Jason Winner on the art of becoming a regular, as well as the benefits
Sure, anyone can decide to frequent a pub. But according to Garbage Greek drummer Jason Winner, who tends bar at Rumba Cafe and the Strongwater events space, nobody can simply decide to be a regular. Rather, he joked, the relationship requires a bit of give and take between customer and bartender, like a slow-simmering romance.
“I've never thought too deeply about it, but it is kind of this strange, romantic chess game,” he said, and laughed. “Don't come back tomorrow. Come back in three days after we've had some time to think about it. You don't want to seem too eager.”
Winner further described it as an organic process that unfolds over weeks and months rather than a two-date audition.
“You can't just walk into a bar twice [and become a regular]. You have to go to a place frequently and be polite and generous and not really over-assert yourself, and eventually people will recognize your face,” he said. “Sometimes I'll frequent a place and eventually someone will be like, ‘Oh, you're kind of here a lot.' Then you introduce yourself.”
Winner said this connection can be easier to make if you visit on particular nights — he and his bandmates visit Club 185 in German Village every Monday following practice, for example — or if it's an operation with a small staff, where it can be easier to get to know individual employees.
But much of Winner's advice can be boiled down to a phrase that could easily fit on a bumper sticker: Don't be an asshole.
When you order, order all of your drinks at once. Don't show up every night with your sole goal as getting wrecked and expect to be applauded for it. And if you're someone who likes to hang until last call, that's cool, but at least learn to take a hint.
“Sometimes it gets to where I have to do that dance of: I'm going to turn the lights on a little bit, and then I'm going to turn the TVs off, and then I'm going to change the music, and then I'm going to turn the lights up more,” Winner said. “How many things do I have to do to let you know it's time to go without looking at you and saying, ‘You gotta go.'”
Once you've established yourself as a bar regular, though, there are obvious benefits aside from the occasional free pour.
“My regulars, it's no secret I'm going to make sure they're comfortable and cool and taken care of, especially because I want them to stay and keep me company,” said Winner, meaning a regular might not get stuck waiting for a drink even when the bar is at its most crowded.
Best of all, becoming a regular creates a spot where you can go and exist as nothing more than yourself.
“There are times I want to go somewhere by myself and sit and have a beer and stare at my phone and shut down, and I love going to places where I'm comfortable, where I'm a regular, to do exactly that, and I don't feel like a jerk for not interacting,” Winner said. “One of the benefits of being a regular at a bar is honesty, I guess. I love going to a place where I can choose to be interactive and fun, like, ‘Let me tell you about my night,' or just … completely [zone out].”