What Is a Tab at a Bar?

Last Updated on June 16, 2023 by Lauren Beck

In the bustling world of bars, the concept of a bar tab may raise a curious eyebrow. As a seasoned aficionado of libations, I’ve come to appreciate the convenience and camaraderie that a bar tab brings. 

Join me as we delve into the realm of bar tabs, uncovering their purpose, how they work, and the seamless experience they provide. 

So, pull up a stool, order your favorite drink, and let’s embark on a journey to demystify the art of the bar tab!

What Is a Tab at a Bar?

A bar tab refers to a running tab or a credit account opened by a customer at a bar or restaurant. 

Instead of paying for each individual drink separately, customers can accumulate charges on their tab and settle the total bill at the end of their visit.

How Do Bar Tabs Work?

  1. Opening a tab: Customers typically provide their credit card or identification to open a tab. The bar keeps the card or information securely and uses it to track and charge the customer for their orders.
  2. Ordering drinks: Throughout the evening, customers can order drinks or food and have the charges added to their tab instead of paying immediately.
  3. Settling the bill: When ready to leave, customers can close their tab by paying the total amount due, including the accumulated charges for the drinks and any additional items ordered.

How Do You Open a Bar Tab?

Bar Counter
  1. Provide identification: Bars may require customers to provide identification, such as a driver’s license or passport, to open a tab. This helps verify the customer’s age and ensures responsibility for the charges.
  2. Provide a credit card: Customers typically provide a credit card to open a tab. The bar securely keeps the card information and uses it to charge customers for their orders at night’s end.

How Do You Close a Bar Tab?

  1. Request the bill: When you are ready to leave, ask the bartender or server for your bill to close your tab.
  2. Review the charges: Take a moment to review them and ensure they are accurate.
  3. Payment: Pay the total amount due, including the charges on your tab. You can use cash, credit card, or other accepted forms of payment.

Preauthorization: How Does It Work?

Preauthorization is a common practice when opening a bar tab. It involves the bar placing a temporary hold on a specific amount on the customer’s credit card to ensure funds are available to cover potential charges. 

The preauthorized amount is released when the tab closes, and the final charges are processed.

What Is a Point of Sale?

A point of sale (POS) system is the technology bars and restaurants use to manage transactions and track sales [1]. 

It typically includes software and hardware, such as cash registers, card readers, and computer systems, to facilitate efficient and accurate payment processing.


In conclusion, the world of bars and the concept of a bar tab offer a delightful blend of convenience and camaraderie. Opening a tab allows you to enjoy your favorite libations without the hassle of individual payments, creating a seamless experience. 

When it’s time to settle the bill, closing your tab ensures a smooth and efficient transaction. With the aid of preauthorization and the use of a point-of-sale system, bars provide a sophisticated and secure payment process. 

So, embrace the joy of a bar tab, raise your glass, and savor the moments of conviviality and libation that this wonderful system affords. Cheers to effortless enjoyment!


Lauren Beck
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