The Bachelor.” — Rory Casserly, Butcher & Singer, Philadelphia, PA

“Use the waitstaff or bartender to help push conversation if you're stuck. Respond when they chat you up, let them in—it can be super helpful if the conversation is lagging. Getting to know new people can be intimidating, but it looks good on you if you're social.” — Katie O’Kelly, Bottlehouse, Seattle, WA 

Eat up and Drink Slow

“Eat before you go on a date to a bar. If the date goes well, but your counterpart isn't hungry, you could be a few hours without food. On top of that, if you're out for drinks, don't be that person who gets wasted on a first date because you haven't eaten in eight hours. That's just bad form.” — Colin Jensen, Russell’s Tavern, Seattle, WA

“If you are a girl, it's OK to eat food! You don't have to push a salad around with your fork.” — Morgan Zuch, Datz, Tampa, FL

Be Attentive to Your Date

“Be on time. There’s nothing worse than leaving your date to be pitied by the bar staff.” — Katie O’Kelly

“There’s a regular first dater at my bar. He brings in women and then talks about himself for the next two hours. I can tell you so much about this guy—his work history, where he's traveled to, his political leanings, and I won't even know his dates’ names. So my advice is: Spend more time talking about the other person than yourself. There might be a reason this guy is a serial dater, and I'm guessing the reason is this.” — Colin Jensen

“Put your phones and all other distractions away. And when it is finally time to exchange information, get her phone number and call her. Forget Twitter handles, Facebook accounts and texts. The day I met my wife, I took her number—I didn't give her mine. I called her that night to tell her how nice it was to meet her and set up our first date. She will always say that was the most lasting first impression of me." — Ryan Kelimoff, Café Americano, Las Vegas, NV

Treat Your Bartender Well

“Be good to your servers. This might sound self-serving coming from a bartender, but a lot of the first dates I see are repeat customers. That means, as your bartender, I've served you before and I remember you. I can make your evening spectacular and treat you like royalty. Or I can treat you just like any other patron in the bar. Be nice.” — Colin Jensen

“Tip well. There is nothing more unattractive than entitlement. A decent tip shows that you have respect for people who are doing you a service.” — Katie O’Kelly

“Nothing is a bigger turnoff than someone who does not tip appropriately. Another huge turnoff is someone who is rude to strangers for no reason, especially in hospitality.” — Morgan Zuch

Don’t Split the Check

“Gentlemen, chivalry is dead, but courtesy and pride are not. Pay for the first date, or buy a drink for the person that you are already flirting with or interested in upon your first encounter at a bar." — Ryan Kelimoff

“Guys, pick up the tab! I've seen good dates, nay even great dates, crash and burn with a simple line: ‘Why don't we split it?’ Dude! She was about to go back to your place and I can see it in her face that she just changed her mind. It might seem old fashioned, it might seem out of date, but it is still an expectation, and really, it's just good manners.” — Colin Jensen

“Do not ‘forget’ your wallet.” — Morgan Zuch

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