A bar (also called a pub or tavern) is a business that serves drinks, especially alcoholic beverages such as beer, liquor, and mixed drinks, for consumption on the premises. Bars provide stools or chairs for the 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.
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 usually 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 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 the major Australian cities there is an immense and diverse bar scene with a range of ambiences, modes and styles catering for every echelon of cosmopolitan society. Melbourne maintains a strong hold of the up and coming drinking scene.
As Canada borders the United States, it has also adopted many U.S. bar traditions (such as the "biker bar", and the "sports bar"). 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. The U.S.-style sports bar has become very popular in 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.
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 Alberta, for example, patrons can order beer for "take-out" at the end of the night, a practice which is illegal in provinces such as Ontario. Closing times generally run from 2:00 to 4:00 a.m.
In Nova Scotia, particularly in Halifax, 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.
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. Olives, Punjabi by nature, Geoffrey's Dhadkkan at Solan Himachal Pradesh and All Sports Bar are among the few popular ones.
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 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.
'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.
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 Orleans 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 Pennsylvania and Ohio, bars may sell six packs of beer "to-go" in original (sealed) containers by obtaining a take-out license.
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, Wisconsin, has the most bars per capita with 362 bars and only 51,034 people living in the city limits.
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..
Several fictional bars have featured prominently in books, including the following:
Several fictional bars have featured prominently in television series, including the following:
Bars featured in plays