As more people become eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine, and pandemic fatigue congeals and hardens, Jay Inslee has moved many counties to Phase 2 of pandemic protocols. This means bars and restaurants can open at 25% capacity. I’ve already expressed my views about that on both a personal and policy level. Not stoked.

But if you are going out, here are some helpful tips you can follow so that your visit causes as little stress as possible for your bartender/server. Some of us are happy to be back at work, and some of us aren’t, but either way, here we are. Following these guidelines will help the idea of working with the public go from “anxiety heart attack” down to “stressful episode of a true crime show.” 

First, you may want to revisit our general tips for visiting a bar. Most of those still apply, and some have taken on more urgency in the face of Covid. Here’s some updated tips that apply to these shitty stressful times, so your visit doesn’t have to be either.


  • Wear a mask. Wear it over your nose. This feels silly to have to repeat, but it does bear repeating. Wear that mask whenever you’re talking to your server/bartender. Even if you’re sitting down, and have just been eating or drinking. It’s far more likely that we’d catch something when we’re taking orders from folks without masks than, say, in passing on the way to the bathroom. Putting on a mask for a brief conversation feels silly and inconvenient– I won’t pretend it doesn’t– but it can help stop spread, and lower your server’s anxiety about being at work.
  • Don’t show up early. This is one of those general bartender pet peeves that takes on more urgency during Covid. If a spot opens at 4, show up anytime from 4pm on. But given that your server is doing an accelerated level of cleaning (often the work of two people plus) the difference between 3:54pm and 4 is frequently the difference between a fully sanitized, atmosphere set (music, lights, etc), and stocked spot that is ready to serve you and one that is. . . not. A lot happens in that last ten minutes of opening.
  • Wait for a clean table. In pre-Covid times this was simply courtesy, now it’s a much bigger health risk.
  • Tip on to-go orders. Maybe you already do this, in which case, go you! But since these are now making up a good amount (in some cases a majority) of what your server has to attend to, it’s far more imperative that you throw them some love.
  • Have your conversations sitting down. Look, I get it. This is your third time out in months, maybe an entire year. If you’re popping in at a local spot —thank you! We appreciate your biz! But even if you see someone you haven’t in a while, don’t have long conversations standing. It gets in our way, it’s guaranteed not to be six feet separated, and even if you’ve all been very safe, it creates an unsafe atmosphere for other customers. Not to mention that it’s against protocol and if the LCB comes by, it could endanger the very spot you are trying to support. To that end, say your long goodbyes outside and far enough from the door that other folks can leave or enter comfortably.
  • Submit to the temperature test. If the spot you’re going to has one of these, let them do it. It may seem invasive and awkward, but you need to respect the safety measures each spot has in place.
  • Don’t camp. Since everyone is operating at restricted capacity, table real estate is far more valuable. If you stay for a long time, it should be because you’re still ordering food or drinks. Once you’ve got your check, pay it and leave so more folks can come through.
  • Meet each place on its own terms. In a predictably disappointing turn of events, some spots are lax about following Covid guidelines. If you frequent these spots, don’t expect the same level of “chillness” everywhere you go. The whole “but at Lithy Magoo’s they let me stand by the bar with my mask around my chin while high fiving strangers and hocking loogies at the ceiling” doesn’t fly in normal times and it really doesn’t now.

Be understanding and tip generously.

Look, we’re all stressed. A lot of us want to have one goddamn normal-feeling experience. Something comforting and fun. Your server is trying their best to help you have that experience, despite bizarre circumstances and while being under social duress. We will occasionally mess up, or be short with you. I’d ask that you understand.

After all, we’re all in this bar together.