Five Things a Bar Must Have

What are the most essential amenities for a positive drinking-out experience?

By John Chandler April 22, 2011

As a marginally noteworthy local personality I get asked the same questions over and over. The first one is, "What’s your favorite bar?" to which I give a long string of confusing and contradictory answers. (Covering your tracks has never been more important. They can track us anywhere!) The second question is, "What do you look for in a bar?" To me, this is a much more complicated query. Are you asking me what I, the Bar Pilot, look for? Or are you asking me as a reliable barometer for the rest of humanity? I can’t take this kind of pressure!

I’m going to go ahead and list five things a proper bar should have if they want my business on a regular basis, but this list says more about me than it does the rest of human race.

1. Local spirits and brews. I’ll drink in a laundromat (and I have!) if it has a respectable number of regional taps and at least pays lip service to Portland’s artisan distillers.

2. A reasonable noise level. Whether it’s the bartender’s iPod, the crappy folksinger in the corner, the TV, or the jukebox, noise should never impede conversation. Obviously this does not apply to music venues. For more on this subject…

3. A range of price options. I love plunking down my hard-earned coin for a fancy pants cocktail as much as anyone, but I have to know that I can retreat to the safety of a reasonably priced tap beer if my funds are drying up. It’s only common sense.

4. Atmosphere. This answer is kind of a cheat, because it includes lighting, service, and an x-factor (decor, design, furnishings, feng shui) that reveals that some thought about patron comfort went into the room layout. For more on this subject…

5. Decent chow. I generally don’t go to a bar with the intention of eating, but if I’m hanging out and having a good time, I want to know that the food base is covered by something other than a frozen burger patty slapped onto a fly encrusted grill.

Yes, there are tons of other factors to consider. I can even put up with slow service as long as the staff is amiable. But now I want to hear from you, drinking buddies. Let’s talk about the bees in your bonnet. Tell me what needs you have that need to be met in order to guarantee a return visit. Let’s build the definitive list so that we can distribute it to publicans all over the city to ensure our satisfaction. World peace and contentment will surely follow.

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