Dear PoP – Bar Theft Etiquette

Photo by PoPville flickr user esessler

“Dear PoP,

I just have a question, (hypothetically of course) if a person gets a little too intoxicated and steals something from a bar and wants to give it back, will the bar be upset if the person returns it? Should the person anonymously return it or go in and own up to it and apologize? Will the bar press charges?”

I’m guessing that if the patron returned the item and apologized the bar would not press charges. What do you guys think?

Ed. Note: I offered to return the item for this person. Hell, if someone else has stolen something from a bar and feels awkward about giving it back – I’ll give it back for you and promise to keep you anonymous.

46 Comment

  • what are we talking about here? Context matters.

  • Are we talking a political coaster or a 20 foot statue of Paul Bunyan?

    If it’s a keg, I’d finish it and then return it…..

    • a friend and i once had grand (drunken) plans to steal the totem pole from in front of Dr. Dremos. i wonder where it eventually went?

    • ugh, a few weeks after turning 21, my dude and I took one of those huge gas pump-gumball machines out of a sports bar and left in on the sidewalk, where we planned to pick it up in his Bronco. the night ended after we walked home and passed out. I felt bad for the dudes that had to lug that thing back inside. it was maybe 7 feet tall and 70 lbs.


  • I’ve gotten drunk and stole a fire log from Pizza Paradiso in Gtown. Good times. The real question is what was stolen? That really makes a difference

  • i think what you need to do is get drunk again, and hurl the item at the bouncer as you run by.

  • it also depends on which bar you stole it from as well as what you stole. If it’s a privately owned place the owner might be happy to have back what is theirs. I’d return it or have someone else return it for you. but expect to be banned from the establishment.

  • As a bouncer, I don’t think they should press charges, but they are entitled to take you out back and “convince” you not to do it again.

    • No, they’re not. After what happened to that guy who got robbed and beaten up in the bathroom of the club, bouncers should learn to lawyer up.

  • They should just laugh and thank you for being honest. Everyone has been drunk and done something stupid. Violence or calling the law is totally uncalled for.

    If you dont think they’ll understand, keep it and ask God for mercy on your soul.

  • PoP, I’m pretty sure if they owner did want to press charges (like has been said, really depends on what was stolen) you would legally be required to turn the person in…

  • Wouldn’t it be awesome if bars started doing a “Give us back the stolen items” night? They could just put a table in the bathroom where people can deposit previously stolen items in private. Although I’m sure it would just make everyone feel like they had license to steal stuff whenever and just leave it in the bathroom when they were done using it.

    I may or may not have ended up with glassware outside the bar on more than one occasion. But is it really stealing if you don’t realize you have it on your person until the next day?

    • Glassware doesnt even count. I break glasses by accident all the time – so if I steal it, its really just keeping it from being broken.

      • Thanks for helping me justify my kleptomania towards glassware….but yes, you have a point. Most places that serve alcohol realize that glassware is fleeting, but it looks better in my cabinet than on the floor of the bar broken into a million pieces….

        I have enough glassware from free glassware promotional nights, so I don’t need to pilfer any from bars.

        I’m seriously curious as to what exactly this person stole…

  • I think it’s worth a shout that PoP offered to return stolen items on the person’s behalf. That’s mighty neighborly!!!

  • I once walked out of the Borders at Pentagon City with a CD that I didn’t pay for. I was carrying lots of bags from shopping at other stores and had been thumbing through the CDs when I unwittingly picked it up. When I got home and discovered the CD, I went back to the store and gave it back, explaining what happened (the metal detector didn’t go off when I left the store, but it did when I entered it to return the item). The clerk looked surprised, thanked me, and gave me a piece of candy.

    I say, give it back and ‘fess up. If the barkeeper decides to have you arrested, let us know and we’ll know not to patronize the bar because they’re douches.

  • steal something from a competing bar to balance the neighborhood business karma.

  • It depends. Are you are a feral youth? If so, to dungeon for such lawlessness.

    If you’re a hipster, you can claim you’re fulfilling your ironic destiny, and that should prevent prosecution.

    If you’re hot, I’m sure you can return it to the bar without fear, and then feel free to steal something else.

  • I’m a bartender and I’m saying just give it back, they’ll appreciate it.

    • +1. I am a bartender and have actually received things back, and I appreciated it. I can’t imagine a bar would press charges, unless what you stole was, for example, the tip jar or the deposit.

  • If I returned everything I’ve ever stolen from a bar, I wouldn’t have any beer glasses!

    They probably didn’t even notice it was gone if it was just a glass. If it was something bigger/more expensive then yeah return it. Say that “a friend” stole it and you felt it should be returned.

  • Is this the poet who stole the Langston Hughes cutout from Busboys?

  • Is it a blue french horn?

  • Love this thread… reminds me of a girl I used to go out clubbing with who always wanted to steal a “reserved” sign off one of the tables but inevitably got too drunk to remember to do it.

  • I have always wanted to steal those swords in the vestibule of Mama Ayeshas.

    Shit, now if anyone steals them I am going to get blamed.

  • Went to a wedding downtown once and ended up at the St. Regis bar. Came home with white roses in a silver (but plastic) cup. Thought they were from the wedding. Nope, turns out i grabbed them from the hotel bar drunkenly and walked out w/ them. They didn’t stop me though — guess they make concessions when you’re wearing a suit and spend a day’s paycheck on overpriced drinks.

  • Woke up on a Sunday morning after a particularly drunken night at Trusty’s and found one of the green plastic “Candyland” characters in my pocket. Thinking it must have been a mistake, I shrugged it off. Only later did I find out that not only had I stolen it, but that I had left a handwritten ransom note for him on a napkin before leaving. If you’re playing “Candyland” at Trusty’s and are missing the green dude…my apologies.

  • My roommate and I stole several pitchers from a bar in Milwaukee back in the ’90s. Several years later, a buddy of ours bought the bar … and he demanded we return the pitchers.

  • Oh admit it, you stole her heart!

  • I stole something from the DC Eagle on Jock Strap Nite. will u return it for me?

  • I own a bar in DC, won’t say which one right now as I don’t want give the ok to steal from my bar if you’re drunk:)
    However, this exact scenario has happened with me and if the person came in apologized sincerely and returned the item… for me that would, and has been in the past, the end of it.
    We all do dumb things when we’re drinking.

    • Without being too specific (as to give away which establishment you own), can you tell us what was stolen and if it would have made a difference if the item had been of greater monetary or sentimental value?

      A friend of a friend was caught with a big glass beer stein he stole from a tent at Oktoberfest in Munich. I’ve been too and can vouch for the fact that check everyone on the way out, so I’m impressed he got out with it. He made it all the way to the U-Bahn and took it out of his bag. A transit cop walked up to him and asked “May I see your receipt for that stein?” Dude replied “Receipt?” and that was the last he ever saw of it.

      Another guy I know worked at a German-themed restaurant and would “break” a stein every so often, take out a bag of trash, and put the stein in his car. He had an impressive collection that was subsequently mostly stolen from him, piece by piece, at parties he threw in college.

  • While working at Pete’s in CH, we’ve had countless framed photographs (and a small mirror) from the bathrooms stolen. Eventually we had to screw them to the wall. Man it’s much better working in FH now.

  • A friend of mine stole a 7 foot Grimace from a McDonald’s at 2 am once… he literally ripped it out of the ground, bolts and all (he was a very large individual – college wrestler).

    I think he realized what he had done when he went to get his car the next day and saw it sticking out of his trunk; he returned it to McD’s along with reimbursing them for damages. I think the franchise owner appreciated his honesty.

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