Friday Question of the Day – Debating the roles and expectations of Bars in our neighborhoods

Photo by PoPville flickr user JosephLeonardo

Dear PoPville,

I was wondering if you might be willing to post the following query to your readers relating to an experience I had recently. I think it raises interesting questions about the role of “public” private spaces, namely local bars, and what purpose they serve for city dwellers. Since moving here from New York two years ago, I’ve found that norms and expectations relating to the uses of public spaces are different here and I thought this episode might spur some debate among your readers (I swear this isn’t another “why can’t be DC be as cool as NY” rant).

This week an old friend called and let me know he was in the neighborhood and asked if I wanted to meet up. We’ve had a long-standing backgammon rivalry for a while and so when we decided to head to the Raven, which is just a few doors down from my apartment, I brought the board and we settled into a booth and began to play. Once we got started, we realized that neither of us really felt like drinking, but we figured it was cool to play since the bar wasn’t too crowded and there were plenty of empty booths. However, after a few minutes, the bartender came out from behind the bar and asked us if we were going to order something. This is the question I want to pose to your readers: is a bar a place where people can gather regardless of whether they are “customers” or is there an expectation that they will buy something when they enter the door?

My initial reaction was surprise. I’d always assumed bars are places where people are welcome to gather, regardless of whether or not they imbibe. Space wasn’t an issue since it was a pretty slow night, and we weren’t putting anyone out (although I realize the bartender survives on tips). In New York I’d played backgammon or chess in my local dive many times without buying anything, knowing that the bartender wouldn’t mind since I was a good customer. I don’t claim to be a regular at the Raven, but it is my neighborhood bar and I drink there fairly often. A local haunt was one of the first things I sought out after moving to DC because it’s important to have a public space that you can call your own. What I’d like to ask your readers is this: am I unjustified feeling so annoyed by the bartender’s demand that we buy something?

131 Comment

  • Yes, you are unjustified in being annoyed. You wouldn’t go into a restaurant or a coffee shop and just hang out without buying anything, so why a bar? I don’t think that’s a “DC thing” – I think its just common sense. As you said, the exception might be if you were enough of a regular where you knew the bartender, but that obviously wasn’t the case. If neither you nor your friend feel like eating or drinking, play backgammon in your house.

  • A bar is not a public space like a park, where you could play whatever all day long without buying anything. At a bar, you are taking advantage of the space and all that goes into providing that space (e.g., heating, lights, etc.). Some places, like the Raven, may not have set closing hours, so if no paying customers are there, they may close for the night. So, you are also paying — whether you use it or not — for the service. Businesses have expenses and need to make ends meet. If you don’t buy something, they may close down…then where will you go to play your games?

    If you didn’t want to patronize the bar, why did you go there?

    • WOW, I can’t believe this is a real question. Yeah homie, it’s not cool to come to a bar whether it is packed or not to play Risk, magic, D & D, or whatever if you aren’t a paying customer. I have worked in bars my entire adult life and I have seen and heard a lot, but this is a new one.

      • On the other hand, if you’re a paying customer, it’s /awesome/ to play D & D at a bar.

      • That’s because it’s not a real question. It’s a stupid question with a an obvious answer. It is designed to get everyones panties in a bunch, people comment. friday question….

  • it’s a business, not a community center… is this serious? what an db with a sense of entitlement.

  • Yes. This happens in New York too. I was in a bar on the upper west side with a date who was on meds who couldn’t drink so we were just hanging out and had the same thing happen. If you are at a bar/restaurant/coffee shop hanging out you should be a customer buying something. You say this isn’t a “why can’t dc be as cool as NYC thing” but it is. Neighborhood bars in NYC are typically crowded enough that this free loading is missed. DC doesn’t have high enough population densities at our bars to ignore this.

  • Buy something, you cheapass. Seriously. Is this your basement or friend’s living room?

  • I can see where the writer is coming from. Some bars are definitely ok with this type of thing. Local neighborhood bars especially. I don’t think the writer is off base with this expectation but traditionally you would want to build a rapport with the bar you would like to use. In any event if you didn’t feel like drinking maybe you could buy food/non-alcoholic drinks.

    • how do you possibly see where the writer is coming from?? a bar does not equal public property. it’s a privately owned business, where the business and its employees attempt to make money. You’re an idiot.

    • I agree with Sam and some of the others, but I don’t understand the vitriol and name-calling on this discussion. Are ya’ll just totally stressed out? It’s a legitimate question that shouldn’t generate so much anger, IMHO. Happy holidays, btw.

    • Yes but the point is that it is the bar’s inherent RIGHT to decide if they are ok with it or not. If not, you do NOT have a right to feel huffy.

  • It’s not any different in New York. Unless you are genuinely good friends with the bartender or the owner, then abusing their place of work and business as a place to play backgammon without ordering anything is wrong. I realize you’re trying to justify private bars as really being communal rec centers for public enjoyment, but to post about this as though you thought you did nothing wrong shows an annoying sense of entitlement, in my view.

  • Is this a joke? You can’t even buy one drink? This has to be a joke.

  • I agree that it is rude to walk into an establishment and utilize their space and resources without acknowledging the fact that it is a place of business. It doesn’t matter whether or not it is crowded, your actions hold a lot more symbolic meaning than you may realize. Ordering at least one thing, it could even be a soda, would at least show the people working there that you are not in total disregard of this implicit relationship between the patron and the business. I don’t think this is something unique to DC, I think it’s a general rule anywhere. Also, unless the bartender knows you by name and has a genuine rapport with you, he’s probably not going to know who you are or care how often you come to the bar. There’s no such thing as being able to “make it up another time” since he probably sees dozens of people in a night and can’t remember everyone.

  • I’m a member of several local groups for various boardgames, and whenever we go to a restaurant or bar, we strongly encourage our members to purchase something from the establishment. It’s rude not to. In a park or a library, you’ve paid for use of the space with your taxes. Your right to be at a bar or restaurant is a function of purchasing their product.


  • Dumbest question ever. Go the the nearest Occupy site, where you belong.

  • A bar isn’t your local library. It’s a business that survives on drink and food sales. You shouldn’t be hanging out in an establishment if you’re not going to patronize that establishment.

    You said: “it’s important to have a public space that you can call your own.”

    I say: there are no ‘public spaces’ that you can call your own. That’s why they’re called ‘public’ places and not private places.

    • It’s interesting that people are casting this as an ethical issue (a person should buy a beer because otherwise it’s like you’re stealing the bar’s space). I look at it from a good neighbor perspective: is it worth it for the bar to discourage people from using the space for the sake of one less beer sold or should it just presume that customers are customers whether they’re purchasing a beer now or at a future point? I think it’s short sighted to enforce a mandatory purchase rule, even if the customer could have easily bought something as a sign of good faith. Instead of focusing on what the customer should have done, it should focus on what the bar shouldn’t have done by approaching the free riders.

      • From the bar/bartenders perspective – First as said by many, you’re in a private space, buy a $2 beer/soda/vodka soda. If this person thinks they can come on a slow night and not buy anything then chances are they are a jerk and are gonna try and do it again, except on a busy night. Or a paying customer is gonna walk in later and not have a table because these folks are playing a game. Or someone else will see that the bartender let you do this and think they can do the same anytime they want causing future problems. Would you go into a neighborhood restaurant and do this? Or better yet would you like it if I came to your job, sat at your desk and played solitaire on your computer which would in turn take money out of your employers pocket? Unless you are friends with the bartender (and by this I mean they call to spend their free time with out) dont think that you can pull this kinda crap. And why wouldn’t you have just asked before you sat down instead of assuming you can do whatever you want?

      • Honestly, the bartender has an obligation to make money. If the OP was a regular (several times a week) customer that racked up big bills and tipped well, he could’ve probably gotten away with this. But it really doesn’t sound like he is.

  • you very easily could tipped the bartender $10 (you are using their space, it being empty is no excuse, as places do become packed quickly) and said you’d just like to hang and play backgammon for an hour or so, and i bet everyone would have been happy… a bar is a generally a private enterprise and is not a public space.

    • +1, Just treat the bartender like an actual person. Did the OP talk to him, or just ignore him like just another part of the bar?

  • I think this question of the day should be removed. It’s clearly only being posted to incite our anger. No person would honestly believe its ok to just play a board game at a bar and not buy anything. And I’m from NY originally so don’t tell us this happens all the time in NY because it doesn’t. Take your cheap ass to Meridian Park.

    PS- props to the Raven. Hopefully they’ve banned you from there. Or at least have a picture of you on the wall there to remind others how cheap you are.

  • I have a similiar conundrum. I often find myself in the women’s lingerie section of local department stores, where I try on various sexy undergarments. Yet I never purchase anything and I deliberately waste the cashier’s time and creep everybody out. Eventually, security asks me to leave. Am I unjustified feeling so annoyed by their demand that I buy something or GTFO?

  • I dont beleive I have ever considered going to a bar, and not order something. It seems rude to occupy an establishment’s booth, and not purchase a single thing? A drink? Some spinach dip? These places are people’s livelihood, they depend on paying customers to continue to be in business. They also have expenses of running the business, electricity, rent/mortagae. The bartender has every right to “annoy” “occupiers” of a booth or table or bar stool to order something.

  • If I were from NY, I would be annoyed with you for blaming your social ineptitude on NY. Expecting bargoers to buy a drink is not a DC thing, it’s just a thing.

  • Yes, you are completely unjustified.

  • i was there that night. the bartender doesn’t like you. at all. neither do i.
    i would not recommend going back. familiarize yourself with loitering and persona non grata.

    your assumptions are rooted in another reality.

  • I’m suppressing my need to spew various insults to the OP in favor of asking why he thought that a bar was public space? It’s a private business. Thus why a bartender has a right to kick you out if you don’t buy anything or you get too rowdy (which maybe you do, during your heated backgammon or chess games).

  • Born and raised in New York currently residing in DC. It is inappropriate to use a private establishment as a public space.

  • slickhop

    Pretty sure the understood thing is that you buy your pint when you settle in and just leave it mostly full on the table? And if you do finish you order something else from time to time …

    The sort of response the OP is expecting should only be one where you’re on a first name basis with barstaff and they’ve said they’re cool with it.

  • Whenever I go to a bar and I don’t feel like drinking I order a soda. Many times bartenders don’t even charge me for it so I leave them a $5 tip. Don’t be so cheap, specially at your neighborhood bar!

  • Classic PoP thread!

  • Ha, this is so ridiculous. I have to agree with EVERY other commenter in that the bartender was absolutely right to expect you to buy something if you are sitting there using their space. You can get a beer there for $2!! Come on… and if you don’t feel like drinking alcohol at least buy a soda. This has nothing to do with DC/NY differences… it’s called social skills and common courtesy.

  • I can’t even believe this is a real question. My god, order 2 cokes. The sense of entitlement is unreal.

  • Nothing much to add, except I’m not surprised that the bartender would be annoyed.

    Bartenders are responsible for monitoring what’s going, and that means he/she has to keep an eye on your table regardless of whether you feel like drinking or not. I’d be pissed too, to think that your presence is making my job harder for absolutely no reason.

  • I hate to kick a man when he is down but this is an absurd situation. I think the first and most important question to ask is why you would go to a bar to do something you could have done in the comfort of your own home? You could have set up on your living room table, poured you and your friend a glass of DC’s finest tap water, and then played board games all night without having to break out your wallet and break the bank on a drink.

    Here is the key distinction that you need to appreciate. You do not have an obligation to buy a beer when you go to a bar. You do not have an obligation to buy a glass a scotch when you go to a bar. But you do have an obligation to buy something. If you don’t feeling like have a beer, order a coke. The key is that you have to buy something. This is just common sense.

    Nobody owes you anything. If you are the type of person who goes to a bar to play backgammon with your buddy without even buying so much as a soda, I question how much ‘business’ you actually give to the bar when you do drink. I see you as the type of person who drinks a cheap handle of vodka at home before you head out for a big night in order to avoid having to buy more than one or two drinks when you get to the bar. And there is nothing wrong with this strategy because we all like to save money when possible, but don’t start acting like the bar owes you anything just because you live down the street. This is not a neighborhood issue, this is a ‘fact of life’ issue, and in real life, there are no free handouts.

    • Kalorini

      “don’t start acting like the bar owes you anything just because you live down the street”

      You hit the nail right on the head with that one. 100% accurate. This OP has got to get his head out of his ass, regardless of locale.

  • I want to know if you actually bought a beer when you were approached… how did that conversation go.

  • This is clearly fake–no one has played backgammon since Lucille Ball died.

  • If this is a real question (it can’t be, can it?), I am embarrassed for the person who posted it.

  • I don’t so much as use the restroom at an establishment without buying something. And I also don’t take up a seat at a bar/coffee shop unless I have a drink in hand. Understand that you must pay to use anything owned by someone else. That’s how business works.

  • A long standing backgammon rivalry? Annoyed that a bartender asks me to buy something instead of just playing backgammon for hours? This can’t be a real question. It has to be an internet troll brought here to incite exasperation. HAS TO BE.

  • Common sense, people, common sense. As someone who has been known to take Settlers of Cataan along to the bar/coffee shop, or a book to curl up with in Tryst, I’m always prepared to buy SOMETHING! Even if its the Coke that costs $1.70. Go dig through your car for some change.

  • pablo .raw

    My experience with New York is different, I went to a bar with friends and one of them was pregnant. The bar people insisted that she had to buy a drink, we said no for obvious reasons and I even said that I was going to have 2 drinks instead of one 😀 but they insisted so much that we decided to leave.

  • Wow.

    I think Highview put it pretty well:

    “Here is the key distinction that you need to appreciate. You do not have an obligation to buy a beer when you go to a bar. You do not have an obligation to buy a glass a scotch when you go to a bar. But you do have an obligation to buy something. If you don’t feeling like have a beer, order a coke. The key is that you have to buy something. This is just common sense.”

  • I was at my corner bar in NY one afternoon, the place was totally empty, and this guy comes in to play pool (which makes him a paying customer, technically, as it was a coin-op tabe). The crotchety old lady bartender threw him out, shouting, “This isn’t a fucking arcade!”. Sipping a $3 high life would have bought him the table AND free chex mix.

  • The name of the space you are looking for – where you can enter and sit for hours for free with no expectation of making any economic investment in the premises – is a “public library.”

    I find it hard to believe that any person would think it’s okay to just sit in a bar for hours and order nothing. It’s rude. Seriously, you couldn’t even have ordered a Diet Coke? Even the people who camp out in coffehouses to abuse the free wifi will order a latte. They may nurse the same latte for 8 hours but at least they order something. Geesh!

  • You sound like a miserable person. Go back to new york. They will let you play sober backgammon and postulate about social norms for as long as you like. This DC yo. Pay up and drink or leave.

    • I’m guessing the bartenders at his/her old haunts in NYC either didn’t notice, or were too polite to say anything but were cursing this person under their breath. Just becuase you can get away with something doesn’t make it cool.

  • Wow, 70 comments in 40 minutes and they’re all in total agreement. That’s gotta be a first!

  • Actually, what’s really bizarre about this “complaint” is that the bartender didn’t kick them out or insist they order something. He just asked if they were going to order something after they’d been sitting there for a while. Maybe there was an implication in his tone, but he could have just been trying to be helpful. Was it really that offensive?

    • ‘zactly. OP says:

      “after a few minutes, the bartender came out from behind the bar and asked us if we were going to order something…am I unjustified feeling so annoyed by the bartender’s demand that we buy something?”

      I see no mention of demand. I see a bartender wondering if his guests are expecting to be waited on, and walking over to offer assistance.

      I hope this question was asked tongue-in-cheek.

      And to add my 2 cents, it’s not enough to argue that the bar wasn’t crowded. Just by being there, you are potentially introducing expense or risk for the business owner. For example:
      – you might decide to use the bathroom
      – you might have a medical emergency
      – you might start an argument with other patrons (or vice versa)
      – every time you open the door, you let heated air out
      – the staff has to wipe the table when you leave
      – you might leave your favorite scarf behind, then call every day for a month asking if someone has found it
      – you might trip on something, split your head open, and sue the bar
      – someone might decide to rob the place, you try to be a hero, get shot, and then the bar has to clean up your blood
      – you might give the staff SARS

      It’s private property. For the most part, your taxes aren’t covering your costs. Not that business owners should be money grubbing all the time, but you’re asking them to be charitable to you. Have some deference.

  • As per my username, what is wrong with you people? The Questioner clearly is entitled to do whatever he/she wants for the sake of Backgammon.

    This is America!!! I say let people take up a booth in a ‘public area’ in a private business establishment for their own amusement without regard for common societal norms.

    Oh, who am I kidding? I am so bad at trolling. Seriously, how can anyone really think this if acceptable behavior? With that said, can we all just take a moment to recognize that it seems that no commenter on this post has sided with this idiot?

    It has to be a PoP first.

  • IF you were a regular there, and IF you were a good regular, and IF you knew the bartender well, and IF it was not uncommon – such as at the Derby – for people to play games in the bar, THEN EVEN STILL common courtesy would call for you to order at least something and to leave a tip. If we let you come in any play without ordering, why not everyone else? Hell! Let’s have a giant D&D game in there each Sunday and put them out of business.

    • On that note, the game store Labyrinth in SE frequently hosts game nights where (I’m assuming) you can sit in the back and play a board game and not necessarily have to buy anthing. It’s far, but it might be an option for this person.

  • saf

    You must be kidding. You really must. Yes, you are unjustified.

  • I was in Brooklyn the other day and went to a Redskins bar to watch the game. Within 15 minutes of sitting down to watch the game, the bartender came over and told us that we had to drink in order to stay.

  • OP, you are making NYers look bad by asking this question. It’s a no-brainer and it’s not about from where you come (NY v DC v SF v LA). It’s about your level of expectation. A bar is a business (not truly a public space in the way that a park is). If you want to be in a public space and take the liberty of not drinking or eating something, then please go to a park and play your games. A bar is a business and the only time it would be acceptable for someone not to take a drink is if you are with someone else or a group and everyone else is drinking. You seem to justify this by saying that the bar was not full so it was within your right to play AND not drink. That was rude. If you got away with it in NY it was because you did it in your local bar (where everyone knows your name) and you might have been a regular or good customer and so the bar would let you stay and not order (give you a pass) because it was their perogative to do so. When you haven’t established that give-and-take (as it appears you did not at the Raven) they have a right to be annoyed. What really happened in NY is that they were doing you a favor and giving you a benefit for being a regular good customer, but it’t not something you should just expect. It’s something that you earned but the expectation with a business is that if you go there, you are patronizing the place, not perching on a park bench to play games. If you don’t want to patronize (or “pay rent for those benches”) the establishment then you leave, you don’t freeload. If someone wants to give you a favor then be grateful and not entitled.

  • PoP, I think you need to change the title of this post. There is obviously no debate about this.

    Would love to hear a follow-up from the OP (although I find it hard to believe that this was a serious question in the first place.)

  • Dear PoPville:
    I like to buy takeout in a styrofoam box and sit on the curb outside of the restaurant. After I finish eating my wings ‘n’ things, I like to leave them and the styrofoam box, in its plastic bag, about a foot away from the trash can in the roadway next to the curb.

    What I’d like to ask readers is this: am I being unjustly charged for a plastic bag when I clearly need it to dispose of my late-night snack on the side of the road? I mean, I could have bought an additional wing with how much that bag cost me.

  • Just read this question again. Yep, still stupid.

    +1 for what everyone said. Buy a coke, dude.

  • Don’t spread yourself too thin. Be regular. Chat up your bartenders and be a positive presence in the establishment. Before long you can do whatever you please…as long as you have a drink in your hand.

  • Occupy the Raven!

  • Really, who wants to be in a bar without drinking?

    Playing backgammon? I’d need the whole bottle!

  • OP’s response:

    Well, that went well. Just so you don’t think I’m a total ass hole: 1) I buy a beer or several 99% of the time I go into a bar and I always, without exception, tip well (I worked for tips for several years) 2) We stayed maybe for 20-30 minutes, not hours; 3) we didn’t play in my apartment because I live in a tiny studio that has no table or chairs; 4) we didn’t go into the bar thinking we didn’t want to drink. We just got there, started playing and sort of forgot about drinking until the bartender came up a few minutes after we sat down 5) I’m not a political activist or an occupier, although I don’t have anything against them either.

    Anyway, I appreciate PoP posting this even though the reaction has been a lot angrier than I’d anticipated. I’m sorry if it made the site look bad, but this isn’t the direction I thought the conversation would take. First, I think people misunderstood what I meant by public space. I get that it’s privately owned and that I had no right to be there. It was more a matter of what I thought was reasonable rather than what I thought was allowable.

    Really I thought that, whether people agree with me or not, the conversation would have examined the norms and expectations for places like coffee shops, bars and other spots where people linger and talk. I have a friend who wrote his thesis about the role of pubs in cities. He proposed that their function is much more than a place where business transactions occur (money for alcohol), but serve as vital social forums where people can interact randomly and exchange ideas and perspectives. They help to incubate social capital by fostering political and social dialogue that people living outside cities miss out on. The business clearly can’t survive if it’s packed with freeloaders, but a certain amount of tolerance for people who may not always purchase something doesn’t seem like a horrible thing to me. I don’t mean to suggest that anyone can do anything they want, but sometimes a business’s role is not limited to selling things to customers. A bar, I think, is a good example of a place where gathering in and of itself is a benefit to the community and the business and shouldn’t be discouraged unless it’s causing harm. In the end, it’s a positive thing when people feel comfortable hanging out in public rather than retreating to their private domains all the time.

    I didn’t mean to come off as a leach; as I said, I always tip well and 99% of the time I go to a bar, I make a purchase- actually, I’d never gone to the Raven and not bought a drink before. But clearly I was out of place feeling annoyed based on the overwhelming, if somewhat disproportionately vitriolic reactions. I’m happy to stand corrected. I certainly don’t see myself as the shameless cheap bastard that the commenters have made me out to be, but what do I know. In any case, the Raven can rest easy knowing that I won’t be going back there anytime soon. For the record though, I’d just like to say that backgammon is a great game.

    • Does it matter if people think you are an asshole? For the record, I don’t know anything about you to determine that but I’d say your question assumes presumption in that situation.

      To the point of bars being more than simply a business transaction and really also a place that encourages sociability and community – that’s all well and good to consider for the purpose of a thesis but that’s the beauty of writing a paper: one may examine and play with different perspectives and theories but it doesn’t necessitate a perfect nor seamless transition for the real world. I think you wanted to see how your theoretical notion of bars as social community would be received but sometimes in the real world a business is secured by the “nuts-and-bolts” of a business transaction only. If a business is smart, it would also be secured with good customer service.

      • Don’t you think it’s good business practice to invite people into your bar and make them feel comfortable? It’s sort of like a website making itself available for free with the understanding that building bonds with its user will lead to good business. Obviously, this is a decision left to the Raven and to the bartender to determine what kind of bar they want to run, but I think it’s really short sighted of them if they focus only on the one drink I could have bought then as compared to the many I would have bought had I not been approached to make an immediate purchase. The fact that I felt comfortable enough to go there and not necessarily drink was an endorsement of the bar, not an attempt to swindle it.

    • My ex and I played backgammon every single night while we ate dinner when we ate at home. And we kept a book indicating who won when. We have a record of about 1,500 games played.

      I, too, was shocked and completely dismayed at the vitriolic responses on this thread. All I can say is wow.

    • Also, and I know this doesn’t matter, since the angry responses seem directed at the presumption rather than the actual outcome, but I did end up buy a beer when the bartender approached us. Advantage, Raven.

      • You need to make up your mind or get your story straight. Initially, you say that a few minutes after you and your friend sat down to play backgammon the bartender “asked” if you were going to order anything. You then went into the discussion about bars as social spaces and framed the question as whether it was unreasonable to be annoyed that the bartender “demanded” that you buy a drink. Which was it? Were you asked if you want a drink or did the bartender demand that you buy a drink? There is a big difference.
        I think it’s unreasonable to walk into a bar, sit down, and get annoyed when the bartender asks you if you want a drink. It’s perfectly reasonable for a bartender to assume that the reason you walked into a bar and made yourself comfortable was because you planned to drink something there. Why you would be annoyed by that, particularly since you say you planned to order something anyway, is beyond me.
        Maybe you’re upset because you were treated in a way that is inconsistent with your understanding of the relationship you have with this bar. You thought it was your “local haunt” where you could just hang out if you wanted to but the bartender treated you like a mere customer.

    • When people go to bars and buy drinks, they are not just paying for alcohol, but for the social aspect,as well. That’s why people don’t just drink alone in their houses, even though it is much cheaper. Did you really not get that?

    • I think people are just upset that you *assumed* that going into an establishment and not buying anything was ok. And even if you intended to buy something but didn’t, you still shouldn’t have been put off if they asked you to buy something. Yes, bars serve a social purpose, but the “funding” they receive to keep the lights on come from sales. And the bartender survives on tips. So yes, you should buy something.

    • OP: A bar’s “function is much more than a place where business transactions occur (money for alcohol), but serve as vital social forums where people can…” blah blah social capital blah

      -That may be a nice thought for your friend’s thesis, but the landlord or Pepco or the gas company won’t take “social capital” for payment. In the real world, they need real capital. The business *is* a business, and needs real money– not hopes and dreams of freeloaders– to survive.

      OP: “sometimes a business’s role is not limited to selling things to customers.”

      -Somewhat true; many businesses give back to their community in various ways. However, they *do* need to sell things to make money to make end’s meet. It’s very unfair to expect or demand a business (especially small, independent business) to allow you to freeload in their space.

    • How was the bartender to know you buy drinks and tip well 99% of the time? How was he supposed to know you were just testing out a social theory, and why should he care? The bar is under no obligation to accomodate a non-customer.

    • Hey OP,
      That 1% of the time that you do go to a bar and DON’T order anything makes you a schmuck!
      A Service Industry Worker

    • novadancer

      again… where is the demand? Per your comment: “We just got there, started playing and sort of forgot about drinking until the bartender came up a few minutes after we sat down”.

      how do you forget about drinking within a few minutes of sitting down??

      the more you comment the more you shoot holes in your post!

    • I fell asleep after the first paragraph of your whiny explanation. But I’m now even more convinced your post is a fake because there is no way you have any friends.

  • Hmm. . . A preview of responses to this post could have been had by checking out responses to posts on the demise of Mid-City Caffe. Consensus appeared to be that people parked there, paying little or nothing for their seats, leading to some serious problems for the business.

  • “They help to incubate social capital by fostering political and social dialogue that people living outside cities miss out on.”

    Erm… Do you not have any experience with people outside of cities?

    Secondly – the purpose of a bar is not to foster dialog, it’s to make money. They can choose to give back to the community if they please, but they are there to function as a BUSINESS, not some sort of retarded social center for non-paying squatters.

    • Yeah, there are plenty of rural communites where a cafe or diner serves the exact same purpose, where people stop in for coffee and to catch up on the news. It’s where presidential candidates meet ‘real people’ in Iowa and New Hampshire every four years.

  • The point is, New Yorkers are assholes. This is why the Yankees suck and Eli is wooden. Furthermore, they can’t drive properly.

  • [email protected]:01am, please use another ID. I’ve been using “MK” a lot longer than you. PoP my identity is being hijacked.

  • Apparently, they have Backgammon on computers now. I’m as shocked as you are.

  • If you had that kind of relationship with the bar, you’d know it. If not, move on, with humility.

  • I used to work in an indie bookstore in DC that people considered a “public space.” Space to read every magazine on the rack, pile huge stacks of books that they’ve browsed through but not purchased all over the place, leave coffee cups, used Kleenex, and assorted debris on the display tables and shelves, ask the cashier for change, peruse the new releases so they could scribble the titles down in their Moleskines to order them later on Amazon, take a shit, etc. The space was used for everything BUT walking up to the register to purchase something. Needless to say we are out of business. I think I’ve made my point.

  • I know it’s been a few days, but can we keep the comments coming? I love this thread.

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