A Normative Profile of Tipping at DC Bars

You’ve probably begun to hear a lot about Initiative 77, the ballot measure up for vote on the June 19th DC election put forward by some progressive groups (not DC itself, as some restaurant owners seem to think) which would eliminate the lower “tipped wage” by 2026 so restaurant/bar workers would be required to be paid the the full minimum wage by their employers. Right now, these workers get paid $3.33/hour ($5 in 2020) directly by the employer, and any difference between normal minimum wage ($15 in 2020) must be paid the employer. I have yet to hear from anyone in the restaurant/DC industry actually in favor of this.

It got me thinking: what do most folks tip in DC? Becky Krystal and Fritz Hahn posted this handy explainer in the Post about what you should do in 2016, but it’s interesting what people actually do. Those who’ve worked as bartenders were furious at poll results. Based on Twitter polls and tweet feedback, here are the norms, based on strong consensus (70%+, Majority rules: 50%, Split: No Strong:

Near Consensus

  • Tip post-tax
  • 20% for a flight of beers
  • 20% for “solid service” at restaurant
  • Tipping at least some of the time based on the level of effort involved in making drinks
  • Grabbing a beer or two is very different than posting up at a bar for a long time

Majority or Close to It


  • Growler fill tipping: 39% don’t tip on growler fills, 31% tip only if they get other beer/food, 30% tip even if getting nothing else
  • Glass of wine: $1 or 20% evenly split
  • Rounding on tip with credit card: 32% tip in whole dollars (lot of folks have trouble doing math), 22% add tip so the total is whole dollars, 40% don’t do that

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