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Miss Manners: How do you pick a seat at a crowded bar?

3 min

Dear Miss Manners: I’ve often wondered what the etiquette is when selecting a seat in a crowded bar. My boyfriend and I often enjoy sitting at the bar of local restaurants for a quick dinner — it’s a bit more lively and entertaining than a table.

Should one leave a stool between parties? That seems appropriate, but also leads to many unused seats for patrons who might enjoy the bar, too.

We’ve often encountered a bar with many solo open stools; is it appropriate to ask someone to move over to get two stools together? I am not a very vocal or forthright person, so having your opinion in my back pocket will give me the social fortitude to handle the situation next time.

The rule is one bar stool per person. In an empty bar, it is perfectly reasonable to spread out — so long as you are prepared to scoot over as the bar fills up. It is therefore less trouble for everyone if, in an already crowded bar, one does not leave gaps. (And yes, it is perfectly proper to request that patrons close gaps.)

During the pandemic, Miss Manners noticed that in offices with waiting rooms, there was a preference for taping over every other chair rather than simply removing some. Not being a frequenter of bars, she does not know if bar owners also followed this vaguely alarming practice.

Dear Miss Manners: My extended family took a lovely 10-day vacation. Included in the travel party were my husband, myself, our young adult children, my husband’s parents, my father and his lady friend.

Each household paid the tour company in advance for lodging, transportation and activities. Meals and tips were not included, but in the past, this group has traveled together and shared those expenses. Each member would put a little toward tips for drivers and guides, and take turns paying for meals, coffee, ice cream, etc.

Unfortunately, my father had to leave the trip early due to illness. His lady friend chose to remain with the group to enjoy the rest of our itinerary. Here is the difficulty: She never offered to contribute to any expenses, and as a result, the rest of the group covered all of her incidentals. Further, she expected someone else to carry her luggage.

She is fine company, but she never thanked anyone for covering the meals, tips and treats, or for acting as her porter. We said nothing, privately agreeing that we would care for her as a sign of respect for my father.

Now my father wants us all to travel together again. What should I say?

If Lady Friend understood subtlety, she might have noticed that continuing the trip when your father was ill, though not technically impolite, was not the way to convince the family how much she cared about him.

This will only be a problem if she takes up permanent residence in the family. Miss Manners would solve the immediate problem by saying, “Dad, we would love to. But you need to tell Lady Friend how we handle incidental expenses.”

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

©2022, by Judith Martin