A round on the house
November 12, 2006 9:09 AM   Subscribe

I was in a bar the other night and the bartender passed out a poker chip to everybody in the house, which was, I found out, how the bartender or bar owner buys a round for everybody. I never saw this before. How widespread is this tradition (a round on the house via passing out a token to everybody?)
posted by stupidsexyFlanders to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (21 answers total)
When I have been on the lucky end of the free round, it's usually been in the form of an empty shot glass as a token.

However, I have never been in the position of the bartender/house buying a round for everybody. I've scored free beers here and there, but the one-for-all action is usually on the part of some drunk dude trying to impress and equally drunk chick.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:14 AM on November 12, 2006

I've seen it before but not too commonly.

Honestly I've never been at a bar where the whole bar got a round.
posted by bitdamaged at 9:28 AM on November 12, 2006

When I was doing my Undergrad in the late 70's, we sometimes would drink at a student pub with a huge, Wheel of Fortune style wheel prominently displayed behind the bar.

When someone tipped the staff the wheel would be spun, and many of the winning positions would get the tipper an extra drink.

But more than a few of the winning positions were "Freddies Specials", where the entire bar was treated to free booze which would be poured down your throat straight from the bottle by a bikini clad waitress who was passed around the bar, mosh pit style.

A few points are worth noting: first, the staff got tipped - A LOT. Second, this bar could not exist today. Finally, we never could convince our girl friends to drink there.
posted by Mutant at 9:43 AM on November 12, 2006

I've regularly seen this in Western PA my whole life. Individual people could also buy tokens or "chips" as they were called, and they usually counted for a beer. A lot of the little clubs will also have their own custom chips with their names imprinted on them.

This is especially common with social clubs (Veterans Clubs, Knights of Columbus, etc)
posted by punkrockrat at 10:05 AM on November 12, 2006

I wanna hang out at Freddie's.
posted by atomly at 10:05 AM on November 12, 2006

At the tavern I most often patronize, it really is not that uncommon at a bartender's end of shift. Usually done with an upside down shotglass.
posted by scottymac at 10:05 AM on November 12, 2006

I've seen this a lot to represent free drinks. Sometimes it is a fake poker chip or just something round and similarly sized. Often I just get told "this round's on me."

Never seen a round for the house, though!
posted by shownomercy at 10:20 AM on November 12, 2006

I've seen poker chips with the bar's name printed on them. I've also seen upside-down shotglasses. Seems to me the bar wouldn't mind if I took the chip home and used it later, but not so much with the shotglass.
posted by rlk at 10:24 AM on November 12, 2006

I've seen them in Wisconsin and have a few on my dresser right now. They usually seem to happen when the bars busy.
posted by substrate at 10:26 AM on November 12, 2006

A few of my friends bartend as a second job (I live in a college town...) and one of them screwed up a few years ago -- he got audited, the IRS said he wasn't claiming his tips properly, and about half of his wages plus tips got sucked up when he popped up two tax brackets and got out of his research assistant tax bracket and into a very comfortable middle class tax bracket.

Ever since then, he keeps VERY careful track of how much he's getting in tips, and if he starts getting close to his 'limit' at the end of a year, he'll start buying a lot of house rounds. The deal's between him and the bar owner where he pays the bar owner back out of his tips, and I'm not sure how it works on the IRS side (whether he can actually record it as income and then a write-off) but I know the documentation is immaculate and it keeps him out of trouble.
posted by SpecialK at 10:40 AM on November 12, 2006

I'm in upstate NY and iv'e seen this roughly 4,000 times.
posted by ryanissuper at 11:05 AM on November 12, 2006

stupidsexyFlanders lives not far from me, but I've always seen the upside down shot glass as the marker. I worked as a cook in a bar and this was how it was done. However, here goes a picture of a token that my buddy gave me that is really good for one drink at Whistler's Inn on Rt 130 in Cinnaminson, NJ, USA.

Not to hijack, but do you leave your money on the bar? I was working at the Tour de Georgia a few years back and several of the crew members and me went into a bar. Everybody dropped a twenty on the bar and ordered. The bartender looked at us like we had three heads. Apparenetly people run tabs, who knew? He said "Are you guys from PA?"
posted by fixedgear at 11:34 AM on November 12, 2006

there's a magic minute at the bar & crock pot I frequent in which everyone gets little plastic ramicans to trade in for whatever we're already drinking.
posted by carsonb at 11:57 AM on November 12, 2006

Either upside-down shot glass or poker chip (depending on how many clean glasses are behind the bar at the moment) is commonplace in neighborhood bars in Philly.

And yes, the bartender occasionally buys a round for everyone, but I'm talkin' establishments with about 10 barstools total.
posted by desuetude at 12:03 PM on November 12, 2006

I see the poker chip regularly at a roadhouse sort of place with a very private club feel, even though it isn't one. Just north of Baltimore. For patrons to buy each other drinks, or on the house.
And fixedgear, yes, in Baltimore. But mostly more bars that have a lot of older patrons, are smaller corner type joints, people mostly know each other.
posted by zoinks at 12:59 PM on November 12, 2006

I bartended for three years in New York City and I was taught by a gruff old Irishman to give out a paper coaster to patrons when they were getting one on the house. I've seen this in every Irish pub or neighbourhood bar and grill in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn which I've entered.
posted by Captaintripps at 2:13 PM on November 12, 2006

fixedgear: Yeah, money on the bar here, but I'm also from PA. Your "tab" is when they take your credit card and keep it behind the counter.
posted by Loto at 3:38 PM on November 12, 2006

Just last week, my girlfriend and I were at the local joint when the owher bought everyone a drink. They passed out, weirdly enougy, those little plastic cups that ketchup sometimes comes in to represent our drink.

I think the poker chips are a little classier.
posted by Netzapper at 3:44 PM on November 12, 2006

I have one right here. It came from a little hole-in-the wall bar called The Web (go figure) in Chicago. There was a drunk guy that bought a round for the whole bar (about 10-12 people total) one night. I wasn't ready for another beer yet, so I ended up with the token. I've had it for a while... I should go back and use it. :)
posted by youngergirl44 at 4:08 PM on November 12, 2006

I've been given shot glasses for that purpose before. I forget where I was, but the local (town? county? state?) law was that no one person could have more than one drink in front of them, so the waitress gave us the shotglasses we could redeem for the second half of a two-for-one special.

(I know that's the law in Vermont, but I don't think it was in Vermont. Washington, maybe. Or Minnesota. Or...)
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:38 PM on November 12, 2006

Poker chips, with the bar's name, at a bar I used to visit in Long Island, a couple decades ago (Thunders, out near Comack).
posted by Goofyy at 2:26 AM on November 13, 2006

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