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The Erosion of the Neighborhood Bar

Drinking Alone The Awl


The last few years have seen no shortage of requiems written for the dive bar, or simply the kind of place that you might pass by without thinking much of it, but feel some sense of loss when you hear it’s closing up—the neighborhood bar, where you can get a can of beer from the American Midwest and a shot of cheap whiskey with little fuss or muss. The types of places that New York Times Magazine “Drink” columnist Rosie Schaap wrote about in her memoir Drinking With Men, are being replaced by specialty beer bars, places with expensive drinks made with cheap ingredients by inexperienced bartenders under the banner of “craft cocktails,” and worst of all, places that never seem to have enough room at the bar.

“Most people want community more than cocktails, and that’s what neighborhood bars offer,” Schaap told me recently. “Great neighborhood bars aren’t an antiquated idea; they’re timeless.” Yet these bars, where you go once a week to see your friends or shoot the shit with the bartender who gives you a buyback after a couple rounds of Jameson, are becoming harder to find. And when you do find one, you just worry about its inevitable demise, or worse, the wrong people discovering it. “The middle-of-the-road places with nice consistent service, the places where you always have a seat, where you can actually hear what the people you came to hang out with are saying, those don’t really seem to exist anymore,” Vicki Lame, a book editor in New York, told me.

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I agree with the premise. Neighborhood bars are disappearing.

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