I find it kind of ironic that I decided to call this column "Last Call". I do like the sound of it for a column title; last call is the literal last word of authority for bartenders across the country. It's a definite sign that the night's revelry is drawing to a close. But something about the act of calling last call just rubs me the wrong way, no matter which side of the bar I'm on at the time.
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I can understand why last call has come to pass. Guests do appreciate the opportunity to purchase a final drink before 2AM comes to pass, and it does give them an opportunity to settle up the tab before the bartenders are swamped with a barrage of people settling their checks right at 2. Likewise, it's convenient for the bartenders because it sums up everything they want to say in two words (and possibly the clang of a bell), and gives one last opportunity to bump up the sales (and therefore tips) for the evening. But there's more than meets the eye when calling last call...
While last call seems to be a win-win, I think it doesn't do anyone any favors. An alcohol-addled brain all too often interprets last call's "If you'd like a drink, you should order one right now" subtext as "You should order another drink before the bartender doesn't let you". If I hadn't said anything, you would have been happy with your state of intoxication as you went blissfully into the night. But instead, you have another one before you slump into your ride home. What's the benefit of that last cocktail? Alcohol is social lubricant; there's no need for it when the party has drawn to a close. Your hangover in the morning is going to be worse because of that last drink, and it increases the odds you get to spring for a detailing job on your friend's car interior.
Then there's last call from my perspective as a bartender: Unless I'm at a dive where I fully expect the bartenders to be a little gruff, I think it's rude. I spend more waking hours at work than I do at my house. I call everyone who comes in at work a guest not because I treat them like a guest in my home, but because they are a guest in my home away from home. When I throw a cocktail party at my house, I wouldn't dare yell out "Last call!" fifteen minutes before I get ready for bed. Why would I do it from behind the bar? Surely there has to be a way to get the point across, yet still show class in the matter. I can turn off the music and turn up the lights, but what of that raucous group in the corner who doesn't get the hint? I suppose calling "Last call!" at the bar does have its place. But I don't have to like it. What do you think?