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My Ideal Bar / Pub

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I am tired of 90% of my experiences of “going out” to “the bar” (and I HATE how everyone calls multiple establishments “the bar” as if there is one, unbroken mythical bar asserted in varied aspects and avatars through different locations) involving being too cramped, surrounded by people who are too drunk and all look the same, and drowned out by head-against-a-car-door beating and repetitive music.  The reader may call me a damned antisocial fiend for saying that, since so many people apparently either like or say they like those things about going out. Some bars I have been to have pleased me greatly though.  I recall The Echo Tap in Madison, Wisconsin, for its down-played decor, personable tenders, and non-pounding ambiance which allows for plenty of conversation – in that case, high-stakes political wheeling and dealing was undertaken without the need to shout, or any key words garbled in the three feet between my mouth and my blog-colleague’s.  A more recent outing imprinted in memory was in Philadelphia at National Mechanics, which I will confess so impressed me that is is sort of an inspiration for the following. A great public house should not be like a cattle car with alcohol instead of feeding tubes.  Even if the cattle car is swank, dive, themed, local or a veritable meat market, it is still full of too many mammals making the same sounds.  More than ample space is needed to free the customer from claustrophobia.  It could mean high ceilings, a long hallway, or big windows.  The bar itself should be fairly long with good amenities like a round wrist-wrest (much appreciated), a lip at the edge to prevent spillage from having any consequences on your clothes, hooks at knee level for bags and purses, and a footrest at the least.  The barstools should be ergonomically constructed to lend themselves to being sat in for a long time with minimal discomfort.  A large main room is a good idea, with plenty of tables and a space at the front for a performance or speech if required, but the tables should remain on the floor unless there is a special event.  I would like to sit at a bar and talk, not bounce around on my feet, generally. Off from the main room there should be side rooms and stalls, which can either be occupied on a first-come first-serve basis or can be reserved prior.  They should vary in the amount of space offered, from four people in a small stall to up to about twenty people in a larger room, for discussions and meetings of all sort to be permitted to take place.  The bathroom amenities should be designed so that, no matter what, long lines are not the norm – and keep the bathrooms clean! Primarily the public house is a space for people to come together.  It should be like a town hall, except you can drink and swear.  You should be able to do those things at a town hall as well, but failing that, let it be the public house.  The wall decoration should be the product of local artisans, or maybe collections from patrons’ travels.  The music if at all possible should be live and played on real instruments, or spun by a real DJ – but should only be loud when it really needs to be loud.  As for the smell, if the publican can take care to not let any part of the bar smell like Jaegerbomb vomit, then they will probably do a good job with the upkeep of the rest of the olfactory ambiance. Food is key during the day, and some of it at night as well.  The food should not just be common “bar food.”  The establishment should take pride in its menu and not dip everything into the fryer.  Like in Spain, free small snacks should come with every drink someone orders.  Coffee should be available all the time, right up to last call. When I decide to go to a bar, whether at noon or at eleven in the evening, I should expect that I will either see someone there I have met before, or that I will have no trouble meeting someone new, almost without great effort.  Connections should be made constantly, and ideas and stories should be exchanged.  Going with friends, I should expect to be able to have a conversation without screaming in each other’s ear and not have the conversation be limited to how expensive the beer is or how there is no room.  The bar should be a place to talk about cool things, and not just things that some people find cool – the people who want to go to bars all the time.  Businesses should be started from conversations at bars every week.  Political ideas should be hatched.  New romances should be made – not just one-night stands.  Societies should be able to meet in the rooms and meeting-spaces regularly and then get half off drinks for the rest of the night when their meeting is done.  The bar should promote these societies. The bar should also decide to stand for something in the community, beyond just being there for the community to meet and drink.  A political focus? A business focus? A spiritual focus?  A particular activity, like a sport or a hobby or music?   By encouraging people to become active in the community that establishes itself in its space, the bar welcomes these patrons to become participants and shapers of the experience there.  They become stakeholders instead of customers.  Then things can really happen, and these movements and communities become known to many more people than if they had to meet in someone’s residence or another private space. In the end though, I just want a place where I can enjoy one or many drinks and have a few conversations.

Written by Preston

August 19th, 2009 at 10:27 pm

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One Response to 'My Ideal Bar / Pub'

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  1. Great post. I couldn’t help but think of the Angelic Brewing Company bar in Madison, WI while reading your post. While it is sadly now closed, it had many similarities with what you’ve described. Booths, larger private rooms, live music/real DJs, multiple levels, etc. really set the Angelic apart from other bars, and the food (especially the Holy Bread, Heavenly Nachos, and Mostaccioli Bake) was top notch.

    One thing I would add to your description, having grown up in a northern state, is a coat check.


    19 Aug 09 at 22:45

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