What do bars do with old tap handles?

Answered by Charles Pate

As an expert sommelier and brewer, I have seen firsthand the fate of old tap handles in bars. It is a common occurrence for tap handles to be stolen, but what happens to the ones that aren't taken? Well, the truth is, they often go unnoticed and are not given much thought.

Bar owners and managers have a lot on their plate, and tap handles are not always a top priority. When marketing plans change or taps need to be updated, old or damaged handles are often discarded. It's not that they are intentionally thrown away, but rather that they are overlooked or deemed no longer useful.

One reason for this is that tap handles can become outdated. Breweries and distributors often release new beers or rebrand existing ones, and with these changes, the tap handles need to be updated to reflect the new branding. This means that old tap handles may no longer fit with the overall aesthetic that the bar is trying to achieve.

Another factor is the wear and tear that tap handles endure over time. Constant use and exposure to various liquids can lead to damage or fading of the handles. If a tap handle becomes worn or damaged, it is often easier and more cost-effective for the bar to replace it rather than attempt to repair or restore it.

Now, you may be wondering why bars don't return the tap handles to the distributors or breweries. Well, the reality is that it's simply not a common practice. Returning tap handles would require extra effort and coordination, and for many bar owners, it's not worth the hassle. Additionally, distributors and breweries may not have a system in place to handle returned tap handles, as they are often more focused on the distribution and production of their beverages.

So, what do bars ultimately do with their old tap handles? In many cases, they end up in the trash. This may sound wasteful, but it's often the most practical solution for bar owners who are juggling multiple responsibilities and priorities.

However, there are some bars that get creative with their old tap handles. Some may repurpose them as decorations or use them in DIY projects. I have seen bars use old tap handles to create unique tap handle displays or even incorporate them into artwork on their walls. These creative uses not only give the tap handles a second life but also add a touch of character to the bar's atmosphere.

The fate of old tap handles in bars often goes unnoticed or they are simply discarded. The constant changes in marketing plans and the wear and tear that tap handles endure make them less valuable over time. While some bars may repurpose or get creative with their old tap handles, the reality is that many end up in the trash. It's a somewhat unfortunate outcome, but one that is often unavoidable given the practicalities and priorities of running a bar.