Yoga classes, coffee shops, CrossFit, meetups, hiking groups, rock climbing, dance parties, marathons, evening painting classes where they serve wine, improv comedy shows, improv comedy classes, cooking classes, language classes, indie band shows of every type. Meditation, Buddhism, any kind of spirituality you might be into. Literally everything just a few clicks away on Google. You don't need to "know somebody", you can just go. Go a few times in a row and make conversation with people, and suddenly you've got community and new friends.
Modern culture is an incredible smorgasboard where you can connect with every type of person through pretty much every type of activity known to man, whether athletic or artistic or spiritual or educational or all four.
The bar was a kind of lowest-common-denominator location that often came with a drinking problem. Bars still exist, but today's alternatives are almost infinitely more varied and vibrant.
Think of the Prancing Pony in the Lord of the Rings...a place where locals and travellers can mix and mingle and converse as much or as little as they please.
I love the idea of a hot yoga session before heading to the pub for a couple of pints and some darts.
Central Europe is losing the vibrant cafe culture it used to have, where people could sit together for hours and chat. Cafes today often blast loud pop music and send staff around more frequently to pester clients who seem to have finished their drinks, as owners believe this will prevent people from loitering. Instead, customers will quickly drink what they ordered and then get out, freeing the table for other customers.
Perhaps in the USA the situation is different, but I live in a city with a tradition of quiet, intellectual cafes that goes back centuries, and was still like that a decade ago, but now I am hard pressed to find a single place that would be pleasant to socialize even with my friends in, let alone mingle with other regulars and strike up conversations with strangers.
I'm much more likely to be pushed out the door at my local brewery or bar than I am at a coffee shop. If I had to guess it's because coffee tends to be a grab-and-go whereas beer cannot be served in a to-go cup so it has to be served and consumed inside the building with few alternatives if the seats are all full.
Unfortunately, it comes with some dangers...nicotine.
The days of hookah bars in many locations are probably numbered, since public health is focusing on gradually reducing tobacco use to zero. For the time being hookah tobacco might still be sold for someone to use in the privacy of their own home, but forbidding smoking hookahs in public spaces is a simple and effective step that the authorities can take.
Many meditation and Buddhist activities are free or donation only. It's a common attribute that Buddhist retreats are completely free before and during the event, and only after you receive a piece of mail soliciting a donation.
There _are_ more commercial meditation based activities but those are more lifestyle than spiritual.
Also, due to movements like the Hare Krishnas advertising free events (often without specifying that it was the Hare Krishnas or whatever other sect organizing it) for the sake of bait-and-switch recruitment, people are understandably suspicious of any vague "spirituality" or "meditation" event where free entrance is advertised.
To acquire friends one has to get to know people, and also people have to know one. It takes time to open up.
I'm not saying bars were this magical place. No. Bars were the place people who for some reason spent enough time together to get to a bar went to.
I don’t drink anymore but when I lived in NYC I went to the neighborhood bar and was part of a loose knit group of people who went there too. Classes, schedules and fees don’t point to the same thing.
I do miss the mid 90s indie coffeeshop scene.
I think some of these things may die off when people our age have kids. I didn’t have a kid when I did these things before. Maybe schedules and fees facilitate third place activities when you’re negotiating time with your co-parent. Now my kid is mid-teens and I have my free nights for third place things. But I’m not likely to attend a thing at a time and pay a fee. I’ll go for a trail run, with my partner or by myself.
Your white upper-middle class is showing
Churchgoers are moving from mainline Christian denominations to more extreme evangelical or fundamentalist denominations. Evangelicals have become a majority of all Protestants . Generalizing, these churches are stridently political in character, and often have social beliefs unacceptable to most of us.
What we are seeing is many churches having reoriented themselves with respect to society: while before they were community meeting places in areas with nearly identical backgrounds and beliefs, now they define themselves in opposition to a diverse community and the changes it brings.
In other words, it's not just that people have abandoned churches (secularization); it's also that many churches have self-consciously abandoned their roles as third places.
In America at least, the trend has had the effect of minimizing the positive effects of religion on society, while maximizing the irrational, corrosive, and divisive effects. It's like the worst of all possible worlds. I blame politicians for catering to the worst instincts of religiously-motivated voters, and I blame religious voters for allowing their politics to corrupt their own spirituality. As a result, you see these Evangelical megachurch pastors preaching beliefs that are in blatant, obvious, direct opposition to the clearest and least ambiguous words of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount, for example. His observations on the Pharisees have never been more relevant.
Yes, I'm definitely including megachurches (esp. nondenominational megachurches) as evangelicals, and I totally agree with the friendly small church vs dystopian megachurch experiences. Just about any TV pastor is an evangelical as well. For someone who's not a believer, I'm surprised at how sad this state of affairs can make me. Joel Osteen/Jim Bakker/Jerry Falwell Jr./Pat Robertson/etc. are just the worst.
If I could point at any one evangelical belief that for whatever reason offends this atheist, it's Prosperity Gospel. The idea that you should follow Christ so that material wealth will be drawn towards you, in correlation to how hardcore you are about Jesus. Of course this conveniently explains why the Joel Osteens of the world have mansions and private jets and so on- it's not a pyramid scheme, it's Christ's blessing magically seeping into their bank accounts on account of their innate holiness. But what's more depressing by far is that they've gotten so many people to actually believe that that's what's in the Bible.
Surely there is nothing worse than the prosperity gospel. I didn’t think there could be something worse than the glorification of suffering until I understood the prosperity gospel.
I honestly wish we could found a church based on teaching and practicing meditation and communication techniques. I think it would be a good place to raise a kid since churches are largely about raising kids.
the mission of the church is not to feel you warm and fuzzy, and appeal to the latest social trends and what's deemed politically correct these days.
I left Catholicism 20-odd years ago when I got married. Started going to a Southern Baptist (evangelical) church, and have gone ever since.
If you agree that everyone has a right to think as they please, you'll have nothing against evangelicals. Say you want to support abortions. You will surely get passionate arguments in return. You won't be given a position of leadership. You will not be in sycn with the rest of the congregation, and probably won't feel good about hanging around (as long as you keep vocalizing these ideas. That's not what the church is there for.) But nobody will be treated disrespectfully, and nobody will be subjected to anything unlawful.
On the flip side, evengilical churches do a great job of feeding the hungry, digging wells where they are needed, helping with disaster relief, etc. These are really important works, and given without care for the beliefs of the recipient.
You say I wouldn't feel comfortable hanging around should I be the sort of person who says what I think about these issues. If that were because churches were non-political spaces (like some neighborhood bars), that might be fine. But the point of my comment was that evangelical (and some other) churches have become heavily politicized spaces. The rules are, in fact, that you can say whatever you want, as long it agrees with extreme right-wing conservative dogma. In many (especially smaller) evangelical churches, you'll even hear it from the pulpit on Sunday. As it happens, I just visited the "Bible Belt" and got to hear evangelical Christians trash my so-called "environmentalism" (I tried to recycle plastic).
> On the flip side, evengilical churches do a great job of feeding the hungry, digging wells where they are needed, helping with disaster relief, etc. These are really important works, and given without care for the beliefs of the recipient.
Here again I must say my experience (I grew up in an evangelical church) doesn't match this. In my experience, churches treat these like mission opportunities. Any charity given is closely tied to the recipient's willingness to listen to the Gospel. And that's even putting aside the extremely questionable organizations that often run these programs, like groups tied to Franklin Graham.
Sorry about that. Please seek out a better church-- they are out there!
No doubt this isn't the only cause of pubs / bars closing, but it is a real measurable effect.
This is something that is continually being eroded unfortunately, especially as we continually descend into more and more hyphenated subgroups of Americans, rather than just focusing on what makes us simply Americans, but something we should still strive for.
(And I know you will get downvoted for posting about Robert Putnam research here because it appears to come off as a knock against diversity, even though Putnam himself said his research actually affirms the benefits of diversity)
African Americans weren’t just “hyphenated subgroups” earlier. They weren’t even allowed to be in the same places as white male americans. Similarly, Chinese Americans formthe most part lived a separate life, and Japanese Americans were considered so different they were placed in internment camps during WW2.
Even the Irish and Italians were treated differently when they arrived, and had entire sub cultures.
The idea that the US is more hyphenated today just doesn’t seem to follow from what was actually happening in the 20th century.
Early America was so hyphenated that people only occupied regions with people of the same original nationality. We still see places with lots of French street names, or a place with lots of German street names. To some degree this might have been self-selecting, but there are documented cases of people being denied mortgages in particular areas based on their ethnicity into the twentieth century.
We are in a place in American history where ethnicity has the least amount of impact on someone's life. It's illegal to discriminate on job applications, mortgage applications, or school applications based on ethnicity.
We have a lot further to go, and sometimes we take a step backwards. I think we'll continue to see an increase in diversity in all public spaces.
And thus people can't seem to find their place, can't seem to find friends, and the default fallback of going back to your people is no more.
This is just a very wild hypothesis of course.
The point about the army is a particularly interesting one because they certainly are experts in integration and conformity, which hits back to my point in my previous comment as well.
Just about the only diversity pertinent to local pubs is gender diversity - it is more appropriate for girls to be in too.
In addition to churches I'd add the death of social organizations like elks, shriners, etc. Most of the good things these groups worked on are now seen by most as the responsibility of the government, which changes a lot of the dynamics.
They are certainly not for everyone but I have yet to have found another type of social dancing venue that balances being a hangout spot and a place to dance.
Line dancing in particular brings something to the table outside of couples dancing that gives those not interested in the potentially-unfamiliar social situation of dancing with someone else a reason to go. I think that especially helps to keep these communities going.
Quick plug: I've been trying to catalog country venues (and their dances and songs) at https://dancedocket.com
in contrast, i absolutely enjoy drinking tasty beer and cocktails with people i don't know
> Why go to a bar when you can go to a yoga class, WhatsApp your friends, crack open an inexpensive bottle of wine at home, and watch something on Amazon Prime?
And I do believe that if beer prices were 1/3 of the usual, you'll see way more customers. Boston and some other US cities I have visited have, inexplicably, very high prices for bars and restaurants. Then you add taxes and tips.
Add to that the American sprawl and if you are drinking a few beers, you'll need an Uber to/back home. That makes your night in the $70-100.
No wonder Americans don't have $2000-$3000/month to spend on after-work bars.
Back in the day around 10 years ago I could go out and spend less than or right around $20 for a night out (a few hours at my local haunt)... now I am unable to do that for less than $70. My wages have not increased 3x; so now, I go out maybe a couple times a month... and I even still drink cheap well whiskey (Old Crow, ka-kaw!).
I agree, but I don't think you'd see 3x the number of customers.
> Back in the day around 10 years ago I could go out and spend less than or right around $20 for a night out (a few hours at my local haunt)... now I am unable to do that for less than $70.
This makes me wonder where you live and what kind of bars you go to. I'm in a large American city that will appear on any list of most expensive cities to live in. Thinking about the places I've been to more than once, $20 would buy me about three beers - and even that price is vastly more expensive than the $12 price of a sixpack where I live. $70 would buy me enough beer to be passed out on the floor.
Now granted, I know there are fancy quiet bars for the wealthy. I was at one for someone's birthday once and mixed drinks started at about $15. And even $20 for a night out is high enough that I (not quite middle class in this city) can't do it often. But I wonder if you live in the most expensive part of your city, or if your tastes have become more expensive in recent years. To be sure, one isn't up for the atmosphere of a college dive every night, but I think in most cities there are still cheaper ways to go out with people.
Well-whiskey 10 years ago costed me $2.5-$3.5 now it costs me at least $7, closer to $8 or $9 with a tip. A meal at a pub used to cost around $6-8 now it costs between $13-$19 dollars.
Essentially, I believe, in larger cities prices are more stable for things like booze because you've already hit the acceptable limit for what people are willing to pay. In cities that are already the most expensive, the change will never be enormous, as you all are probably only seeing the increase in price due to inflation.
None of these are fancy places. In fact this description applies to both the bar from TFA as well as the other bar the author mentioned, and both are frequently described as "dives" by people in the area.
When I moved here not quite 20 years ago the prices were about half of what I just described.
Which isn't exactly the fault of anyone who has to take one for a night out. This points to a nexus of problems with American cities, including sprawl, and the fact that few people know their neighbors.
At one, we can get fresh-made pizzas for about €10 that'll feed two hungry people or more not-so-hungry people. At one we went to last night, I got a savory strudel with a salad that was a full meal for less than €8.
I would have a pretty hard time spending $70 including meals for my whole family unless I was going to get stone-faced drunk. We go out to the local Biergarten a lot here, because I can get a beer or two for myself and my wife and we can feed the kids some tasty food all for around €35-40. And we get to socialize with others who are doing the same thing. At many there are playgrounds where the children can play and socialize with each other on their own.
It's a very humane way to live.
I would definitely be sad if we lost all of our neighborhood beer gardens.
Most people just can't afford to hang out the bar all the time anymore.
Drinking in public is OK.
Being drunk and a nuisance in public is not OK.
I wish we could adopt the same attitude back home - here in Norway you are likely to be fined for drinking in public (though the extent to which drinking is tolerated vary considerably from place to place), whereas you can be in a drunken stupor and mostly be left alone as long as you're not drawing a lot of attention to yourself.
Then again, our drinking habits are mostly a DDoS attack on law enforcement - everybody going out Friday and Saturday night at around midnight, bars close at 2:30-ish at which point thousands of drunk-as-can-be people crash onto the streets.
> Being drunk and a nuisance in public is not OK.
In my experience, this is basically the way it already is in many places in the US. As long as you put even a modicum of effort into complying with the letter of the law in front of cops (ie using a brown paper bag, putting alcohol into a non-obvious container, etc) and you're in compliance with the spirit of the law (ie not being a loud and disruptive drunk asshole in public), the cops will generally leave you alone and you can responsibly consume freely in public venues.
IME the result is the same. When we're young and stupid we drink in public because we have to and tend to over do it, then we learn that drinking in public is illegal and the lesson tends to stick even when we're older and not out to get blind drunk.
People regularly pay $20+ to be in that environment for an evening indoors.
Also, a bar (or club) is dependent on its social atmosphere, partly dictated by the type of clientele it brings in. A place that sells $5 beer is going for a different clientele than a place that sells $15 beer (i.e. richer people).
Bars and pubs are not the same. Bars just serve alcohol, but pubs are public living rooms and centres of communal life. A pub is where life's milestones are celebrated, the departed are grieved, friendships are cemented, matches are made, and revolutions are plotted.
And some of us prefer the pleasures and pangs of gradual self-destruction to the quasi-religious cult of self-improvement.
Some of us truly our 'best selves' after a few pints of something dark and bitter.
I for one never trust anyone who doesn't drink.
And if they can't drink for medical reasons?
But really if it's medical, it can't be helped. And if it is really a matter of faith, then abstinence is absolutely worthy of respect.
And then some others are, well, Cathy/Kate from Steinbeck's 'East of Eden'.
Might change my original position to 'I don't trust anyone who doesn't drink without a good explanation such as a medical condition that precludes the enjoyment of the drink, religious convictions, or a history of or proclivity towards alcoholism. Sounds rather like an American prescription drug ad though.
When you enter a busy local, the predominant sound is the hubub of voices. If there is music, it's volume should be below that (no amplified speakers throughout).
The issue is that many modern sports or night bars in urban areas often have loud speakers and you have to shout.
The type of bar the article is talking about is uncommon in some countries or cities. When you find it, you might not be comfortable with the feel of it (e.g. older patrons that seem like a clique); you often need to understand locals before you could know you are very welcome.
1. A wide range of ages that must include twenty year olds, middle aged customers, and elderly people.
2. It should have the vibe of a social friend's living room.
3. It doesn't have a primary goal of profit - would the owner still be there all the time if they won the lottery?
4. It is friendly to women: to quote a good-looking female friend from Shepperton "A bar I can go to by myself without getting hit on".
5. You could take a child there (not necessarily a child-friendly family bar, but neither should it be a booze palace where you wouldn't want to take your young son or daughter).
6. Unlikely to have music events or paid events that crowd out the regulars.
That said, I do get the feeling that this type of bar is harder to find over time in my country - maybe profit driven as younger drinkers do spend more - older drinkers get boozed at home with friends in my experience. I can think of examples I went to when I was younger in NZ, Ireland, and the UK.
I’ve always thought it had something to do with undiagnosed ADD, or maybe more likely some autism spectrum disorder (though I never understood why medical professionals felt the need to label something that feels to me mostly like a few commonly coexisting personality traits and is not a source of any medical adversity for me a “treatable disorder”, so I’ve always rejected this).
I also have problems with alarms and sirens. I’ve walked down many miles of city blocks in my life, and I’m the only person I’ve ever seen who has to put down everything they’re holding and cover their ears with both hands any time an emergency vehicles drives by. That makes me enough of an outlier that I think there’s probably something medical to this, I don’t know what though.
It’s similar to pain but it’s more like a sensory input at a level of intensity that is so overwhelming that it feels like it is or could cause permanent physical harm to whatever in my ear is receiving that input.
I guess I just described pain, but it feels a little different because the sensory input itself is the source of it, it’s not a side effect of anything else that’s happening, and it doesn’t really feel similar to any other kind of pain.
Fire alarms do this to me too. I lived in a building with false alarms every few weeks. I would like to have ignored them and continued working, but it is just impossible. I have to cover my ears and wait for the pauses between sounds to even do anything with my hands, like unplug a laptop or open a door.
Some bars are just loud and noisy all the time. Depends on the location and the venue. We live in a tourist district with probably at least a hundred bars within walking distance, we visit two regularly (maybe once a week, midweek), and a third occasionally for a change of pace. Business district bars are also pretty chill from 4:30-7 as people are coming out of the office and wanting to blow off steam and complain about their boss or whatever.
As others have said, it's also a pub design issue. Modernist open bright bars are very noisy; traditional pubs with wood paneling, carpets and snugs are much better.
I’m in my early 30s and although I’m hardly lonely, I miss making new friends. The article makes me want to try visiting a few of my local bars more often.
> When I heard that Richard was in a bad way, I figured he was at a low point in another cycle. I expected that I would just see him at the Plough the next time I dropped in. Instead, he died.
Nothing is said about what killed him, but I suspect there might be a clue here:
> Arguably, their [bars'] lifeblood—alcohol—has destroyed more American families than any drug ever has. Now the owner of the Plough, I struggle with this truth. My own family has been afflicted by alcoholism, and while “the gene,” as it is often called, bypassed me, I worry for my four-year-old twin boys. Recently, one of them snuck a sip of my beer, then thrust his right fist in the air in triumph and shouted in his deepest voice, “I am a man!” before running away gleefully. I laughed, but the episode also stabbed me with worry that he may be carrying a ticking time bomb.
It's hard to imagine the mental gymnastics that must be necessary by the owner to keep this business going.
Some patrons may be staying home, but it looks to me as if a plethora of alternative hangouts and ways to meet, not centered on alcohol, have popped up over the years:
- Meetup groups
- juice/hookah/vegan/whatever bars
- exercise/yoga classes and groups
- hookup apps
From the article:
> If the Plough provided him with a home in Boston and a community that was his own, it also helped him toward his demise. When he died at 60 in 2017, booze played a starring role in his precipitous decline.
Later in the article, the author also explicitly states that Richard was an alcoholic.
and as others have said, the neighborhood bar is unique in that the things you mention are things that people DO together, whereas the bar is a place where people simply BE together. I agree that those are places where you can make friends, but with those activities, what often happens is that mildly interested people come and go, and devotees form a hard social core that is difficult to penetrate. a bar--or a church, or elk's lodge or whatever--is a standing institution, whose main social function is community building of some kind.
That's not a slight, just an observation. And yes, virtually all major cities are fairly distinctive. As Ed Glaeser has pointed out, something of an anti-Anna Karenina principle: unsuccessful cities are all alike, successful cities are each successful in their own way.
Not entirely true, but a strong element of truth to it.
I can see Boston, SF, Austin, and other transplant cities losing neighborhood bars. The people who to go bars there aren’t locals and they probably aren’t expecting to go to the same place for decades. They probably aren’t even expecting to live in the same place more than three years.
A "cool bar" which is packed is usually too loud for conversation. If you want to sit and talk casually with people you know, then you won't go to the cool bar. If you go alone to a cool bar, then you might not talk to anyone. The atmosphere has too much going on for casual conversation. You can't overhear and engage with someone sitting at the opposite side of the bar.
This may sound lame, but one of the major themes of this article is loneliness. Regulars at the neighborhood bar might find that the bar is less lame than being lonely at home.
My reason for not missing the neighborhood bar much.
They have some value-- helping people socialize, notably. But the downsides are just too steep.
It's relatable content. When you have a bunch of nostalgia and identity (and money, in this guy's case) invested into something, I guess it would be hard to admit that overall, it's categorically been to society's detriment.
> Richard had spent untold hours trading stories with friends, cementing connections with them, with the space, and with the city outside. A few people had gathered to continue their remembrance. All changed utterly, everything constant, I ordered a drink from the bar and sat down.
Yea, you killed him. Infuriating.
Now I can't help myself, and must point out that a grave digger in no way contributes to the death of the buried.
Beware the acute and chronic cognitive effects of alcohol abuse.
I saw this kind of logic trying to blame gun manufacturers, but it should extend to car sellers (there are many more deaths in traffic), knife sellers, soft drink sellers (diabetes kills), etc. No, they are not contributing to someone's death just because they sell them something that person uses and eventually die.