I went to the bar the other day and when I tried to pay for the drink by my credit card, the bartender asked me something to the effect whether I wanted to have my credit card open for further payment or close my credit card for that payment only. I did not fully catch what she said, but I heard some words like "...under the tab(?) or close...?"

It would be grateful if you could let me know what are the common expressions bartenders use in this kind of situation and how I should respond in such situation.

2 Answers 2


While I can't find the etymology with a brief Google search, to "run a tab" means to incur repeated costs before paying. So if you're running a tab, you don't exchange money on each individual drink that you order, you settle up afterwards. It's like how restaurants do business all the time, but for bars, taverns, etc. it has its own word. I would assume that "opening a tab" is the start of "running a tab", then. Presumably, "closing a tab" is the other end of the "running a tab" process, where one settles the bill, as it were.

EDIT: Check the comments for etymology; witness the power of wiki magic at work!

  • 3
    etymonline say tab (n.2) "account, bill, check," 1888, American English colloquial, probably a shortened form of tabulation or of tablet in the sense of "a sheet for writing on." Figurative phrase keep a tab on is recorded from 1890.
    – Jim
    Aug 9, 2012 at 3:45

She asked if you wanted to apply that drink to an open tab or close an open tab. You open a tab when you give them your card.

I just went to some fights the other night and the bar had a $15 minimum, so I had no choice but to run a tab until I had reached the minimum for non-cash payment.

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