Why You Secretly Hate Cool Bars

In most cities around the world, bars are at the core of the social scene and go hand in hand with youth culture. Which is weird, because this is a diagram that exists:

The thing about cool bars

The word “bar” can refer to a variety of places—a handy rule is, the cooler the bar, the more horrible the life experience it will provide. And on a weekend night, the quintessential cool, super-popular, loud, dark city bar becomes a place of genuine hardship.

The problem begins because you have this idea in your head that a cool bar is a fun place to be. You think to yourself, “It’s time for a big weekend. Excited to hit the bars!” without what should be the follow-up thought, “Oh wait no, I remember now that weekend bars are terrible places to go to.”

After years of accidental suffering by billions of people, it’s about time we took a long, hard look at this voluntary practice and examine just what a night out at a popular bar entails.

Let’s start at the beginning:

It’s a Friday night, and you’re excited. You get yourself all ready—you look how you’re supposed to look, your friends look how they’re supposed to look, and you all head out to go where you’re supposed to go: the bar.

As you arrive, you come up to a familiar scene—

Bar line

Let’s take a moment to discuss what’s actually going on here.

If you want to understand how a cool bar thinks, just take the way every other business thinks—”please the customer and they’ll come back”—and do the opposite.

I call it the You’re A Little Bitch strategy. Being forced to stand in line like a tamed snail—often when it’s cold and even sometimes when the bar is empty—is your first taste of the You’re a Little Bitch strategy.

While you wait, you’ll watch several all-girl groups walk to the front of the line without waiting, where the bouncer opens the rope and lets them in. Ahead of you. Because you’re a little bitch.

When you finally get to the front, you’ll notice there’s no sign with the bar’s name anywhere, because the bar likes to watch its little bitch customers go through extra trouble to find them.

You’re then asked for your ID by someone who may not have been the biggest dick in your high school—but he was the biggest dick in someone’s high school.

He then shuffles your little bitch ass along to the next stage, where they show everyone how desperately you want to be their customer by charging you $10 just to come in. They cap things off by stamping their logo on your undignified hand, just because they can.

An uninformed observer would only assume, after seeing everything you just went through, that the place you were about to enter would be some coveted utopia of pleasures. They’d be pretty surprised to see you walk into this:

Horrible Dark Bar

The first moment you walk into a scene like this brings a distinct mix of dread and hopelessness. It’s an unbearably loud, dark, crowded cauldron of hell, and nothing fun can possibly occur here.

I’m not sure when it happened or why it happened, but at some point along the line we decided that the heinous combination of Loud/Dark/Crowded was the optimal nightlife atmosphere.[1]In 2012, The New York Times found that NYC bars have gotten progressively louder over the years, to the point where they now regularly hit the dangerously-loud level of 100+ decibels, roughly the same volume of a chainsaw. Why? Because clinical studies showed that patrons drink more when the volume’s louder. Maybe it started because clubs were trying to imitate the vibe at concerts, and then bars started imitating clubs to seem hipper—I’m not sure. But where it’s all left us is a place that disregards the concept of a human, and there you are in the middle of it.

Anyway, now that you’re in—what’s next? Let’s take a look at the various activities you’ll take part in during your time at the bar:

Activity 1) Getting a Drink

After wedging your coat into a nook in the wall and saying goodbye to it for the last time, it’s time to go get your first drink. You were the first one of your friends to walk in the door, so you’re in the lead as your group works its way through the crowd, which means you’re the one who’s gonna drop the worst $54 a human can spend on a round of drinks no one will remember. But that’s the end goal—first, you need to figure out how to get through the three layers of people also trying to order drinks:

Getting a drink

It’s a sickening undertaking. And depending on your level of aggressiveness and luck, making the worst purchase of your life could take anywhere from 3 to 20 stressful minutes. I’ve spent at least a cumulative week protruding my face forward, vigorously locking my eyes on the bartender’s face and still not being able to make eye contact.

You finally get back to your friends with drinks, just in time to start the primary bar activity—

Activity 2) Standing there talking to no one

Standing there talking to no one is a centerpiece of any night at the bar. If you don’t look carefully, Loud/Dark/Crowded will give you the impression that everyone in the bar is having fun and being social. But next time you’re at one, take a good look around the room, and you’ll see a surprising percentage of the people looking like this guy:

Standing there talking to no one

Just 30 minutes earlier, this guy was at dinner with his friends—talking, laughing, and sitting comfortably. Now, luckily, the real fun has begun.

Activity 3) Holding something

Almost as ubiquitous as Activity 2, holding something—usually a cold drink—is popular in bars around the world. The thing we all ignore is that holding a cold drink is shitty. A) Holding anything up for an extended period of time is shitty, B) A cold, wet drink is especially unpleasant to hold, and C) because bars are insanely crowded and people are constantly moving, your elbow will be bumped about once every 30 seconds, continuously spilling the drink on your hand and wrist. If you were in a restaurant and someone told you you had to hold your drink a few inches off the table while you sat there, you’d leave.

Unfortunately, putting it down isn’t really an option, because holding nothing at a bar frees up your hands, which has the side-effect of making you suddenly aware that you’re just standing there talking to no one, and you might panic. The solution is to quickly hold something else, usually your phone, which whisks you back into hiding.

Activity 4) Yelling out randomly to let people know you’re having a good time

Desperate to maintain the “This is fun!” narrative we’ve all been sworn to, you’ll sometimes hear a person yell out to no one in particular. They won’t yell an actual word—just something unendearing like “Woooh!” or “Ohhhh!” Relative to other activities, this is one of the most fun moments you’ll have in the bar.

Activity 5) Screaming words toward a person’s head

At some point you’ll decide to try to interact with your friends, since you’re in theory having a night out together. There’s no chance of presenting information in a nuanced way, so the conversation stays crude and basic—I’d estimate that 20 minutes of bar conversation accomplishes what roughly 1 minute of restaurant conversation does.

You might even get ambitious and decide to start accosting strangers. This tends to be an upsetting experience for both sides of the interaction, and almost never leads to anything fruitful. The irony of all this is that the Loud/Dark/Crowded cauldron of hell vibe is there in the first place for single people who want to meet single people, and bars don’t even do a good job with their prime purpose. Bars are a terrible place to meet someone if you’re single. You can barely see what people look like, let alone any subtle facial expressions that convey personality. And because it’s so crowded and hard to hear anything, mingling doesn’t really happen, which leaves aggressive conversation-starting (i.e. accosting strangers) as the only real way to get things off the ground.

Once you’re in a conversation with someone new, you’ll spend 6 minutes getting through the first nine lines of small talk and still have no idea if the stranger has a sense of humor—not a good environment to build chemistry.

Activity 6) Dancing

 

Dancing 1

 

 

Dancing 2

 

 

Dancing 3

 

 

Dancing 4

Activity 7) Crying

A lot of people cry in bars.

Activity 8) Bathing in old-fashioned gender stereotypes

From girls skipping the line or the cover charge to guys buying drinks for girls they met eight seconds ago, bars provide a modern arena for decades-old gender stereotypes, casual discrimination, and whimsical misogyny to flourish and thrive. Sexism and gender inequality are hot topics right now, and yet everyone seems fine reverting to 1953 when they enter a bar.

Buying a drink

Activity 9) Taking shots to dull the suffering

Shot

Shots don’t taste good. And anyone who says otherwise is lying.

Activity 10) Engaging with filth

Bars are a great place to really soak up the collective sludge of humanity. From the sticky floors to the vomit to the strangers making out to everyone breathing on everyone else to the bartender handling money and then shoving a lime into your drink, it’s a quality of living only drunk people could create and only drunk people could endure. The most disgusting exhibit is the men’s bathroom, where 120 drunk men have each sloppily peed 1/4th on the floor—which makes it a similar place to a bathroom where 30 men have peed only on the floor, and a place you’ll have to visit at least twice.

_______________

As this cesspool of bad human qualities rounds itself out with a fistfight between two fragile-egoed drunk dudes venting their sexual frustration onto each other, it’s time to wrap things up.

Suddenly remembering that food exists, you’re reenergized and work your way to the exit through the closing-time crowd of ultra-horny guys making furious last-second attempts at meeting someone. You’re pleasantly surprised to actually find your coat and then you head out the door, making sure to forget your credit card behind the bar.

And you’re done. Almost…

There’s one more critical step—the moment that propagates the bar species onto the next night: You need to convince yourself that the night was super fun.

Of course, loud, dark, crowded bars are not fun. But drunk usually is fun—no matter where it is. Go to the grocery store drunk with a bunch of friends, and you’ll have fun. Go ride the bus around town—if you’re drunk, you’ll probably have fun. If you had a good time at the bar, what actually happened is you were drunk and the bar was not quite able to ruin it for you. If something is truly fun, it should still be at least a little fun sober, and bars are not even a little fun sober.

Some people aren’t even conscious of the fact that they hate these bars and for them, the self-convincing is an automated process that takes place all through the night. For others, the delusion is a bit more forced and takes a week or two to take hold. A few people won’t ever twist the memory, but enough of their friends will that they’ll need bars for another purpose—avoiding FOMO—and they’ll be back before long.

We have a problem here, with no foreseeable solution—and until something changes, the weekend streets will be lined with little bitches, patiently waiting.

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  • Anonymous

    For all those who go to the comments without reading the entire post, note that Tim mentioned he was specifically referencing the loud/dark/crowded bar scene only.

    Another great post Tim, you really nailed all the reasons I’ve hated bars since I first set foot in one. I wind up suffering through 9 of your 10 activities, the lone exception being dancing, I refuse to dance. However I’ve seen that exact sequence of “dancing” happen with others many times. Clubs, and any other place too loud or crowded to really interact with people, are just as bad. I am bewildered that anyone thinks they are fun, there are so many more entertaining activities to do with friends and so many better ways to meet new people.

    • Anonymous #2

      “there are so many more entertaining activities to do with friends” Such as?

      • James

        Everything else in the world.

        • That A-Hole

          Even murder?!

          • VJ

            Especially murder.

          • Tom

            I imagine if you and a group of friends got together, had a few beers, then murdered someone it’d be a good laugh.

          • Rhybon

            Especially murder.

      • Sally

        (I hope this comment is a joke.) Seeing a movie, going out to eat, bowling, miniature golf, board games, water skiing, camping, hang gliding, canoeing, visiting local tourist spots in your area, rock climbing, cycling, shopping or taking a class, for starters. Even going to a concert where you can appreciate the “loud” aspect better.

        Not everyone likes all these things or has access to all these things. (I don’t like half the things on this list.)

        And if you like the bar, that’s fine. I think the point is asking yourself if you *really* like it, or just like the idea of it? (Or do you just think you like it because you feel like you should? A few years ago I came to that realization with camping.)

    • Zenith

      Sorry but he generalized throughout to basically imply that all bars are indeed loud/dark/crowded, and then you continue to comment based on that implication.

      As for those specific types of bars and clubs, some of us go with friends to have a good time dancing, and we do. That’s it. Agreed there are better ways to meet new people, but I personally would never go to a bar or club to meet new people. Or if I did, it wouldn’t be the type being described here.

      • Anonymous

        I’m not entirely you sure you understand the purpose of coming here.

  • Anonymous

    Finally!!
    Somebody who feels the same way I do about those stupid pointless places called bars!!
    I am not crazy, weird or boring. (At least as far as the idea of entertainment goes)
    Thank God!!!

  • Jack

    I really, REALLY enjoyed that. Couldn’t have summed up my feelings better, and I giggled throughout.

  • C.

    In NYC, we call places with velvet-rope lines and dancing “clubs,” not bars. Bars can also be noisy and crowded, but they don’t have dancing, they do have seating (at the bar and usually at tables too), and they often have food (think “sports bar,” even though not every bar is sports-themed).

  • James

    To naysayers: If gong to the bar was a whole lot of fun every time…. why doesn’t your mother and grandmother go every weekend?

  • Bar Enjoyer, Club Hater

    This is a fantastic article that accurately and hilariously summarizes everything I hate….about clubs. At least, that’s what the type of location described here would be called in the cities I have lived in: Chicago, Boston, Tokyo, and Toronto. Are clubs called bars in NYC?

    Usually I wouldn’t have a problem with a semantics issue like this, but it actually makes the article less shareable as the headline is misleading…

    • James

      A “club” is just a bar that charges you extra because it has cleared some space out for a dance floor and it has loud music.

    • RichardMNixon

      That was my impression also. I love quiet rooms with long wooden benches from which you can order delicious beer. I hate loud, crowded, claustrophobic places with terrible beer that charge you to enter. I call the latter a club because British people would get angry if I called the former a pub.

      • P1nkle

        And that should be the subject of a future wait but why post – the difference between a pub and a bar. I’m British, have traveled a lot and am now living in New Zealand, where they have both pubs and bars. The pubs are definitely different to the bars somehow (can’t quite articulate how they’re different), but I’m not sure they’re really pubs. Even the English pubs run by British people out here aren’t quite pubs. And I’ve never been to a real pub in any of the countries I’ve visited. So, Tim, what makes an English pub so quintessentially a pub?

      • Hector_St_Clare

        That’s funny, because I really quite like night clubs, and I hate the ‘quiet room with long wooden benches’ type of bar.

        I guess I go to clubs mostly to dance, meet girls, etc., so I don’t really get the point of the ‘long wooden bench’ type of place.

  • Bjarni

    Nailed it

  • Anonymous

    Sounds like a typical pretentious NYC club. I like bars with dart board and a jukebox, and no cover unless there’s a band. Maybe even a dj and dance floor…as long as you don’t try to make unnattractive or uncool people feel like crap for wanting to be a patron, and as long as random dudes don’t try to rub their genitalia on me without my permission and label it “dancing”.

    P.s. how come there’s a turtle waiting in line?

    • Anonymous

      That’s no ordinary turtle — THAT’S WINSTON!!!

    • R

      Representation of that which is slow and sluggish, such as the line at the new “cool, hip” bar… unless you’re a chick who is at least a 7.

  • Cristina

    Acttivity 11: Taking selfies to show the world (aka your Facebook friends) that you are having a GREAT time :D

  • Eivind

    I love bars, I have been working in bars and clubs a lot, but I love this article more!

  • Phil

    This guy wins the internet!

  • greercn

    SO funny and SO true! You have given all the reasons I don’t go to cool bars. By the way, the Women’s room is always WAY WORSE than the Men’s. Trust me. I know. Thank you for the big belly laugh.

    • R

      Explain.

      • boso

        women don’t dare to sit on the toilet in bars (cause it’s gross) so they pee standing, but aiming is hard when you don’t have a penis. Also they are not used to putting the seat up, they just pee all over it.

        Then there’s also the fact that some people think its okay to leave stuff with blood everywhere. Or the container is full.

  • B5280high

    4 and 5 are huge for me given i have limited hearing in one ear. I also have what I title “social claustrophobia” which makes (some) bars and most clubs intolerable….having said all that, most people (I think) have had great times at these joints one time or another. As a whole, I agree with Tim’s observations.

  • Timothy Ryan

    Yo, Tim. The greatness of this post is reduced by your repeated use of the phrase “little bitch.” Decrying people’s “reverting to 1953″ when entering a bar, you should know better.

    • Dennis

      Ack, I agree. Unfortunately as your readership grows, so will the number of sensitivities you’ll have to be vigilant about.

      • Nah!

        Number of sensitives will definitely grow, but he obviously shouldn’t pander to them. Cause it’s inane.

    • Alison

      He was actually “using” the term as much as portraying how a bar thinks of its customers.

  • Scott

    All of this is only true of shitty bars. I spend a pretty significant portion of my leisure time in bars and enjoy most of it. I never voluntarily go to a place like this (unless it’s to see a particular musical act) and when my “friends” try to make me I throw a huge fit. Like why would anyone go to Brooklyn Bowl or Berry Park (shitty) when The Gutter and Diamond Bar (amazing) are right around the corner?

  • ZLavatelli

    This is why Lindy hop exists. A way better time. I go to bars only for bands.

  • Eae

    This reminds me of… EVERY place in Miami

  • C

    I’d love to see WBW take to some social events offline

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  • Boobs

    Hey, just wanted to point out that while I love your new footnotes thing, sometimes I like to read these articles on my phone and there’s no way I can find to move them out of the way of the text when I’m doing so. The last entry, which had about 10 of those footnotes mid-text, was so obscured by them that I missed more than 2 paragraphs because I couldn’t move the text bubble.
    Otherwise, love your work as always and these articles are often one of the highlights I can count on for the week. :)

  • daChipster

    OT: why is it some of my comments post, others do not, sometimes I’m told I’m posting too fast wehn I’ve never posted at all, and other times I’m told my comment is a duplicate even though it never posted in the first place?

    • Wait But Why

      I don’t know. It happens to me when I comment too. Very annoying.

      • Melancholy_Hill

        Why not using something like Disqus? A lot of the websites using such tools I browse have grown very active communities thanks to it (I’m not advertising for it, I just genuinely think it is awesome).

        • Matt

          yea disqus is solid.

  • Robbie MacQuack

    Loved the way you broke this insanity down…

    3 Thoughts:

    I seem to keep forgetting what a terrible way of spending time hitting the bars is. All the fun parts of a night out could be achieved in much better (and cheaper) ways.

    You haven’t even touched on hangovers and all those other unpleasant after-effects

    In human history this is a relatively new thing and despite globalization it isn’t embraced equally enthusiastically everywhere on the globe (forget the tourist bars). There is hope we’ll move on.

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  • boso

    annoyyyyyyed by the site not wanting to post my comment

  • boso

    he, he posted this one. Is there a characterlimit, since this was a short one?

  • Jennifer

    I love this.

  • K

    This is exactly why I never go to clubs. I don’t understand how anyone enjoys spending an evening this way!

  • Eljay

    Even when I was young and single, I HATED going to “the club”. Not only were they everything the author says, but I always had this underlying feeling that I wasn’t rich/cool/good looking enough to be in there.

  • Matt

    You’re right. They’re all subhumans who haven’t grasped the true nature of human glory, which is watching Game of Thrones in silence with the boyfriend or girlfriend you secretly resent. They don’t know how awesome it is to hide their envy of other people’s fun under a veil of contempt.

    You don’t do what they do because you CAN’T do what they do. You know this is true, and will always be true, until you make an effort to change it. Or you could just remain a small, suffering, finger-pointing asshole forever. Your call.

    • Becca

      Yikes. This must have really hit a nerve.

    • Anonymous

      I like “Thrones”. why so mad?

    • bufus .

      WOW. Just WOW. Someone is so very angry…I like Thrones, and I watch it with a boyfriend whom I do NOT resent, and it’s fun — seriously.

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  • Andrea

    Totally agree. Here’s something that happened to me a few years ago, related to activity no.2/3. There I was dancing with some friends and there was this guy i didn’t know next to me, standing there talking to no one and holding a glass of bubbled wine, when another really drunk guy came and bumped the wine guy’s elbow so all the liquid spilled all over my arm, top to bottom. In that moment, another drunk guy i didn’t know decided to lick my arm all along. Terrible. My arm was sticky the rest of the night and ten years later, I still can’t forget that “iuuugghhh” feeling.

  • Rachel

    Ah, and lets not forget the flashing lights and super loud bass. The two of them put me almost immediately in a trance state. After an hour in place like that, I am staring at the wall, not present in my own body, unable to speak or understand language. Totally zoned out. Takes hours to recover.

    Never understood why people thought this is fun. Nice to read others don’t enjoy it either!
    Great post!

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  • Ryan

    You forgot to mention the “penis tax”.

    Girls cover: $10
    Guys cover: $10 + ($10 penis tax) = $20

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  • alex nava

    I haven’t waited in line for a popular bar/club in 4 years. And never gonna do it again.

    Popular club/bars play the worst shitty overcommercialized overhyped music you can find, and therefore normally hast the most vain and stupid girls you will encounter. I know this does not apply to EVERYONE, and I have found some dumb girls and guys at rock and metal bars too, but gosh I have met many seriously stupid women in popular bars.

    I don’t enjoy overcrowded bars, and will normally just go to another one with moderately good music (like irish bar with live music) if Voodoo Lounge is full or playing music I don’t really enjoy.

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  • somewhat-repentant attention-whore

    Whaaat you’re a guy and don’t enjoy night clubs? No way! [sarcasm]

    These places are a bonanza of free stuff and attention-whoring for girls. I always enjoyed getting free passes and drinks for me and my girlfriends. We felt like “genetic celebrities.” We enjoyed laughing off the pawing of desperate “losers” while simultaneously working them into a frenzy by our sybaritic undulations.

    Ostensibly we went for the dancing. We took some pole dance classes and a lot of new clubs have poles in them! It was part work-out, part affirmation of our “special-ness” every night!

    It’s heartless but don’t kid yourself that “most women aren’t like that.”
    Our mating strategy is to collect attention and gifts. Clubs are pressure cookers for animalistic, evolutionary instincts.

    Nice girls during the day time become total bitches, drunk on power in these places.

  • somewhat-repentant attention-whore

    Women’s mating strategy is to collect attention and gifts. Clubs are pressure cookers for animalistic, evolutionary instincts.

    Nice girls during the day time become total bitches, drunk on power in these places.

    These places are a bonanza of free stuff and attention-whoring for girls.We felt like “genetic celebrities.” We enjoyed laughing off the pawing of desperate “losers” while simultaneously working them into a frenzy by our sybaritic undulations.

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