THE BEER BEAT: Are barstools even necessary? There ARE alternatives, you know.


Blog readers often must endure the senior editor chiding local officials for their failure to grasp placemaking.

With community-based participation at its center, an effective placemaking process capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential, and it results in the creation of quality public spaces that contribute to people’s health, happiness, and well being.

If applied to a barroom, the principles of placemaking imply the direct involvement of customers in an establishment’s design, these being the folks who’ll be expected to use the space, because if the space doesn’t meet their needs, there’ll be too few customers and no hope of profit.

Of course, this isn’t the way it usually works. For one thing, the build-out occurs before there are customers, based on the best guesses of business owners and contractors. In turn, these hunches are borrowed from pre-existing templates.

As David Wondrich explains, more templates of barroom design than we ever realize actually derive from top-down bureaucratic standards inherited in the aftermath of Prohibition, at times abetted with Hollywood’s regimented narrative.

Think of Indiana’s outdated floor space allocations, mandating where persons of different age can be, what they see, where they must go to use the bathroom, and dozens of other top-down specifications that have the effect of standardizing barrooms and restaurants.

For Wondrich, the humble barstool symbolizes the tyranny of a decades-long departure from what is true and genuine in barroom layout. It’s beer for thought. The author references J. J. Foley’s, a Boston pub founded in 1909. This photo illustrates his point about a bar without stools.

Naturally, there are tables and chairs aplenty, just not at the bar. I would do without the television. Aren’t the drinkers all looking at their phones, anyway?

This is an excellent read. Thanks to the Bookseller for the tip.

Why I Hate Barstools and You Should, Too, by David Wondrich (Daily Beast)

A convincing case for banning these seats and bringing back bar room civility.

I hate barstools.

OK, let me amend that. I like them well enough at 2:15 on a Tuesday afternoon, when you can pull one up, lay a stack of bills on the bar and let the afternoon pad away on quiet cat feet of jukebox C&W and Crown Royal.

But when 6:30 p.m. rolls around and you’re trying to get a drink and the bar is palisaded with a Trumpian wall of backs; when putting in a simple drink order means you have to stick your head into someone’s side eye-patrolled personal space and yell past their ear; when reaching over the tight-packed shoulders to get your Martini is like playing one of those rigged claw games—then, barstools suck.

They represent, ultimately, a private taking of what should be a public space, like so many Malibu beach mansions, and separate us into the protective haves and the resentful have-nots. If you ask me, barstools are un-American.

And in actual fact, they are. Before Prohibition, with very few exceptions stools were for oyster counters and soda fountains. You sat on stools to eat, not to drink. If you wanted a cocktail or a shot of something, you hoisted your foot up on the brass rail, leaned in, and placed your order. When your drink came, you relinquished the space, turned to face your friends, and drank with them. This was the American style of bar, “peculiar to this country,” as the Brooklyn Eagle noted in 1865, “the peculiarity of which is that there are no sitting accommodations” and “the patrons drink standing at the counter.” That Western saloon in the movies, where some cowboy gets tight and starts bashing the Riley next to him with his stool?

Never happened …