Bar (establishment)

Bar (establishment)
A bar in Switzerland.

A bar is a business establishment that serves alcoholic drinksbeer, wine, liquor, and cocktails — for consumption on the premises.[1]

Bars provide stools or chairs that are placed at tables or counters for their patrons. Some bars have entertainment on a stage, such as a live band, comedians, go-go dancers, or strippers. Bars specializing in live music are often referred to as music bars.

Types of bars range from dive bars[2] to elegant places of entertainment for the elite.

Many bars have a happy hour to encourage off-peak patronage. Bars that fill to capacity sometimes implement a cover charge during their peak hours. Such bars often feature entertainment, which may be a live band or a popular disk jockey.

The term "bar" is derived from the specialized counter on which drinks are served. The "back bar" is a set of shelves of glasses and bottles behind that counter. In some establishments, the back bar is elaborately decorated with woodwork, etched glass, mirrors, and lights.



There have been many names throughout history for establishments where people gather to drink alcoholic beverages. Even when an establishment uses a different name, such as "tavern," the area of the establishment where the bartender serves alcoholic beverages is normally called "the bar."

There were prohibitions of alcoholic beverages in the first half of the 20th century in several countries, including Finland, Iceland, Norway, and the United States. In the United States, illegal bars during Prohibition were called speakeasies or blind pigs.

Legal restrictions

Laws in many jurisdictions prohibit minors from entering a bar.

Cities and towns usually have legal restrictions on where bars may be located and on the types of alcohol they may serve to their customers.

Some Muslim countries, including Brunei, Iran, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE emirate of Sharjah, prohibit bars for religious reasons. Some other Muslim countries, including Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, do allow bars but only permit non-Muslims to drink in them.

Types of bars

A bar's owners and managers will choose the bar's name, décor, drink menu, lighting, and other elements which they think will attract a certain kind of patron. However, they have only limited influence over who patronizes their establishment. Thus, a bar intended for one demographic profile can become popular with another. For example, a gay bar with a dance floor might, over time, attract an increasingly straight clientele. Or a blues bar may become a biker bar if most its patrons are bikers.

A cocktail lounge is an up-scale bar that is typically located within a hotel, restaurant, or airport.

A wine bar is an elegant bar that serves only wine (no beer or liquor). Patrons of these bars may taste wines before deciding to buy them. Some wine bars also serve small plates of food or other snacks..

A dive bar is a very informal bar, sometimes referred to as a dive.

A music bar is an establishment specializing in live music.


Bars categorized by the kind of entertainment they offer include:

  • Topless bars, where topless female employees dance or serve drinks
  • Sports bars, where sports fans watch games on large-screen televisions
  • Salsa bars, where patrons dance to Latin salsa music
  • Dance bars, which have a dance floor where patrons dance to recorded music. But if a dance bar has a large dance floor and hires well-known professional DJs, it is considered to be nightclub or discothèque.
  • Music bars, specializing in live music (i.e. concerts).
  • Blues bars, specializing in the live blues style of music.


Bars categorized by the kind of patrons who frequent them include:

  • Biker bars, which are bars frequented by motorcycle enthusiasts and (in some regions) motorcycle club members
  • Gay bars, where gay men or women dance and socialize
  • Women's bars
  • Mixed gay/straight bars
  • Straight bars
  • Cop bars, where off-duty law enforcement agents gather
  • Singles bars where (mostly) unmarried people of both sexes can meet and socialize
  • College bars, usually located in or near universities, where most of the patrons are students.

Bar (counter)

A row of liquor bottles behind a bar (i.e., counter)

The counter at which drinks are served by a bartender is called "the bar". This term is applied, as a synecdoche, to drinking establishments called "bars". The bar typically stores a variety of beers, wines, liquors, and non-alcoholic ingredients, and is organized to facilitate the bartender's work.

The word "bar" in this context was already in use by 1592 at the latest, as the dramatist Robert Greene referred to one in his A Noteable Discovery of Coosnage. However, it has been suggested that the method of serving from a counter was invented by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the great Victorian engineer, as a means of more quickly serving the sudden rush of customers caused by passenger trains arriving at the refreshment rooms at Swindon railway station while the Great Western Railway trains changed locomotives.[citation needed] It has also been claimed that the first bar to serve alcohol was installed at the Great Western Hotel on Paddington station, London.[citation needed]

Counters for serving other types of food and drink may also be called bars. Examples include snack bars, sushi bars, juice bars, salad bars, and sundae bars.


A bartender at work in a pub in Jerusalem, Israel.


In Australia the major form of licenced commercial alcohol outlet from the colonial period to the present was the pub, a local variant of the English original. Until the 1970s, Australian pubs were traditionally organised into gender-segregated drinking areas—the "public bar" was only open to men, while the "lounge bar" or "saloon bar" served both men and women (i.e. mixed drinking). This distinction was gradually eliminated as anti-discrimination legislation and women's rights activism broke down the concept of a public drinking area accessible to only men. Where two bars still exist in the one establishment, one (that derived from the "public bar") will be more downmarket while the other (deriving from the "lounge bar") will be more upmarket. Over time, with the introduction of gaming machines into hotels, many "lounge bars" have or are being converted into gaming rooms.

Beginning in the mid-1950s, the formerly strict state liquor licencing laws were progressively relaxed and reformed, with the result that pub trading hours were extended. This was in part to eliminate the social problems associated with early closing times—notably the infamous "Six O'Clock Swill" -- and the thriving trade in "sly grog" (illicit alcohol sales). More licenced liquor outlets began to appear, including retail "bottle shops" (over-the-counter bottle sales were previously only available at pubs and were strictly controlled). Particularly in Sydney, a new class of licenced premises, the wine bar, appeared; there alcohol could be served on the proviso that it was provided in tandem with a meal. These venues became very popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s and many offered free entertainment, becoming an important facet of the Sydney music scene in that period.

In the major Australian cities today there is a large and diverse bar scene with a range of ambiences, modes and styles catering for every echelon of cosmopolitan society.


Canada has absorbed many of the public house traditions common in the UK, such as the drinking of dark ales and stouts. Canada adopted the UK-style tavern (also adopted by the U.S), which was the most popular type of bar throughout the 1960s and 1970s, especially for working class people. Canadian taverns, which can still be found in remote regions of Northern Canada, have long tables with benches lining the sides. Patrons in these taverns often order beer in large quart bottles and drink inexpensive "bar brand" Canadian rye whisky. In some provinces, taverns used to have separate entrances for men and women.

Canada has adopted many of the newer U.S. bar traditions (such as the "biker bar", and the "sports bar") of the last decades. As a result the term "bar" has often come to be differentiated with the term "pub", in that bars are usually 'themed' and often have a dance floor (such as a dance bar), as opposed to establishments which call themselves pubs, which are often much more similar to a British tavern in style. Before the mid-1980s most "bar" like establishments that sold alcohol were simply referred to as taverns, regardless of what they looked like or what they sold. As with any major lifestyle trend that occurs in the U.S. the "bar" trend promptly spread to Canada. Canadian sports bars are usually decorated with merchandise and paraphernalia featuring the local hockey team, and patrons watch the games on large-screen televisions. Starting in the mid-1990s taverns started to take on the look, feel and even the names of the U.K type pubs. A simple example would be the name "The Fox and Fiddle" as a pub name, whereas names like these rarely existed before. There is huge proportion of bars compared to pubs.

Legal restrictions on bars are set by the Canadian provinces and territories, which has led to a great deal of variety. While some provinces have been very restrictive with their bar regulation, setting strict closing times and banning the removal of alcohol from the premises, other provinces have been more liberal. Closing times generally run from 2:00 to 4:00 a.m.

In Nova Scotia, particularly in Halifax, there was, until the 1980s, a very distinct system of gender-based laws were in effect for decades. Taverns, bars, halls, and other classifications differentiated whether it was exclusively for men or women, men with invited women, vice-versa, or mixed. After this fell by the wayside, the issue of water closets led many powder rooms in taverns being either constructed later, or in kitchens or upstairs halls where plumbing allowed, and the same in former sitting rooms for men's facilities.


Bars in India are mainly clustered in metropolitan cities (Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Goa, and Manipal).

Bangalore is sometimes referred to as the "city of pubs" because more than 200 bars and pubs are located in it. The state of Goa also has a large number of bars and pubs because of tourism. The rest of the country has very few bar formats. Mostly, drinks are served in establishments such as restaurants. Locally made liquor (fenny, toddy etc.) is also exclusively sold at establishments. They do not serve traditional liquor but usually serve several snacks and food. These establishments are usually run-down, and their clientele consists mainly of working-class people. Dance bars were also common sight in many cities, before they ran into legal troubles.

More recently, bars are showing up in smaller cities; but, these establishments cater to a mostly male clientele and are unlike the social hubs of the west. For example, in Chandigarh, one of the most modern city of India, administration has developed Taverns where people can buy liquor at market price and have it along with snacks being served in a decent sitting restaurant that accompanies the wine shop.

In Manipal, many bars serve patrons standing at the counter — no seating arrangements are provided. All the bars are crowded with students

In the last few years, many international brands have entered the market, like 'Hard Rock Cafe', 'TGI Friday's', Ruby Tuesday's', Pop Tate's, 'Ministry of Sound(MOS)', etc. Similar chains of bars are now starting to emerge from within the country. Shalom, Laidbackwaters, Geoffrey's Dhadkkan at Solan, Himachal Pradesh and All Sports Bar are among the few popular ones.


The bar in the coach terminal at Udine, Italy

In Italy, a "bar" is a place more similar to a café, where people go during the morning or the afternoon, usually to take a coffee, a cappuccino, a hot chocolate and eat some kind of snack like pastries and sandwiches (panini or tramezzini). However, any kind of alcoholic beverages are served. Opening hours vary: some establishments are open very early in the morning and close relatively early in the evening; others, especially if next to a theater or a cinema, may be open until late at night. In larger cities like Milan, Rome, Turin or Genoa, many larger bars are also restaurants and disco clubs. Many Italian bars have introduced a so-called "aperitivo" time in the evening, in which everyone who purchases an alcoholic drink then has free access to a usually abundant buffet of cold dishes like pasta salads, vegetables and various types of appetizers.


Bars in Spain are very common and form an important part in Spanish culture. In Spain it is common for a town to have many bars and even to have several lined up in the same street. Most bars have a section of the street or plaza outside with tables and chairs with parasols if the weather allows it. Spanish bars are also known for serving a wide range of sandwiches (bocadillos), as well as snacks called tapas or pinchos.

Tapas and pinchos may be offered to customers in two ways, either complementary to order a drink or in some cases there are charged independently, either case this is usually clearly indicated to bar customers by display of wall information, on menus and price lists. The anti-smoking law has entered in effect January 1, 2011 and since that date it is prohibited to smoke in bars and restaurants as well as all other indoor areas, closed commercial and state owned facilities are now smoke free areas.

Spain is the country with the highest ratio of bars/population with almost 6 bars per thousand inhabitants, that's 3 times UK's ratio and 4 times Germany's, and it alone has double the number of bars than the oldest of the 15-members of the European Union. The meaning of the word 'bar' in Spain, however, does not have the negative connotation inherent in the same word in many other languages. For Spanish people a bar is essentially a meeting place, and not necessarily a place to engage in the consumption of alcoholic beverages. As a result, children are normally allowed into bars, and it's common to see families in bars during week-ends of the end of the day. In small towns, the 'bar' may constitute the very center of social life, and it's customary that, after social events, such as the Sunday catholic mass, people go to bars, including seniors and children alike.

United Kingdom

In the UK bars are either areas that serve alcoholic drinks within establishments such as hotels, restaurants, universities, or are a particular type of establishment which serves alcoholic drinks such as wine bars, "style bars", private membership only bars. However the main type of establishment selling alcohol for consumption on the premises is the public house or pub. Some bars are similar to nightclubs in that they feature loud music, subdued lighting, or operate a dress code and admissions policy, with inner city bars generally having door staff at the entrance.

'Bar' also designates a separate drinking area within a pub. Until recent years most pubs had two or more bars - very often the Public bar/Tap room, and the Saloon Bar/Lounge, where the decor was better and prices were sometimes higher. The designations of the bars varied regionally. In the last two decades many pub interiors have been opened up into single spaces, which some people regret as it loses the flexibility, intimacy and traditional feel of a multi-roomed public house.

One of the last dive bars in London was underneath the Kings Head pub in Gerrard Street, Soho.

United States

The bar of the Club Moderne in Anaconda, Montana.

In the United States, legal distinctions often exist between restaurants and bars, and even between types of bars. These distinctions vary from state to state, and even among municipalities. Beer bars (sometimes called taverns or pubs) are legally restricted to selling only beer, and possibly wine or cider. Liquor bars also sell hard liquor.

Bars are sometimes exempt from smoking bans that restaurants are subject to, even if those restaurants have liquor licenses. The distinction between a restaurant that serves liquor and a bar is usually made by the percentage of revenue earned from selling liquor, although increasingly, smoking bans include bars too.

A bar named “Bar” in New Haven, Connecticut.

In most places, bars are prohibited from selling alcoholic beverages to go and this makes them clearly different from liquor stores. Some brewpubs and wineries can serve alcohol to go, but under the rules applied to a liquor store. In some areas, such as New Orleans and parts of Las Vegas and Savannah, Georgia, open containers of alcohol may be prepared to go. This kind of restriction is usually dependent on an open container law. In Pennsylvania and Ohio, bars may sell six-packs of beer "to-go" in original (sealed) containers by obtaining a take-out license. New Jersey permits all forms of packaged goods to be sold at bars, and permits packaged beer and wine to be sold at any time on-premises sales of alcoholic beverages are allowed. Historically, the western United States featured saloons. Many saloons survive in the western United States, though their services and features have changed with the times. Newer establishments have been built in the saloon style to duplicate the feeling of the older establishments.

Many Irish or British-themed "pubs" exist throughout United States and Canada and in some continental European countries.


See also


External links

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