Controlling or Minimizing Bartender Theft

Here’s an important read for all you owners and operaters…

  • If you can, run the place yourself. This is by far the greatest deterrent/preventative. You’ve completely eliminated all opportunity. You can’t possibly steal from yourself… or can you? You can certainly mismanage a business and run it into the ground however. Let’s face it: a bartender stealing cash from an owner is a crime of opportunity. Bad management practices, bad policies and lack of enforcement have left the door open. Obviously, working solo is kind of impossible to do 100% of the time in most places.
  • Be realistic. Keep in mind that in a cash bar, other than a sole proprietorship described above, there is no way in hell you can completely eliminate theft – you can only minimize it; thus, the title of this article.
  • Alternatively, if you have several bartenders, occasionally drop behind the bar and do the bar tending yourself. Thieves hate confrontation or even the threat of confrontation. Bartenders will inexplicably be on their best behavior when authorities are nearby – go figure. If you don’t know how to bartend, and you’re a bar owner or responsible for its operations, shame on you. You really have no business being in charge. You’re in for a rude awakening one day. Your best defense against theft is knowledge – know what the hell you’re doing at a bar in the first place. If you have even the slightest hesitation, hire someone who does know what they’re doing or get the appropriate training and experience.  In a nut shell, be or hire a “Pit Boss.”

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Bar Manager Theft

If you ever get a gig bartending at a big establishment where you don’t count the tips yourself, but instead, the managers/owners insist upon counting and divvying it all up, walk, don’t run - get the hell out of there.  Your environment undoubtedly is, or eventually will be, ripe for your pocket to be picked and your income compromised.

You’re in an undocumented cash environment.  No one yet knows exactly how much you’ve made; that is, unless you suspect unscrupulous goings-on, and have schemed to prove the wrong-doings by counting every dollar you put in the tip jar, before it heads to the pilfering station.  Personally, as well as through the accounts of fellow barkeeps, I’ve found this situtation to be all too common in large trendy lounges and big nightclubs where you can sometimes have 5, 10 or even more bartenders in action on a given night.  

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