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A bar (also called a pub, tavern, beer garden, or saloon) is an establishment that serves alcoholic drinks — beer, wine, liquor, and cocktails — for consumption on the premises.
Bars provide stools or chairs that are placed at tables or counters for their patrons. Some bars have entertainment on a stage, such as a live band, comedians, go-go dancers, or strippers.
Types of bars range from dive bars to elegant places of entertainment for the elite.
Many bars have a happy hour to encourage off-peak patronage. Bars that fill to capacity sometimes implement a cover charge during their peak hours. Such bars often feature entertainment, which may be a live band or a popular disk jockey.
The term "bar" is derived from the specialized counter on which drinks are served. The "back bar" is a set of shelves of glasses and bottles behind that counter. In some establishments, the back bar is elaborately decorated with woodwork, etched glass, mirrors, and lights.
There have been many names throughout history for establishments where people gather to drink alcoholic beverages. Even when an establishment uses a different name, such as "tavern," the area of the establishment where the bartender serves alcoholic beverages is normally called "the bar."
The counter at which drinks are served by a bartender is called "the bar". This term is applied, as a synecdoche, to drinking establishments called "bars". The bar typically stores a variety of beers, wines, liquors, and non-alcoholic ingredients, and is organized to facilitate the bartender''s work.
The word "bar" in this context was already in use by 1592 at the latest, as the dramatist Robert Greene referred to one in his A Noteable Discovery of Coosnage. However, it has been suggested that the method of serving from a counter was invented by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the great Victorian engineer, as a means of more quickly serving the sudden rush of customers caused by passenger trains arriving at the refreshment rooms at Swindon railway station while the Great Western Railway trains changed locomotives. It has also been claimed that the first bar to serve alcohol was installed at the Great Western Hotel on Paddington station, London.
Counters for serving other types of food and drink may also be called bars. Examples include salad bars, sushi bars, and sundae bars.
In the UK bars are either areas that serve alcoholic drinks within establishments such as hotels, restaurants, universities, or are a particular type of establishment which serves alcoholic drinks such as wine bars, "style bars", private membership only bars. However the main type of establishment selling alcohol for consumption on the premises is the public house or pub. Some bars are similar to nightclubs in that they feature loud music, subdued lighting, or operate a dress code and admissions policy, with inner city bars generally having door staff at the entrance.
''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.
One of the last dive bars in London was underneath the Kings Head pub in Gerrard Street, Soho.
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