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What is a bar chip?

A bar chip, or more commonly called, drink chip, is “a form of exonumia used in drinking establishments” (Wikipedia - Pub Token).  In English, it’s something you receive when someone buys you a “backup” drink. For example, you are seated at the bar and have a full drink of Labatt Blue Light (yes, hoping they take notice).  The bartender or typically another patron then decides to buy you another drink. Instead of placing another Blue Light on the bar in front of you and having that “crisp, clean and delicately balanced” cold beer get warm, the bartender will place a drink chip on the bar where you are seated signifying that you have a free drink coming to you.  Once you finish your drink and order another, the bartender will take the drink chip away and provide you with your next free Blue Light.


Is a bar chip, drink chip, drink token, pub token the same thing?

Yes, they all mean the same thing.  I use the term “drink chip” but I think Buffalo Bar Chips sounds better than Buffalo Drink Chips for a poster title and website.


What do drink chips look like?

There are many different designs of drink chips and the cost of producing drink chips varies widely depending on whether they are wooden, plastic or in the rare case, metallic.  Most of the chips are round however, a few are square, some are hexagonal and one of the most unique chips is in the shape of a guitar pick. As you can see from this website there are a variety of drink chips.  I like to think of drink chips as snowflakes, not one is the same as another.


Is a Buffalo Chip different from a Buffalo Bar Chip?

Yes, big difference.  A Buffalo Chip is dried dung of a buffalo.  A Buffalo Bar Chip is a drink token.  We did not feel like collecting Buffalo Chips.  Plus, we didn’t think people would buy posters of Buffalo Chips.


Do bars have more than one kind of drink chip?

Most bars have only one kind of drink chip however, some bars have various colored drink chips to represent different types of drinks.  For example, a red chip may be for a draft beer whereas a green chip may be used for bottled beer or yet another colored chip for top-shelf drinks.  There is no standard color to represent a certain drink.  It’s up to the particular bar owner to determine this. One bar even has a chip for a bottle of wine!   


Can you keep the drink chip instead of redeeming it for another drink?

Yes, but be careful not to be rude.  If someone buys you a drink, it’s polite to accept their generosity and have another drink.  You may want to even return the favor. You do have the option of refusing to consume the additional drink, especially if you’ve had too much to drink, and can instead take the chip home with you.  Upon returning to the bar at a later date, you can redeem that chip for your free drink providing you haven’t lost the chip by then. Don’t think for a second that the inventor of drink chips didn’t anticipate this.


Do all bars have drink chips?

No.  Our experience has shown that approximately 43% of bars in the Buffalo area utilize drink chips.  One of the most common reasons I have heard from bar owners for not using drink chips is that drink chips are often given out during periods like Happy Hour when drinks are less expensive.  Patrons will sometimes hold onto the drink chips and redeem them at a later time when drinks are at their normal price which saves the patron money at the bar owner’s expense. I’m anxious to see if this poster idea will increase the number of bars that utilize chips in the near future.


Why do bars use drink chips?

Bar owners have chips for various reasons including advertisement purposes.  Drink chips are also money makers in themselves.  In every case, the cost of producing a drink chip is less than the cost of the drink for which it was purchased.  Many people take their drink chip home with them with the intent of redeeming it a later date however, these drink chips are often lost and the bar owner made a profit from your lost chip.  In some cases you have people like myself who pay $4 for a .25 cent plastic chip just for their collection.   


If a bar doesn’t use drink chips, can I still buy someone a “backup” drink?

Absolutely!  You can always buy someone a backup drink.  Bartenders that don’t use drink chips will typically use a plastic shot cup and place it upside down on the bar where you are seated to signify that you have a free drink coming to you.   Some bars that don’t use drink chips use other items like a hockey puck or a golf ball that is cut in half to signify that you have a free drink coming.  These are a great idea, however they are not as user friendly. They don’t fit in your pocket quite as well and they certainly wouldn’t fit in my frame.


Are there certain kinds of bars that use drink chips?

Yes, all the cool bars have them.  In our experience, you are more likely to find drink chips at your local pub or tavern.  However, you can find drink chips at all kinds of bars.


What does “Chippin” mean?

The act of searching for drink chips at bars in the Buffalo area.


What is a “Chipper”?

One who seeks drink chips.  


“Chippin” etiquette.  

1. You must NEVER, EVER call a bar to see if they have drink chips.

2. You must NEVER, EVER walk into a bar and immediately ask if they have

drink chips.

3. FIRST, you must enter the bar and order a drink.

4. At any point AFTER you order the drink, you may then ask the bartender if

they have drink chips.

5. You must consume the drink.

6. If you are not at a bar, you are allowed to accept a chip from another

person to add to your collection.  You MUST go to that bar and have a drink within 24 hours or you must discard the chip (or just go whenever).

7. Be a responsible Chipper.


What is Buffalo Bar Chips?

Buffalo Bar Chips was created to promote Buffalo and Buffalo area bars.  This was done by creating a website and comprehensive Chip Map showing the location of bars throughout the region.  For those who may want to start their own collection, this map will also distinguish which bars have drinks chips and those that do not.  For those who don’t have the time for “Chippin”, we created a poster displaying all the drink chips from the area.  We’re also hoping that selling these posters will help fund our future drinking trips!


Do you own a bar or have a business that makes drink chips?

Not at all.  I have no involvement in the bar business (other than I’m “in” one often) nor do I have any interest in selling drink chips.  I just collect them.


Why didn’t you call your website Buffalo Chips?  That would have been funny based on the reference to the dried dung of a Buffalo.

I wanted to call it that but after some research I found the all-male a cappella group from UB already called themselves the Buffalo Chips.  We are a different group of “Chippers”. They can sing well and we can’t, at all.


What is your criteria for a bar? How do you determine whether it’s a bar or restaurant?

First of all, it must be open to the public (we accept invitations to private bars, expenses paid, and are available for parties).  Secondly, the bar must serve beer (sorry, no wine bars).  After that it becomes a gray area. Essentially, if a business has both a bar and a restaurant, we look to see if the bar is a place where people actually hang out instead of just waiting at the bar for a table.  


What about franchise restaurants that have bars like Applebee’s, TGI Friday’s or Tully’s?

Sorry, but I’m not including them on the map since these are franchises that did not originate in Buffalo.  But if you’re interested in meeting women, I’ve heard that Applebee’s is the place to go (if you’ve seen the movie Hall Pass you’ll understand).


How did you find all the bars?

I primarily relied on Google Maps to show the locations of bars.  Google Maps makes it easy to locate some bars because they are labeled with a martini glass icon.  It should be noted that many bars do not have this icon and instead have a restaurant icon.  This certainly can confuse people but the Buffalo Bar Chips Chip Map eliminates this confusion.  Friends, patrons and bartenders were also helpful by suggesting other nearby bars that were unknown to us.


On your Chip Map, you have 3 different icons noting where bars are located.  What is the significance of the different colors?

Green beer icon - Bars that have drink chips.  By clicking on the green beer icons

you can see what drink chip is being used by that bar.  Please note that a few of

these bars no longer use drink chips but if I was able to obtain one, I marked it

with a green beer icon.  

Red icon - Bars that do not have drink chips.  Also note that a few of these bars

may have used drink chips in the past but if I couldn’t obtain one, it was marked

with a red icon.  If you are fortunate enough to have a drink chip from a bar

marked with a red icon and would like it included on the Chip Map, send it to me

(please note that it will not be returned).  


Yellow icon - Bars that I have not been to… yet.


Do you plan to keep the Chip Map updated?

Yes.  As you are aware, I can’t possibly know when every new bar opens or when an existing bar closes.  Please feel free to contact me with any information about new or closed bars and I will update the Chip Map.


Have you really been to all the bars listed on your website?

I have personally been to every single one of the bars noted on the map with a green beer icon or a red icon.  Some of them I have been to at some point earlier in my life but most I have visited since we started “Chippin’” in 2017.  


Do you plan on going to every bar in the Buffalo area?

Why wouldn’t I?  We’ve had so much fun so far so why stop now.  


Did you have to buy all the drink chips?

Yes, I bought most of them.  Especially in the earlier stages of “Chippin”.  Once I framed the chips and showed the bartenders a picture of the collection and our intent upon making a poster, they would occasionally give me a free chip since they realized I had no intention of ever redeeming the chip.  Friends also purchased a few drink chips for me but I made sure that I eventually went to that bar to have a drink.  I would estimate that I bought around 130 of them.


Will you ever redeem any of your drink chips?

Absolutely not!  


How much is your collection of drink chips worth?

It’s hard to say because drink prices vary from bar to bar.  I would say the average cost of a drink chip is roughly $3.50 so the total collection is worth about $600.  

Memories: priceless.


Did you charge the bar owners to put their chips on the poster?

No, not one cent.  Some people said I should ask the bar owners for money to put their drink chip on the poster since I would ultimately be advertising for their bar.  I didn’t agree with this since we are truly promoting ALL the bars throughout the area, not just those who paid to have their chip on the poster.  That being said YOU bar owners, donations are gratefully accepted for your free advertisement!


Do you need the permission from the bar owners to put their chip on the poster?

I consulted various attorneys and had mixed responses.  No one seemed to know for sure.  I couldn’t imagine why any bar owner wouldn’t want free advertising and would reject my free offer to display their chip on a poster.  Ultimately, and to ensure that I did not offend any bar owners, I did ask for their permission.  If I didn’t get their permission, the chip didn’t go on the poster.  I still kept their green beer icon on the Chip Map but I just moved it several blocks from the actual bar location to annoy those bar owners (not really).


Some of the drink chips on the poster are larger than others.  Why is that?

The poster displays the actual size of the drink chip as determined by the bar owner.


Did you ever have any bad experiences at any of the bars?

Not one single time.  We have certainly been to bars that some people may not want to enter based on various reasons, however these were often the bars where we met the nicest, most down-to-earth people found in Buffalo.  These are also the bars where we had the most fun.


Do you have a favorite bar now that you have gone “Chippin’”?  

There are many bars that we found that I would love to return to.  I don’t want to name any specific bar because I want to promote ALL Buffalo area bars.


What are your future plans for Buffalo Bar Chips?

We will continue to chip away until we run out of bars.  We hope to encourage others to get out and go “Chippin’” for themselves.  We created the most comprehensive map I know of Buffalo area bars to assist in this project.  For those who may want to collect your own chips, we have simplified this because now you know where the bars are that have chips.  For those who would like to save some time and money, we created the poster that would hopefully have some meaning to you based on your past experiences at those particular bars.  In addition, I am hoping the sale of posters will cover my future drinking expenses OR if anyone is interested in having Buffalo Bar Chips explore another city for bar chips for your personal poster, we are available to take on this task with minimal expenses.

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