Bartenders are listening to everything you say at the bar

A trio of Detroit bartenders sound off on dating advice as Valentine’s Day weekend brings a storm of bad first dates to local bars.

three bartenders stand in front of bottles of liquor

From left to right: Amas Muhammad, Andrea Bonaventura and Garrett Passiak.

Courtesy of Detroit City Distillery

Click the audio player above to hear the full conversation with bartender Garrett Passiak.

If you think your bartender didn’t hear you, don’t worry — they did.

That’s the nugget of wisdom longtime Detroit bartender Garrett Passiak gave us when we reached out to a trio of local bartenders for dating advice.

“When it comes to dating, we hear everything,” says Passiak, who currently tends bar at La Feria in the Cass Corridor and Detroit City Distillery in Eastern Market. “We can read body language. We can see if they’re meeting for the first time. We can tell who is meeting up on the apps.”

“You can almost place bets on it sometimes, too,” adds Passiak.

Passiak says there’s a big difference between a first-time Tinder date and a long-term relationship.

“You know if it’s a hardcore, long-term relationship because the conversation is not there,” explains Passiak. “It’s not that it’s unhealthy, but from an observation standpoint, they know what they had for breakfast. They know what the sheets look like. They know that grandma called yesterday and claims that she’s sick. They already know everything about each other. [Instead], they’re just enjoying the atmosphere. They’re relaxing.”

With first dates that started off as a random online match via Tinder, Passiak says it’s a “very, very good one” when they’re making eye contact and they’re having conversations on both sides — “one person is listening, one person is talking and no one is getting cut off.”

His #1 piece of advice for anyone on a first date?

“I understand everyone loves TV, but I always can see a date crashing when people just keep saying, ‘Did you see last Game of Thrones? Did you see this? Did you hear this podcast?'” says Passiak. “Young couples just gravitate to that because you see that nervousness and nothing ever really connects.”

The couples that last are the ones that “listen to each other,” says Passiak.

“I’ll see them again and again and again,” says Passiak. “Next thing you know, you bump into them at Whole Food and they’re holding hands.”

“I’ve Seen Them Go Bad”: Andrea Bonaventura Holds Court at the Painted Lady Lounge

Click the audio player above to hear the full conversation with bartender Andrea Bonaventura.

Courtesy of Andrea Bonaventura

Andrea Bonventura has been bartending for the past 10 years.

She’s found her home at the Painted Lady Lounge — a dive bar in Hamtramck with a robust bourbon selection.

“It’s a neighborhood bar, but we have a nice cocktail menu,” says Bonaventura. “You can get a PBR draft or you can get an old fashioned. It’s kinda like choose your own adventure.”

And Bonaventura met her current girlfriend there, too.

“She was on a date at [the Painted Lady] with one of my ex-girlfriends,” laughs Bonaventura. “I kinda had a crush on her from afar. I just decided to insert myself and said, ‘hey, when you’re done with her, why don’t you hit me up?’ And she did that night, so I guess the date wasn’t going that well for her.”

Bonaventura says the Hamtramck bar hosts its fair share of Tinder dates.

“I’ve seen them go bad,” says Bonaventura. “I saw one a few months ago and the guy just stood up in the middle of it and said, ‘I’m not really feeling this,’ and walked out the front door.”

The worst date she’s ever seen at the Painted Lady?

“I’ve seen exes show up and glasses start flying,” says Bonaventura. “A bunch of people were there. This girl’s ex-boyfriend walked in with another girl. There was screaming. Someone dropped a glass or a glass got thrown. We had to kick this guy out of the bar. That was kinda wild.”

“It’s Like Inviting Someone Into Your House”: Candy Bar’s Amas Muhammad on Hospitality & Break-Ups at the Bar

Click the audio player above to hear the full conversation with bartender Amas Muhammad.

Courtesy of Amas Muhammad

Out of the trio of bartenders we talked to for dating advice, Amas Muhammad is most likely to see the beginning of a romantic comedy take place during his shifts at the Candy Bar inside the Siren Hotel in downtown Detroit.

“I’ve seen anything from couples inviting another person into their experience or two people who are in from out of town sitting next to each other and just completely falling in love with each other in that moment,” says Muhammad. “Whether it goes anywhere doesn’t matter, but in that moment, it’s pretty incredible.”

Muhammad says he’s seen his fair share of brutal break-ups as well.

“Bars become this safe space, this common ground where people can go, take the edge off and have an exit because it’s pretty public,” says Muhammad.

Whether it’s your first date or your 40th anniversary, Muhammad has this advice for anyone taking a date to the bar.

“Don’t try so hard,” says Muhammad. “The bartender is there, everything is there to facilitate a good time, so feel good yourself. Relax. Let yourself have that moment of being present and comfortable.”

And most importantly — laugh a little.

“Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself and dating in general,” says Muhammad. “Humans are kinda goofy. We’re all here just bumbling around.”

Click the audio players above to hear the full conversations with each bartender. These segments originally aired on CultureShift on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit public radio.

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  • Ryan Patrick Hooper
    Ryan Patrick Hooper is the award-winning host of "In the Groove" on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. Hooper has covered stories for the New York Times, NPR, Detroit Free Press, Hour Detroit, SPIN and Paste magazine.