Is it the nearness of drink, and the immediacy with which a drinker can be served, that makes him or her so comfortable in a pub, a tavern or a bar?
Is that mindset so flavored with alcoholic underpinnings as to lose its power as a simple observation?
Is every barfly a rummy and loser?
Since coming to London, I write in pubs and taverns. I feel so comfortable, so at ease, prose usually flows like the Guinness I drink. As a writer, I’d be crazy to not write where I am most at home, where my mind clears and my soul is uncluttered and my palette, all of my palettes, are cleansed. I’ve been in London for just over a week, having moved here permanently, and already sense that this instinct to practice my craft in a public drinking hole is more prevalent here than in the states. There are about 7000 pubs in London. I can’t attest to how many writers inhabit the pubs on a daily basis, but the congenial atmosphere, warm wood constructed interiors, and often quite good pub food to accompany the alcohol, would seem a natural magnet to those who write for a living.
For some perspective, one San Francisco website claimed there are just under 500 places in the city that have been issued liquor licenses. The city has a population of about 800,000. Between full liquor licenses and beer and wine only permits, Boston has just over 1000 establishments in which to imbibe. Another website states that Chicago has over 1800 “bars”, though that number would appear to include restaurants with bars, which often close much earlier than bars.
The best comparison to London would be New York City, which has a similar population of just over eight million people. Getting concrete numbers is virtually impossible for New York, as restaurants can be considered bars, and there are almost 18,000 restaurants in NYC, though clearly not all of them serve alcohol. The best guess-timate would be about 1800 drinking/eating establishments.
So that makes, no matter how you parse the numbers, the 7000 pubs in London almost mindboggling. That’s approximately one pub for every 1200 people. Doesn’t sound like much, but when you think about it, and eliminate the non-drinkers and children, it has the whiff of overkill.
Today’s still poor economy has pubs closing here across the pond at a rate of almost 4 a week, according to recent statistics. Still, that hardly makes it difficult for a Londoner to find a stool and a pint.
Of course, I write in my “office” at home. I would even go so far as to call it equally as comfortable as a pub, in some ways. Just different.
Vive la difference.