Single File Queuing for the Bar – A Phenomenon Analysed

Let me paint you a picture…

‘Best read while drinking a Martini’

You’ve made it through airport security with your dignity (just about) intact. The excitement for your little jaunt is starting to bubble now, the mind shifts to planning your first pint of Guinness which will kick off the trip in style. So what if it’s 8am? We’re British. It’s tradition… and then the horror sets in. You see what you believe to be… oh no, it can’t be, yes it is – that strange and horrible phenomenon – a single-file queue for the bar. Shit.

Throughout history the bar has proven itself to be the most functional place to serve and be served drinks. It’s a classic piece of engineering, like the wheel, it just works. There are custodians of the bar whose job it is to serve you drinks. A key skill of this role is to keep track of who is next to be served. In fact, I would suggest that a main attribute of a good bartender is whether they can keep track of the patrons and serve them in the order defined by their arrival at the bar. Failing this, they must ask that most debilitating of questions, ‘right, who’s next?’.  A question so devoid of responsibility it will regularly lead to shrugs, faux offerings, over politeness or a rude bastard reciting their order way louder and quicker than needed while looking dead ahead (not a blink).

Yet, even taking into account this kind of behaviour (it should result in an ASBO), there is still no way to justify the single-file queue.

As a quick aside, I feel like this is a good time to mention the most magical of skills, namely ‘bar presence’. It can’t be taught per se, it’s something that is earned over many years of being served at bars,. You don’t necessarily have to be big, although it can help. It’s about making your presence known to the bartender in a polite manner. Whatever you do don’t wave money, whistle, click or say ‘oi’. Simply smile, make eye contact and have a little chat if you fancy – right there is where the job is done. You’ll be served in no time. Leave a tip and good vibes and you should be guaranteed adroit service for the remainder of the evening.

To clarify, a bar should run smoothly with the age old system of arriving at said bar and waiting for your turn while the bartender serves drinks to those who’ve arrived before you. Easy. With a single-file queuing system there is no room for the bartender to multi-serve or perform other tasks while serving the single guest. It simply slows everything down for everyone. Not only is it wholly inefficient, I believe it’s unholy. Period. There’s no way any celestial being is putting up with a single-file queue. No way.

At this point, we should ask, who starts these single-file abominations? Does the bartender on shift ask for people to queue? I doubt it. So where does it come from? My theory, is it all hinges on the second person arriving. Maybe they don’t go out that often. It’s a big moment and do they trust themselves to get served next or is it best just to form a queue where it’s a guarantee? Do they think, “I’m next in line, literally, I’ll get served next”.

This leaves the third person arriving at the bar in an extremely difficult position. Do they conform and join what they know to be a ridiculous occurrence, or do they break rank from customer number two and head to the bar? I’m in the break rank camp. But unfortunately conformity usually wins this game and the single file queue is formed, and there it may stay. For how long? No one knows. Therein lies the agony. It may remain the whole day, the whole year. One thing’s for sure, if you’re at the back of the queue, it will feel like an eternity.

Unfortunately, the hate crime that is the single file queue looks set to stay. In social clubs, sports clubs and airports around the world it continues to thrive without any good reason. It’s a global phenomenon and I don’t understand why. Like Coldplay.

Do you know how to counter this heinous act? Please get in touch and share your alchemy. ‘@theginboss

You never need to queue on the Gin Journey, ‘Book here‘.

Written by Leon Dalloway @theginboss

Founder of the Gin Journey and proud protector of gin.

Instagram: @theginboss

Twitter: @TheGinBoss