"Come on out for a couple of drinks!" - This phrase is one which is commonly heard today, as bars are still the ultimate social platform for most every adult, from twenty-something young professionals to senior citizens and every age and type of person in-between. Like most things that have been popular for some time, despite a relatively difficult rise to prominence and a couple of bumps along the way, bars are widely appreciated and accepted today, but few display any interest whatsoever in the details of their rise; many feel as though bars have been around forever, and like quite a variety of things which have been popular for some time, there is a correspondingly small amount of intrigue behind them.
This is a shame because the bar’s careful journey to becoming the ultimate social platform is incredibly notable.
Old England and the Pub: The Origins of the Modern Bar
Certainly, bars have a very storied and intricate past, prior to their rise to prominence in old-time England. However, it was the English who truly began innovating and evolving the social climate of the bar, and accordingly, their contributions were integral to the development of the establishments that are widely known and loved today.
Around the 1750s, the major alcohol-serving businesses of the past—alehouses, which served beer, taverns, which served wine, and other, “under-the-radar” establishments, which served hard liquor—combined into one clear-cut facility: the pub.
In the midst of this new-found combination, patrons became more and more open to trying new things—specifically, new types of alcoholic beverages and live entertainment. Over time, this willingness to try new things, along with Europe’s increasingly lax social standards, allowed for the growth and development of the pub and the bar from drink-serving businesses to the ultimate hangout spots.
Once word of English bars spread to the US, Americans took it upon themselves to further evolve the general nature of drinking places; the results can be seen today.
The States—Home of the (Necessary) Bar
Skipping forward a bit, past the US’s acceptance of this same style of pub (which played-out in a similar, gradual fashion), the key difference between the two countries that allowed for the complete and total emergence of the modern bar was exploration.
In England, the ever-changing pubs were adopted as a means to entertain and socialize, in coordination with the once again new social standards of the day. The US, once it became independent and for quite a while afterward, was a country where westward expansion was still underway, and this same style of “drinking” establishment was adopted for entertainment purposes as a result of having nothing to do. Seriously, life heading west towards unexplored land was exciting at some points, but with no buildings, businesses, activities, establishments to frequent or new people to speak with, things became dull relatively quickly. Bars were widely accepted, quick to get up-and-running and purely enjoyable places to hang out and socialize. This trend ultimately spread from the “Wild West” to the rest of the country.
In this way, the US contributed to bars and pubs in the same way that England did; whereas, while becoming popular in England, bars were commonly frequented because of their live entertainment—often cockfighting — US bars proved, partially due to circumstance, that the alcohol and the conversation were the real sources of entertainment. While heading west, such entertainment wasn’t available; chickens were valuable resources, as opposed to sources of amusement! This style of thinking stuck, and thanks to slight adaptations along the way, we’re able to enjoy the bars of today.
Now that you know a bit about the rise of the bar into the ultimate social platform, you shouldn’t hesitate to head to a local watering hole with some friends and have a great time—maybe while talking about its origin!