Keene bartenders discuss KSC students and their bar manners

Kattey Ortiz

Equinox Staff


When students go out to the bars, they’re looking for a place to unwind and have some good times with good company.

People go up to the bartender, ask for a drink and sit back down.


Normally, people would think that this is a fairly simple task, but to thank them for their services they drop an extra amount of money for a tip.

But what is a standard, average tip to leave the person on the other side of the counter?

How much is too much or too little?

Senior Rachelle Poirier said what she leaves for a tip depends on the point of the night. “If I’m five drinks in, I’ll probably leave a lot of money,” she said, “But if I just get a couple drinks I’ll only leave a dollar.”

Despite this, she said she’s never really noticed anything that is considered a “standard” tip.

Senior AJ Mucciaro said he leaves anywhere from 20 percent to 35 percent depending on how good the bartender was.

An informal online survey of 36 Keene State College students showed that 25 percent of students also tip depending on the bartender.

Twenty-six students said they leave a dollar for every drink they order. Only one student said they leave a standard 18 percent to 20 percent.

Nobody, however, said that they do not leave a tip.

Some may also consider that the services depend on the bar as well. In downtown Keene, bars that draw a large turnout of college students are Cobblestone, Penuche’s, Lab ‘n’ Lager and McCue’s.

With this in mind, the question remains: what do bartenders actually expect and would like to receive for their work?

Bartender Patrick Houle has been serving drinks at Penuche’s for five years. He described Penuche’s as a friendlier bar with a relaxed atmosphere that is a lot more comfortable for patrons.

He said it is neighborly and similar to an old English pub.

“My opinion doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinion of the bar or the owner,” he said.

“I like working here. You get a diversity of people.”

He mentioned that locals and college students go to Penuche’s every day; locals usually stop in during the day while students tend to come in at night. “I will say that the majority of students I run into seem to be arrogant, selfish and spoiled,” Houle confessed.  “And they are the worst tippers on the planet.” Working during the nights that are popular with the college crowd is not worth it in his opinion.

“I understand that they have limited funds,” he noted. “But if you run up a $25 [to] $30 tab and leave a dollar, or buy a beer for 75 cents and take your quarter back, it’s pathetic.” He stressed that sometimes there are only one or two bartenders during a shift, so the 60-70 students around the bar being “horribly demanding” makes the job a lot more onerous.

“The bartenders are working as fast as they can to get the drinks out as fast as they can,” he said.

Cobblestone Manager Keith Coll however, experiences the opposite. “I think it’s a common misconception that the kids are too rowdy, they’re too wild, they think the locals are the weird townies, but they’re really not like that,” he said. “Everybody here is usually pretty respectful, regardless of the crowd they come in. The crowds intermingle fairly well.”

The tips that are left at Cobblestone are very generous, according to both Coll and Cobblestone bartender Trevor O’Brien. Coll said that they have some sort of drink or food special every day and that is what drives their customers.

“Because they’re getting such a good deal, they’re usually very generous. We’ve never had a problem with that,” he said.

O’Brien added, “I think they’re as generous as they can be.”

Pour House Manager Marty Griffin was previously the manager at Lab ‘n’ Lager for six years.

About 30 percent of the customer base for the Pour House is college students,  he estimated, whereas Cobblestone or Lab ‘n’ Lager has close to 70 or 80 percent, he said. As far as tips go, Griffin disclosed that 20 percent is the average that is left.

But among college students, he said that it is usually 10-15 percent lower than working professionals.

When asked if it was discouraging, he admitted it was more so in the past during his time at Lab ‘n’ Lager.  “I felt that I was doing twice the work for half the pay. Then there’s the internal added stress,” he said. The stress includes keeping an eye on college students for liability purposes.

Because college students have a tendency to binge drink a lot more, the Pour House watches their specials and doesn’t offer them quite the same way Cobblestone does, Griffin said.

In terms of student behavior, Griffin said he doesn’t mind students coming into the Pour House.

“I don’t mind seeing college kids. We actually get a lot of Antioch students too. A lot of college kids who do come in enjoy it,” he said.

Everything aside, bartenders in Keene suggest students keep a few things in mind next time they go out. “I would encourage them to pay more attention to their actions,” Houle said.  “By showing respect to the establishment and the bartenders, it shows they have respect for themselves and the people around them.”  He also said that the owner of Penuche’s does want the students to come in; they cater to them with their low prices.

“Students need to understand that every time we serve a drink, we worry about over serving,” Griffin explained.

“The law in New Hampshire says the last bartender is responsible for a customer. Someone could rip five shots at Cobblestone, then walk over to Lab ‘n’ Lager for another drink. If that customer gets in trouble, the bartender at Lab is responsible.” Griffin added that everything they do is for the safety of their customers and the safety of their staff.

While every establishment has their own preferences of what kind of customers they are looking to attract, the general expectations stay the same across the board.  Bartenders say people should always treat others with respect and patience and realize  that the bartenders are doing the best they can. And, as always, drink responsibly.

Kattey Ortiz can be contacted at

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