It’s all fun and Tom Cruise–style shakes behind the bar until a rush happens—and you’re left scrambling for glasses or madly hunting for garnishes. That’s when things can get messy—and dirty. While a messy dive bar may be fun in theory, in reality, letting things slip and slide can compromise safety.

Plus, keeping things clean and organized means a more seamless shift for staff and a better experience for guests. For many patrons, much of the fun of going out is sitting at the bar and watching staff pour, mix, shake, and cut (especially if they can do it with Cocktail-style panache).

From keeping glassware clean to avoiding cross-contamination and making sure products are within their expiration dates, follow these daily practices to ensure a healthy environment with impressed guests.


  • Keep counters, bottles, and all exposed surfaces wiped down with a damp cloth.
  • Apply a paste of baking soda and water to a nonabrasive sponge, wet the sponge in lemon water, and then use it to soften up caked gunk.
  • Pull electrical appliances away from walls. Remove crumbs and sticky stuff that may have gotten pushed up against walls.
  • Remove refrigerator shelves to give the fridge a thorough clean. Wipe down refrigerator interiors with a microfiber cloth spritzed with an all-purpose cleaner.
  • Do a weekly deep clean of your bar to keep it shining.


  • When handling so many glasses and dishware items, it’s easy to transfer bacteria and viruses. Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer close by, so bartenders can always wash up quickly. Bartenders should always be in the habit of washing their hands as often as chefs.
  • Instruct staff to never use direct hand contact when cutting fruit, garnishing, or getting ice. Always use gloves or tongs.
  • Beer taps and bottles may also pose safety challenges when it comes to contamination. Avoid a buildup of bacteria, mold, and yeast by cleaning tap lines and regularly wiping down bottles.


  • Mix water with a few tablespoons of bleach to sanitize and remove stains from plastic cutting boards.
  • Lemon juice, a bar standard, can serve as a nontoxic all-purpose cleaner.
  • Many bars have a dishwasher in the station to keep glasses clean, but over time and with heavy use, this area can become filled with – grime. Make sure to regularly soak the filter inside the dishwasher’s base.


  • Check expiration dates on a regular basis.
  • Label and refrigerate syrups and infusions, and always check and do a taste test before serving to guests. Even a simple syrup has a shelf life of only a week or two. When in doubt, throw it out.
  • Apply a rule of keeping old items toward the front and newer in the back to eliminate waste.


  • Make sure to have an accessible but out-of-the-way area where recycling is separate from trash, and a bin to put broken glass in.
  • Don’t throw broken glass in with waste; avoid injuries by keeping it well marked and away from the bar rush.
  • Don’t use drink glasses to ladle ice. Use a bar scoop. Drink glasses can break inside the ice bin or transfer germs to the ice.