“The attention of the Middlesex magistrates has been called to the demoralizing consequences likely to ensue in the middling and lower classes from the alarming increase of gin-shops in every direction, in and around the metropolis, by the conversion of what used to be quiet respectable public houses, where the laboring population could find the accommodation of a tap room or parlor in which to take the meals or refreshment they might require, into flaming dram shops, having no accommodation for persons to sit down, and where the only allurement held out was the promise of ‘Cheap Gin’.” — Victorian Pubs, by Mark Girouard
“Ten-year-old Jazimen Warr had nestled on her sister’s shoulder, the two children sleeping in the back of the family’s Cherokee on the drive to a relative’s home in Bowie. She was killed and the rest of her family sustained injuries in the crash.
That was Aug. 21, 2008.
Now, that crash on Interstate 270 could upend Maryland law and allow victims of drunken-driving crashes and their families to sue bars and restaurants if their inebriated patrons cause deaths and injuries.
Moves in the past two years by lawmakers from Montgomery County to create in Maryland what’s known as a “dram shop liability” law — the term essentially relates to a bar or tavern selling alcohol, with “dram” being a small unit of measure — didn’t make it out of the House Judiciary Committee.” — Baltimore Sun, “Maryland court considers liability of bars in drunken-driving crashes”
Cause célèbre: Best of friends. Good tidings. Youthful energy. All the makings of a red cup night.
But all that can turn bad quickly. Quicker than the growth spurt they had over last summer.
To ask what it is that makes underage youth drink is to ask why the sky is blue, why lions eat antelope, and if I’ve ever tasted pumpkin pie before — it just is, they just do, don’t ask me no crazy question like that! But I digress…while I was doing research into the English pub in London, one colleague told me that youths there “aspire to the pub…” It’s the same with youth on this side of the pond — there’s something about looking at that big number “21” that makes you lunge closer and closer to the finish line, until you notice that you’ve started the race before your time. That’s when trouble sets in.
There is something about underage drinking that has gotten more troubling in years past, and I hope I am not taking a nostalgic stance to this issue. Between me, you, and my laptop, I participated in a bit of underage drinking…(egads!! Not the good people at ThCgnlHr!!!)…a few sips with a couple friends, from a shared cup of Bacardi Limon & Sprite. It was the emollient to, wait for it….watching television — quite the daredevil I was in my younger days. Were we participating in illegal activity? Absolutely. What was the obvious consequence of our crime? Probably changing the channel. Not to cast shade on the youngbloods of today, but there seems to exist the wont to get things “turnt up” a notch, to the point where things become increasingly unsafe, to the point where things may not return to the way they were. It becomes less about youths doing something mischievous and strays into a space where no one should be doing these things regardless of their age.
This post isn’t a condemnation of all things young and spontaneous. I didn’t take my first drink after your granddaddy’s war, nor did I walk 18 miles to school every day, both ways, through the snow in July. While I have never been in the position of recent youths in Steubenville, OH or Loudoun County, VA, we’re all one bad choice away from the same predicament. This an overture to young people everywhere that as my London colleague said, we must aspire to something. The greatest thing about drinking is that, Lord willin’, we will get to enjoy the next one. Let’s ALL aspire to that next drink, while enjoying the current one in a congenial manner.
I, too, know what it is to treat the hospitality environments of London as a university…
“…but because I am an American, and my country has been said to represent the cosmopolitan blood of other nations; so that in a sense my response is intended undoubtedly to be that of Germany, of Italy, and of many other nations, all of whom are of us as they are at home…the best that any one nation can do for itself cannot be equal to that done by them all working together and interchanging their ideas; and those who have been the most deeply engaged in this work, and most earnest in the prosecution of it, have constantly felt that they need a sort of university which they may attend; and it does not surprise us that London has become such a university…So we come to London as guests; and what do you offer us? Food and wine, flowers, the faces of fair women and noble men. But you do much more than that. Your hospitality is of the kind which affords the greatest opportunity that could now fall to the lot of those who are interested in the study of town planning — the opportunity to meet and to see the best work of others.” — Welcome Statement by Daniel Burnham at RIBA Town-Planning Conference in London, noted in Daniel H. Burnham, Architect, Planner of Cities by Charles Moore, 1921
[Photos by ME]
[Photos by ME]
“Shut down your operation, closed for business/
Leave a foul taste in your mouth, like Guinness…” — Mobb Deep, “Hell on Earth”
You don’t have to be a fan of Bar Rescue to know that countless drinking places close every day…gone forever, lost to the memories of the former patrons. While there is a range of emotions that set in upon the closing — disappointment, heartache, happiness to some, anger to others — it eventually dissipates as we find another bar stool with our name on it at another establishment. Is that all it takes — on to the next one? What does the literal “Last Call” mean to the built and social fabric of our communities?
What does it mean to the patron? To the common visitor or urban transplant, it’s a lost opportunity to make a new acquaintance, learn something unexpected about their new surroundings, or see that new culture “in action”. This may not resonate with residents, as they may not give the same value to certain places that have “been there forever”. However, it’s a problem for them as well — the next time they want to show a visiting friend what their city is truly like, it may look the same as every other city in FranchiseTown, USA. What made that particular city unique passed on right under their noses, as they didn’t lift a finger to try and prevent it.
Let’s discuss the perspective of the changing city. When all this urban energy and social activity is gone, doesn’t it make our cities feel a bit dormant, just a little empty? Maybe lacking for that excitement and experience that you go home and tell someone about, or are able to pass along in recollection to a friend in a fond retelling? Every urban environment may not be like Vine Street in late 19th-century Cincinnati, which had 136 drinking places along its downtown stretch in 1890. That speaks to a certain culture of industry that sustains that level of activity — an industry long gone, with only physical remnants still visible.
Finally, the industry. One truism espoused by Bernard DeVoto was, “The surest proof of the moral foundation of the universe is that you can always find good whiskey if you will go looking for it.” If one places closes, we can surely find another place willing to suit our tastes of fine cocktailing. However, what does that do to the local industry? In these tough times, it’s not easy to just set up shop somewhere. In simple terms, it’s hard out here for a publican. Small business loans, identifying and reaching a target user group, sustaining sales to woo continued supply — it takes more than just pouring a pony of spicy brown into a glass.
So, friends, in the words of Sean Connery, what are we prepared to do? The answer — realize that we can’t do it all ourselves. We must join together to keep our cities alive. About to enjoy that bottle of sweet brown you picked up the other week? Call over your buddy you haven’t spoken to in a month of Sundays to help you, so he knows what to look for upon his next visit to a drinking place. Stopping off for a quick cocktail with your main damie before a snazzy event? Have her girlfriends join you, and soak in their comments on how impeccably detailed a combination your suit and cufflinks make. Had an unexpectedly-informing exchange with the bartender at that corner spot, where you went for a “one and done”? Tell a couple people about it and send some business their way. The city will always be there, but it’s up to us to live in it.
This research discusses how changes to the urban environment has affected the “city center” not actually being the center of the city. We can begin the conversation here, discussing what the “shape” of the city is, and how that allows for connecting people to activity via the interconnections of buildings to sites to neighborhoods. Traditional ways of reading and navigating the city have been altered, due to the ebb and flow of the city and its suburbs, where people choose to work, and where development takes place. When you conceptualize a “city center” or “downtown” where a lot of urban activity is occurring, is that really in the center of the city?
How do you find out what is going on in your city — what does “happening” mean to you and what does it look like? We can continue the discussion by analyzing how the buildings help us find this urban activity; how it contains it, displays it, and leads us to it. Do you happen upon gatherings of people at an establishment, seeking to find a friend and leave the “lonely planet” behind you? Do you feel that the city still caters to smaller, more focused gatherings of people, allowing visitors to engage those groups to find out more regarding the city’s culture, so they can begin to move and shake along with the movers and the shakers? Are you intrigued by the new urban playgrounds of “destination developments”, that open the city up to residents and travelers both near and far?
Traditional means and avenues for design resulted in allowing energy to sift through different layers of the building, avoiding a stark inside/outside relationship. People could congregate directly at the front, or at the side in an exterior garden space, creating “overlapping social networks” that connected to passersby and sidewalk activity. In lieu of traditional means, what is left for the one who seeketh urban energy? Is social media the tie that binds those with common goals and similar perspectives, though separated by miles, subdivisions, and condo boards? Or can you still successfully find a slot to input your two cents on the future path of the city, and help tie into the social fabric? Good luck if you do; we all must keep striving. At times, it seems like there ain’t no love in the heart of the city.
“Taverns played a little-known but vital role as an important center of community life and activity…
Two forms of the early American tavern were closely modeled on English institutions and were found exclusively in urban settings: the city tavern and the coffee house…
Tavern activities in the city establishments were centered around economic life, everyday business transactions, mercantile exchange, and events such as auctions of goods, property, and slaves; city officials frequently held their meetings in taverns…
Small taverns were clustered along the docks of…port cities; catered to transient seamen or day laborers…” - - Text from Early American Taverns: For the Entertainment of Friends and Strangers by Kym S. Rice
Ice and cocktails go hand in hand. The sling, the sans bitters precursor to the cocktail, was a combination of spirit, water, sweet, and sour. Water may enter a mixed drink in its fluid form, as with a couple drops added to scotch to release the essence of its flavor. But more often, water’s frozen friend is utilized — ice.
Ice brings rhythm to the cocktail world, helping to “wake up the spirit” inside shakers. Many savvy cocktail bars have instituted their own ice program, cutting blocks by hand, mallet, and pick. Machinery also comes into play, with KOLD-DRAFT machines and specialty ice-sphere machines creating harder, purer ice that won’t screw up the delicate balance in today’s craft cocktails. A slower melting ice cube
also helps with the dilution of your cocktail — allowing just enough water to help with the alcohol absorption into your system, while not drowning your scotch.
Some products would stop here, but ice strives for more, truly earning the “S” on its chest. It also shares a basic role — to keep food from going bad. In colonial times, way before the days of machines that produce 65mm ice spheres for the low cost of 650 pounds sterling, ice was relied upon to keep that 8 billion pounds of crab you bagged on your fishing trip cool enough to make crab cakes for a while. But since Frigidaire wasn’t in business yet, where did people store the ice?
Naturally, they’d want to keep it close to the chest. Back then, if you couldn’t hold it at your home, your local tavern was just as good. Ice wells were prevalent, like the one above that was kept at an Alexandria, VA tavern frequented by a whiskey distiller. It’s been mostly covered up by a couple centuries of transportation infrastructure and urbanization, but there are enough reveals to tacitly show the history of its usage. Quite the congenial way to display technological ties to our past, no?
This research discusses the redevelopment of historic urban districts, offering analysis of change at the scale of a neighborhood. Neighborhoods are flexible in terms of city scale — macro-attributes such as socio-economic and changing demographic issues, as well as micro-attributes such as interpersonal relationships and signs & symbols on buildings. Opportunities for redevelopment can touch upon many of these issues as themes, tying together the neighborhood in a way that reflects its past and creates a responsible and promising trajectory for the future.
Contemporary breweries and microbreweries tend to be isolated from the built and social fabric of urban neighborhoods — either located in unadorned, industrial areas or totally unrelated to other services in the vicinity. Historically, breweries were large-scale operations, sustaining the economy of large swaths of a region and creating a need for services that extended down to the neighborhood level. Breweries were connected to local craftsmen for construction and engineering services, to local drinking places for patronage of their products, and to personal customs of the workers and their families. The overarching drinking culture contains objects for architectural commentary and metaphor, which are especially promising for success in redevelopment of historic urban districts, as shown above: historic buildings that reflect the “urban narrative” that future development should follow, building symbols and imagery that reflects cultural ideals, and looking to create a synergy between current professional opportunities and previous crafts & occupations that used to sustain the neighborhood.
A successful example of an urban redevelopment that brought all these attributes together is the Distillery District in Toronto, which successfully maintained the heritage of the area and its inhabitants, creating responsible development with smart and compatible uses.
[Research by ME]
The beginnings of public drinking in England were of a similar relationship as modern times, in that public patrons would be served by an owner of a home or establishment. But the owner during the 12th century, when alehouses are initially mentioned on public record (Clark 20), provided services in a small-scale, do-it-yourself manner, a far cry from the industrial relationships that would form in later years that are in existence in modern times, of large breweries distributing ale to the majority of drinking establishments. In these days, ale production was independent, up to the means of the alehouse-keeper, and as such, the product would vary in quality.
This is brought into perspective by the alehouse-keeper most commonly being female (Clark 21). The modern phenomenon of living and working in two different places was millennia away from these times. So while the husband may have had a job in whatever industry of the time, be it farming, hunting, commerce, etc., the wife would prepare the ale and run the home, or alehouse, herself, acting as hostess and retailer to visiting guests. The true essence of house in “public house” was established at this early time, as the place of business was truly an extension of the home. Although in this incarnation, it was not able to be truly “public”, as it was the home of the alehouse-keeper, whose services did not lean too far towards commerce.
[Research by ME — see book link for quotations]
From the early 13th century brewing and serving ale in England, women have had a notable role in the practice of bartending and mixology. Recently, through the efforts of LUPEC and the many female bartenders that have participated in “Speed Rack” bartending competitions to bring awareness to breast cancer, they’ve shown that this isn’t just a man’s world — the most congenial barkeeps have a soft touch as well.
[Photos by ME]
“A person’s sitting alone and apart from others, facing a wall in a library, probably means they want to be left alone to study. In a bar, this same physical behavior can be interpreted as an invitation for conversation. The person might still reject the advances, but is unlikely to be distressed and insulted…” John Zeisel, Inquiry by Design
What can a person observe about behavior in drinking places? Is it all about what they see — the bottles on the backbar, the barkeep in action, the “bric-a-brac”? Is it all about the place itself — the height of the bar stools, the color of the wood on the bar, the ratio of tables to the size of the bar? Is it all about what activities are taking place — dancing to live music, spontaneous networking with other patrons, smartphoning by oneself, or playing pool with the weekly league? Can you distinguish the personal relationships — if people are newbies, friends of the establishment, or regulars?
All these elements add up to your enjoyment, whether direct/explicit or indirect/tacit, of a drinking place. It helps to show you what types of places you enjoy frequenting and what places you should avoid. In case of doubt, always listen to yourself — regardless of all your interests, activities, and wants, you know yourself better than anyone. In the midst of an ever-changing world, you can point yourself to the best place to feel warm upon entering, catch a smile from the barkeep as you order, and a handshake upon introducing yourself to the person next to you.
Stay congenial, my friends.
In what type of drinking place do you prefer to observe The Hour?
Where is it located — in the central business district, a short walk from the neighborhood you live in, or in the flashy neighborhood frequented by young socialites? What types of fixtures and furnishings are contained inside — are sexy details abundant the stimulus for your cocktail or does soft, warm, and worn woodwork support you during imbibing?
How and why do people drink there — is one person nursing two fingers of “The Big Fellow” as he chats with his good friend the bartender, while nearby a few frat boys pound chilled shots of Rumple Mintz? Is a trio of pals just one of many groups of people at a new urban hotspot, keeping to their own cliques as they session pints of IPA while discussing the downfall of Brother Leader? Do people exchange rounds with like-minded individuals they’ve sparked conversations with, exhibiting the true essence of congeniality?
These issues of where, how, and why people drink are critical to the discourse found at The Congenial Hour. I hope you keep them in mind when selecting the next place you’ll sit down for a few, taking in the world around you while the glass twirls in your hand. Stay congenial….
[Image by ME]
“I never used to understand the difference. One guy would say he’s British, and then another would come and say he’s English. I never understood…..you don’t understand until you have a sit down and have a couple of drinks with the guy and say, okay would you explain this difference to me?” — Excerpt from personal research conducted on individual connections to the traditional English pub and associated issues of cultural identity
The bar holds court to many diverse topics of conversation. It might be begin as small talk between two patrons, exchanging pleasantries and making short commentaries on other patrons or passers-by. With more time and more liquid, it might get more personal, as the patrons begin to disclose more about their likes and dislikes, idiosyncrasies, views, principles, commandments, etc. As a higher level of camaraderie is reached, the discourse gets even more glorious — now through the exchange of rounds, issues that might be taboo for discussion, at least with a stranger, are open for resolution. Each patron feels at comfort with the other, and is personally vested in adding fruitful energy to the conversation.
This type of conversation might be one of 8 million that occurs in a person’s travails through the house of spirits. Even though there was great congeniality expressed by the two patrons, it might be disregarded in terms of importance — just another conversation at the bar with a stranger. But what can you learn about others, your environment, and most importantly, yourself, through these instances? How do “barguments” tacitly inform us? What are some “barguments” you’ve had that have influenced your worldview?
[Photos by ME]
“The oldest part of Belfast, around High St, suffered considerable damage from WWII bombing. The narrow alleyways running off High and Ann Sts, known as the Entries, were once bustling commercial and residential centres: Pottinger’s Entry, for example, had 34 houses in 1822.
Joy’s Entry is named after Francis Joy, who founded the Belfast News Letter in 1737, the first daily newspaper in the British Isles (and still in business). One of his grandsons, Henry Joy McCracken, was executed for supporting the 1798 United Irishmen’s revolt.
The United Irishmen were founded in 1791 by Wolfe Tone in Peggy Barclay’s tavern in Crown Entry, and used to meet in Kelly’s Cellars (1720) on Bank St, off Royal Ave. White’s Tavern (1630), on Wine Cellar Entry, is the oldest tavern in the city and is still a popular lunch-time meeting spot.” — Lonely Planet review of The Entries in Belfast
This research discusses how the cultural appearance of buildings helps to steer people’s perceptions of an area — determining whether or not they’ll frequent that establishment, that street, that neighborhood, and so on. This is especially important when considering a person that doesn’t have background history of that environment, such as a transplant, tourist, or other “outsider” in that situation. The buildings above are all located in Cincinnati: a jazz speakeasy, an “English pub”, a historic saloon revived for a festival, a historic cafe that was recently closed, and a new restaurant/bar located in the downtown area.
The building’s appearance played a large part in determining and evaluating the culture of each of these environments. How would a person know that a warm, jazz-filled room was right in the heart of a downtrodden, culturally-disenfranchised community — especially when two green lights at the doorway were the only signal of activity? If an award-winning restaurateur opens an establishment that appears to be a nightclub to many prospective patrons, how would that affect their engagement of the establishment — help or hinder? If a 19th/20th-century era cafe falls in the city, does it make a sound, if no one with any ties to the heritage is around to hear it?
This research led to formalize responsive, and responsible, mechanisms of design and redesign. This approach would seek to resolve the disconnect between appearance and experience that these buildings exemplified.
[Research by ME]
Drinking culture surrounds us; a great and tangible thing, it is. All the tacit nuances that exist within urbanity express this — examples are too vast and numerous to relegate drinking places to indirect objects of common culture and unworthy of analysis. Their centuries-old history is not akin to a tree falling in the forest….
“Even the most perceptive writers about them have tended to treat them as folk-art and taken it for granted that exact dates, names or architects and craftsmen, or particulars of what they cost or who commissioned them cannot be hoped for…
In the center of London, they still exist in abundant numbers…In Victorian days, their abundance was reckless and, in the eyes of the Temperance reformers, scandalous.
As the streetlights dimly lit up in the twilight the pubs lit up far more brightly; long rows of monstrous lanterns stretched out into the street on curling and caparisoned tentacles of wrought iron and underneath them walls of sinuously bending and elaborately engraved glass were lit from the inside by an inner row of blazing globes…” — Victorian Pubs by Mark Girouard
[Photos by ME]
“The gradual emergence of the saloon as a leisure space clearly distinct from home thus gave workers a more comfortable and appealing place to spend their leisure time. While some women continued to patronize saloons, these public leisure spaces increasingly became male preserves. In this way, the male saloon became a mirror image of the male factory.” - - Eight Hours for What We Will: Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City, 1870-1920, by Roy Rosenzweig