AdviceHey, Bonita!

I Work at a Bar. Can’t My Ex Drink Elsewhere?

Hi Bonita,

I just got through a pretty nasty breakup. It was a good thing, since the relationship really was not healthy. We’ve been together for a long time, though, so I’m still having the sadness related to losing such a big part of my life.

Here’s the problem: I work at a bar that gets a lot of traffic. My ex has been coming in there regularly—several times a week—often sitting at the bar where I have to serve them, and also bringing dates. I feel like this is a little disrespectful, especially since we only officially broke up a few weeks ago. At this point, I would just like some space, and having to see them regularly while I’m at work—where I’m expected to be nice and not able to avoid them—is really hard.

What should I do? I’m absolutely not going to quit my job, but I feel like they should know better then to do what they’re doing right now. I think they might just be mad about the breakup and trying to rub their dates in my face. What do you think? What do you recommend?

Wow. First things first: That is awful! Breakups already suck, but being lazily stalked by your ex? I use that word playfully, to be clear, but this behavior is creepy in a way that I don’t think your ex has fully considered—or, I hope not.

This person is jilted and feels powerless, but at the very least, they can come to your workplace and bring people with them and trigger horrible memories for you and probably ruin your day. I really hope your ex is just thinking, “Eff my ex—I can drink wherever I want and I’ll bring this rando, too,” and hasn’t considered the many ways their behavior could be seen as threatening or intrusive. But I think we both can see what your ex is really up to here, and I agree that it’s inappropriate.

I’ve worked behind a bar before, and if you’ve got backup, I’d recommend letting that person serve your ex. Speak to your co-worker before the shift starts, and let them know there will be a patron whom you will not acknowledge whatsoever, and if that person wants to drink, it’s up to your co-worker to serve them. Co-workers regularly insulate each other from problem patrons, so I imagine they’ll oblige. Hopefully, the ex will get the hint and find a new watering hole, and if not, it’s up to you to decide where to draw the line on their loitering.

I always recommend being direct, and if you don’t want them drinking at your workplace, you should tell them plainly. In Georgia, business owners reserve the right to refuse service to patrons at their discretion, and your ex can be barred from entry just for being creepy if the owner deems that said creepiness interferes with business (i.e., the bartender can’t focus) or jeopardizes the safety of employees or patrons (such as an employee’s mental health).

Talking to your ex about this can be a gamble. If they’re already putting themselves in your space, they might be looking for an inroad to argue or plead with you. Hopefully, they just need to hear that it’s over one more time, and they’ll find themselves a new place to drink.

To the ex in question: If you’re reading this, I wanna speak to you personally. This is actually pretty damned cruel, and rather creepy. It is never a good idea to physically seek out people who have requested space from you. You’re obviously hurt, and sometimes it can feel good to give out a little hurt in return, but you will look back on your behavior one day and (hopefully) be pretty embarrassed. You’re already dating again, so why bother your ex? Move on, have fun, and leave your ex alone.

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