An Ode to Bars and Those Who Tend Them


Not that I’m a lush, but I like bars. Not just the establishments known as bars, pubs or watering holes, but the actual bar itself. I find much comfort in sitting on a comfortable stool – with back if you please – and sipping a cold beer or two, on tap or cold in a bottle, while taking in the goings on. Perhaps engaging in idle chitchat on one side and a more serious conversation on the other. The smooth top, either shiny wood or metallic, is cool and pleasing to the touch.

Before too long I’d find myself traipsing through a stranger’s house in stockinged feet in search of a bathroom, hoping against hope that there would not be a lineup. Certainly not my idea of fun.

I recall as a university student having friends who lived out in the suburbs and for whom ‘house parties’ were the socializing mainstay. I was never a big fan. Upon arrival I would seek out a comfortable spot near or even in the kitchen, because that’s where the fridge was, the one cooling the beer I brought that very mysteriously seemed to disappear faster than I was consuming them. Before too long I’d find myself traipsing through a stranger’s house in stockinged feet in search of a bathroom, hoping against hope that there would not be a lineup. Certainly not my idea of fun. Worrying about finding my boots and coat when it thankfully came time to leave was yet another annoyance to be borne.

For me, as an urbanite right down to the bone, bars were the way to go. Coat safely checked (assuming of course you didn’t lose the chit and have to wait until all the coats and jackets were claimed, hoping yours would remain), and a place at the bar and I was set. Back in the day people plunked themselves down at the bar and, much like a tiger peeing in the jungle, set up their turf, marked their perimeter, by placing their cigarette package, lighter and ashtray within easy reach. With smoking now verboten in public places. the main tool for staking your spot at the bar is the placing of a mobile phone.

Ernest Hemingway statue in La Floridita, Havana

I’m not alone in my preference for bars. Dylan Thomas and Brendan Behan were fond of the occasional foray into a cozy barroom to recharge and energize their creativity. Ernest Hemingway spent so much time in La Floridita in Havana that there is a life sized statue of him standing at the bar.

Now in my mid-fifties I rarely find myself in a bar at night, preferring the comfort of home and a bit of telly, maybe even an early night. Yet I’ve not abandoned my ways entirely, I have discovered the pleasure of the afternoon bar session. Devoid of the social jockeying that renders the night bar experience unpleasant after the age of about forty, the atmosphere in the afternoon is a much friendlier one, conducive to conversation.

I could go on, but frankly I think it’s time for me to conduct a bit of research on my topic. Cheers!

When it comes to proprietary rights at a bar, while patrons may have their usual spot, the real ‘owner’ of that bar is the bartender. Regardless of whether that man or woman is in fact the legal owner of the establishment or not, when they are behind the bar it’s theirs! I have had the pleasure of knowing several bartenders over the years (lest you think I’m displaying symptoms of dipsomania, rest assured many of them were friends of mine before they became mixologists). In my younger days a good friend of mine explained that while he liked having regulars spend the evening sitting at his bar, it was the three of four rows of standees behind them that were his bread and butter. Passing drinks and payment and change over heads of those seated at the bar was were the money was.

The afternoon bartender not only mixes drinks and pulls pints, but he or she also assumes the role of cruise director or animator. Making introductions where suitable, smoothly including others in conversations, and leaving those in search of thoughtful peace alone, all while remembering regulars’ usual tipple, these are the skills required to be a successful daytime barkeep.

I could go on, but frankly I think it’s time for me to conduct a bit of research on my topic. Cheers!

DCS_Grad_2 DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

4 thoughts on “An Ode to Bars and Those Who Tend Them

  1. Thing is, bars weren’t just watering holes. They were gathering places where you could freely talk to total strangers. Some of our best conversations took place in bars where somehow, it was fine to state your mind on pretty much anything and everything. That was one of the great things about living in the city. You don’t have that in the exurbs. Nothing even close.

  2. I don’t miss drinking and neither of us drinks. But I still love bars. I used to love the smoky interior where people from all those different walks of life could really talk together. That was one of the joys of the “bar experience.” You talked to strangers. You talked to strangers who you’d never meet at work, never otherwise cross paths with. I don’t know if bars are still like that. This funny little town doesn’t have a lot of bars, probably because most people drink at home. Drinking is still drinking … It’s just so much cheaper at home and maybe, in such a small town, you don’t need a bar to meet your neighbors.

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