"Bar Month" at OnMilwaukee.com is back for another round! The whole month of February, we're serving up intoxicatingly fun bars and club articles -- including guides, unique features, drink recipes and more. Grab a designated driver and dive in!
Every Friday night, Mike Townsend goes to the same bar. He orders the same drink –- a Jack and Coke -- and after two or three drinks, orders a bag of the same barbeque potato chips. Around 11:45 p.m., he throws an extra $5 on the bar for the bartender and makes it home just shy of midnight.
"I am a creature of habit. I admit it, I like to control what I can," says Townsend, who did not want to divulge which Milwaukee bar he visits every weekend.
It’s tempting to quote the theme song from "Cheers," but we won’t, even though it’s true. Many drinkers like to hang out where they are recognized and have instant social interaction, even if it’s with people whom they have little in common with beyond the bar stool.
Kim Napieralski has bartended at Scooter’s Tap in West Allis, 9000 W. National Ave., for eight years. She says her bar attracts mostly regulars because it’s a corner watering hole in a small community.
"I work Friday nights, so we sometimes get ‘newbies’ who usually eventually become regulars, themselves," says Napieralski.
Jessica Zierten pours at Art Bar, 722 E. Burleigh St., and she, too, gets a lot of repeat customers.
"There's a certain familiarity in seeing regulars walk in the door. You know what to expect, usually, like how they'll tip, what they'll have, their patience level and so forth," says Zierten.
Both Napieralski and Zierten have been regulars at bars, themselves, so they understand the mentality. Currently, Napieralski frequents Paulie’s Pub, 8031 W. Greenfield Ave., and Scotty’s Perfect Timing, 6500 W. Greenfield Ave. In the early ‘90s, she was a regular at Oriental Landmark Lanes, 2220 N. Farwell Ave., and the now-defunct L.A. Freeway.
"I'm kind of a regular at the Polish Falcon and Gee Willickers, maybe the Uptowner, but I'd say I'm more of an irregular," says Zierten. "Not daily, and sometimes I'll get something other than Jameson."
Most regulars receive some form of special treatment, although it’s not advertised or pre-planned. At Scooter’s, Napieralski says she occasionally gives drink deals or a generous pour to convey her appreciation for the repeat business. Zierten will sometimes serve regulars first if she knows all they want is an easy-to-provide can of beer.
"Mostly, (regulars) are like everyone else. They’re customers. Although one regular has become my significant other, so I guess without saying too much, yes, he does get ‘special privileges,’" says Zierten.
Some bar-goers appreciate when a bartender remembers their drink. Townsend says he likes having his Jack and Coke waiting for him by the time he walks across the tavern to the bar.
"The bartender sees me walk in, and she starts to pour, unless it’s really busy," he says. "That’s cool."
Zierten says she doesn’t make a point to remember regulars’ drink choices, but it’s impossible not to.
"It’s hard to forget that so-and-so who I see every day I work likes his Grey Goose Martini with three olives, or Mr. What's-his-name needs a splash of Coke to back up his whiskey. It's like putting on your seatbelt -- you remember because it could save your life," she says.
Of course, there are downsides to bar regulars, too. Sometimes bartenders are forced to deal with obnoxious behavior due to extreme drunkenness, or to interact with people they find irritating.
"There are always those regulars you could do without, like the high-maintenance drinkers, ones that never shut up or those that listen in and gossip about the other regulars, but there are also the ones that have become great friends outside of the bar scene," says Napieralski. "In general, the regulars make it more fun."
Zierten views her regular customers as a personal compliment.
"Sometimes you just want to say, ‘Really? You again? Don't you ever go anywhere else?’ But often I realize they frequent the joint because they like me. I don't really blame them; I'm really fun to get drunk with," says Zierten.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.