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A bar in Switzerland.
A display of spirits available in a bar.
A bar (also called a pub, tavern, saloon, or taproom) is an establishment that serves drinks, especially alcoholic beverages such as beer, liquor, and cocktails, for consumption on the premises.

Bars provide stools or chairs for their patrons along tables or raised counters. Some bars have entertainment on a stage, such as a live band,comedians, go-go dancers, a floor show or strippers (see strip club). Bars that are part of hotels are sometimes called long bars or hotel lounges.

The term "bar" is derived from the specialized counter on which drinks are served and is a synecdoche applied to the whole of the drinking establishment. The "back bar" or "gantry" is a set of shelves of glasses and bottles behind that counter. In some bars, the gantry is elaborately decorated with woodwork, etched glass, mirrors, and lights. When food is served elsewhere in the establishment, it may also be ordered and eaten at the bar.


[[Image:A cross roads store, bar, juke joint, and gas station in Melrose, Louisiana, 1944.jpg|thumb|right|200px|A Depression-erabar in Melrose, Louisianamarker.]]

There have been many names throughout history for establishments where people gather to drink alcoholic beverages. Even when an establishment uses a different name, such as "tavern," the area of the establishment where the bartender serves the alcoholic beverage is normally called "the bar."

There were prohibitions in first half of the 20th century to alcoholic beverages at various times in countries including Finlandmarker, Icelandmarker, Norwaymarker, and United Statesmarker, where the illegal bars during prohibition period were often called speakeasys.


Laws in many jurisdictions prohibit minors from entering a bar, or just the area where the bar is located, when food is served. There are also cities and towns that have legal restrictions on where bars can be located, types of alcohol served, require food and coffee to be served, or prohibit in legally dry jurisdictions.

Some Muslim countries including Bruneimarker, Libyamarker, Iranmarker, and Saudi Arabiamarker, prohibit bars for religious reasons.


There are many types of bars, which can be categorized according to the types of entertainment provided at the bar and by their clientèle.

Bars categorized by the type of entertainment or activities offered at the bar include: Topless bars, where topless female employees serve drinks or dance; sports bars, where sports fans watch games on large-screen televisions; salsa bars, where patrons dance to Latin salsa music; and dance bars, which have a modest-sized dance floor where patrons dance to recorded music. However, if a dance bar has a large dance floor and hires well-known professional DJs, it is considered to be nightclub or discothèque.

Bars categorized by the clientele who come to the bar include: biker bars, which are bars frequented by motorcycle enthusiasts, and in some regions, motorcycle gang members; gay bars, where gay men or women dance and socialize; cop bars, where off-duty law enforcement agents gather; and singles bars where (mostly) unmarried people of both genders can socialize and meet.

A bar's owners and managers typically choose establishment names, decor, drink menus, lighting and other elements they can control so as to attract a certain clientele. However, bar operators have only limited influence over who patronizes their establishments and a bar envisioned for one demographic can become popular with another. For example, a gay bar with a dance floor might attract an increasingly-straight clientele over time and vice versa. As well, a blues club may become a de facto "biker bar" if its main clients are biker gang members.

There are also retro bars and lounge bars.

Wine bars

Although the trend of wine bars in the United States was not well-received in the 1980s, they began to gain popularity in the 90s. By early 2000, wine bars became very popular and started popping up in many metropolitan neighborhoods across the country. Wine bars now rival the local hangouts such as coffee shops and local bars. The wine bar phenomenon offers the taste before you buy philosophy.

Wine bars put a new spin on wine tasting. They seek to remove the association of wine with upscale clientèle and overwhelming wine lists and replace it with a more casual and relaxing atmosphere. Many of these bars are furnished with nooks and booths encased in rich colors and plush surroundings in hopes their guests will linger. Wine bars look to embrace the intellectual stimulation linked to wine and offer an alternative to the bar scene. The laid-back environment lends itself to a good socializing setting with a less crowded feel and more intimate appeal.

Modern wine bars have begun to incorporate a larger variety of food choices. Traditionally associated with cheeses and desserts, wine bars are looking to combine wine with appetizer-sized gourmet selections to enhance the palate. The concept brings the tastes of fancy restaurants to a dressed-down setting. Restaurant owners and chefs take the opposite approach and use wine bars as an opportunity for expansion.



In Australia the major form of licenced commercial alcohol outlet from the colonial period to the present was the pub, a local variant of the English original. Until the 1970s, Australian pubs were traditionally organised into gender-segregated drinking areas—the "public bar" was only open to men, while the 'lounge bar' or 'saloon bar' served both men and women (i.e. mixed drinking). This distinction was gradually eliminated as anti-discrimination legislation and women's rights activism broke down the concept of a public drinking area accessible to only men. Where two bars still exist in the one establishment, one (that derived from the 'public bar') will be more downmarket while the other (deriving from the 'lounge bar') will be more upmarket. Over time, with the introduction of gaming machines into hotels, many 'lounge bars' have or are being converted into gaming rooms.

Beginning in the mid-1950s, the formerly strict state liquor licencing laws were progressively relaxed and reformed, with the result that pub trading hours were extended. This was in part to eliminate the social problems associated with early closing times—notably the infamous "Six O'Clock Swill" -- and the thriving trade in "sly grog" (illicit alcohol sales). More licenced liquor outlets began to appear, including retail "bottle shops" (over-the-counter bottle sales were previously only available at pubs and were strictly controlled). Particularly in Sydney, a new class of licenced premises, the wine bar, appeared; there alcohol could be served on the proviso that it was provided in tandem with a meal. These venues became very popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s and many offered free entertainment, becoming an important facet of the Sydney music scene in that period.

In the major Australian cities today there is a large and diverse bar scene with a range of ambiences, modes and styles catering for every echelon of cosmopolitan society.


Canada has absorbed many of the public house traditions common in the UK, such as the drinking of dark ales and stouts. Canada adopted the UK-style tavern (also adopted by the U.S), which was the most popular type of bar throughout the 1960s and 1970s, especially for working class people. Canadian taverns, which can still be found in remote regions of Northern Canada, have long tables with benches lining the sides. Patrons in these taverns often order beer in large quart bottles and drink inexpensive "bar brand" Canadian rye whisky. In some provinces, taverns used to have separate entrances for men and women.

Canada has adopted many of the newer U.S. bar traditions (such as the "biker bar", and the "sports bar") of the last decades. As a result the term "bar" has often come to be differentiated with the term "pub", in that bars are usually 'themed' and often have a dance floor (such as a dance bar), as opposed to establishments which call themselves pubs, which are often much more similar to a British tavern in style. Before the mid 1980's most "bar" like establishments that sold alcohol were simply referred to as taverns, regardless of what they looked like or what they sold. As with any major lifestyle trend that occurs in the U.S. the "bar" trend promptly spread to Canada. Canadian sports bars are usually decorated with merchandise and paraphernalia featuring the local hockey team, and patrons watch the games on large-screen televisions. Starting in the mid 1990's taverns started to take on the look, feel and even the names of the U.K type pubs. A simple example would be the name "The Fox and Fiddle" as a pub name, where's as names like these rarely existed before. There is huge proportion of bars compared to pubs.

Legal restrictions on bars are set by the Canadian provinces and territories, which has led to a great deal of variety. While some provinces have been very restrictive with their bar regulation, setting strict closing times and banning the removal of alcohol from the premises, other provinces have been more liberal. In Albertamarker, for example, patrons can order beer for "take-out" at the end of the night, a practice which is illegal in provinces such as Ontariomarker. Closing times generally run from 2:00 to 4:00 a.m.

In Nova Scotiamarker, particularly in Halifaxmarker, there was, until the 1980s, a very distinct system of gender-based laws were in effect for decades. Taverns, bars, halls, and other classifications differentiated whether it was exclusively for men or women, men with invited women, vice-versa, or mixed. After this fell to the wayside, the issue of water closets led many powder rooms in taverns being either constructed later, or in kitchens or upstairs halls where plumbing allowed, and the same in former sitting rooms for men's facilities.


Bars in Indiamarker are mainly clustered in metro cities, like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, etc. The rest of the country has very few bar formats. Mostly, drinks are served in establishments such as restaurants. Many consumers prefer to purchase liquor at "wine shops" (locally known as Thekas—shops that, until recently, stocked only beer and liquor) and consume it at home.

More recently, bars are showing up in smaller cities; but, these establishments cater to a mostly male clientèle and are unlike the social hubs of the west.

Since last few years, many international brand have entered the market, like 'Hard Rock Cafe', 'TGI Friday's', Ruby Tuesday's', Pop Tate's, 'Ministry of Sound(MOS)', etc. Similar chains of bars are now starting to emerge from within the country. Shalom, Laidbackwaters, Geoffrey's Dhadkkan at Solan Himachal Pradesh and All Sports Bar are among the few popular ones.


In Italymarker, a "bar" is a place more similar to a café, where people go during the morning or the afternoon, usually to take a coffee, a cappuccino, a hot chocolate and eat some kind of snack like pastries and sandwiches (panini or tramezzini). However, any kind of alcoholic beverages are served. Opening hours vary: some establishments are open very early in the morning and close relatively early in the evening; others, especially if next to a theater or a cinema, may be open until late at night.In larger cities like Milan, Rome, Turin or Genoa, many larger bars are also restaurants and disco clubs.Many Italian bars have introduced a so-called "aperitivo" time in the evening, in which everyone who purchases an alcoholic drink then has free access to a usually abundant buffet of cold dishes like pasta salads, vegetables and various types of appetizers.


Bars in Spainmarker are very common and form an important part in Spanish culture. In Spain it is common for a town to have many bars and even to have several lined up in the same street. Most bars have a section of the street or plaza outside with tables and chairs with parasols if the weather allows it. Spanish bars are also known for serving a wide range of sandwiches (bocadillos), as well as snacks called tapas or pinchos. Normally, most bars in Spain offer tapas, but some of them are served on a complementary basis when a drink is ordered, and others have to be ordered and paid. Normally, bars in Southern Spain offer free-tapas with the drinks while in North Spain bars tend to charge for them. Due to a recent law, some bars ban smoking though their number is comparatively small with the bars that allow it. Bigger bars must have always a smoke-free zone.

Spain is the country with the highest ratio of bars/population with almost 6 bars per thousand inhabitants, that's 3 times UK's ratio and 4 times Germany's, and it alone has double the number of bars than the oldest of the 15-members of the European Union [35880]. The meaning of the word 'bar' in Spain, however, does not have the negative connotation inherent in the same word in many other languages. For Spanish people a bar is essentially a meeting place, and not necessarily a place to engage in the consumption of alcoholic beverages. As a result, children are normally allowed into bars, and it's common to see families in bars during week-ends of the end of the day. In small towns, the 'bar' may constitute the very center of social life, and it's customary that, after social events, such as the Sunday catholic mass, people go to bars, including seniors and children alike.

United Kingdom

In the UKmarker bars are either areas that serve alcoholic drinks within establishments such as hotels, restaurants, universities, or are a particular type of establishment which serves alcoholic drinks such as wine bars, "style bars", private membership only bars. However the main type of establishment selling alcohol for consumption on the premises is the public house or pub. Some bars are similar to nightclubs in that they feature loud music, subdued lighting, or operate a dress code and admissions policy, with inner city bars generally having door staff at the entrance.

'Bar' also designates a separate drinking area within a pub. Until recent years most pubs had two or more bars - very often the Public bar, and the Saloon Bar, where the decor was better and prices were sometimes higher. The designations of the bars varied regionally. In the last two decades many pub interiors have been opened up into single spaces, which some people regret as it loses the flexibility, intimacy and traditional feel of a multi-roomed public house.

One of the last 'Dive Bars' in London was underneath the Kings Head pub in Gerrard Street, Soho.

United States

In the United States of America, legal distinctions often exist between restaurants, bars, and even types of bars. These distinctions vary from state to state, and even among municipalities. Beer bars (sometimes called taverns or pubs) may be legally restricted to only selling beer or possibly wine, cider and other low-proof beverages. Liquor bars sell everything from beer to hard liquor.

Bars are sometimes exempt from smoking bans that restaurants are subject to, even if those restaurants have liquor licenses. The distinction between a restaurant that serves liquor and a bar is usually made by the percentage of revenue earned from selling liquor, although increasingly, smoking bans include bars too.

In most places, bars are prohibited from selling alcoholic beverages to go and this makes them clearly different from liquor stores. Some brewpubs and wineries can serve alcohol to go, but under the rules applied to a liquor store. In some areas, such as New Orleansmarker and parts of Las Vegas, open containers of alcohol may be prepared to go. This kind of restriction is usually dependent on an open container law. In Pennsylvaniamarker and Ohiomarker, bars may sell six packs of beer "to-go" in original (sealed) containers by obtaining a take-out license. New Jersey permits all forms of packaged goods to be sold at bars, and permits packaged beer and wine to be sold at any time on-premises sales of alcoholic beverages are allowed.

Historically, the western United States featured saloons. Many saloons survive in the western United States, though their services and features have changed with the times. Newer establishments have been built in the saloon style to duplicate the feeling of the older establishments.

Many Irish or British-themed "pubs" exist throughout United States and Canada and in some continental European countries.

La Crosse, Wisconsinmarker, has the most bars per capita with 362 bars and only 51,034 people living in the city limits.


Bars range from down-and-dirty "dives" which are little more than a dark room with a counter and some bottles of liquor, to elegant places of entertainment for the elite.

Many bars set a happy hour to encourage off-peak patronage. Contrastingly, bars that fill to capacity typically implement a cover charge, often similar in price to one or two cocktails, during their peak hours. Such bars often feature entertainment, which may be a live band, or a popular D.J..


Image:Chiang Mai bars at night-KayEss-1.jpeg|Tourists sit outside a bar in Chiang Maimarker, Thailandmarker.Image:NightBar_Erfurt.jpg|Nightly front view of a bar located opposite to Erfurt HBf. (Germany)

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