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“If you try to force it, you’ll fail.”  

Maria Yagoda
May 10, 2017

By working at a traditional date venue, bartenders get an intimate peek into the miscommunications, awkward pauses and cute leg-touching that take place when two people convene for a drink in the hopes of connecting (or keeping the romance alive.)

We spoke with bartenders—basically dating scholars—and asked them their tips for successful dates, based everything they’ve witnessed while on the job. 

Don’t force anything.

If you go to a bar hoping to meet someone, a Bushwick, NY bartender says that the most essential thing is to focus on having a good time—not desperately perusing the scene.

“Be the one having a good time,” he says. “People think so much about who they should have in their group when they go out, where they should go, who they should be around—you always ultimately want to be the one having a good time. Because people are drawn to that. If you try to force it, you’ll fail. It's frustrating to feel like you're not actively moving toward that endgame, but you are, I assure you.”

Stop complaining so much.

You may think your complicated feelings on the state of modern romance are compelling, but probably no one else will—especially not a person you’re hoping will date you.

“Recently I saw a guy who kept telling a girl he was lonely, and that it’s so hard to meet someone,” a Williamsburg bartender says. “In New York, that’s a given.”

Alcohol can bring out the most cynical parts of us, but you should rein it in on a date.

Don’t take different dates to the same bar every night.

This is Dating 101. It shouldn’t need saying. And yet …

“One weekend a guy came in on a date who I recognized having come in recently,” a server at a Manhattan bar says. “I don't usually say anything to folks I recognize, but for some reason I was like, ‘Hey, I just served you the other day, right?’ He gave me a weird look and said that he hadn’t been in for a long time. Later, I realized that when he came in before, he was with a different woman, and he was acting weird because I outed this as the spot he brings multiple women on dates.”

If the date feels like a “weirdly intimate job interview,” you’re probably mismatched.

One New Haven bartender observes several dates a night, though he usually can’t hear anything because it’s too loud. Yet, from a distance, he can tell how a date is going, almost instantly.

“If a date is going well, they look friendly, warm, genuinely interested,” he says. “They laugh, rather than smile politely. They order more than one round. Or at the very least, after aggressively sipping their first to give an alibi to awkward pauses, the second round isn't merely a desperate gesture. Any date that looks or sounds like a weirdly intimate job interview is not going well.” 

Avoid yelling.

This isn’t so much advice as it is a plea to make public spaces more enjoyable.

“A couple got into a fight on New Years’ Eve,” an NYC bartender says. “The guy yelled over and over, ‘You WILL respect me,’ while pounding on the table with his fists.”

If you do hit it off, make that bar your place.

“There’s a couple that met on a Tinder date where I work and now they come to our bar regularly,” says a bartender at a craft beer shop in Durham, North Carolina. “It's so cute. Our bar is their special bar now.”