A reader writes:
This isn't just about alcohol laws. I lived in Irvine for 4 years and the inability to walk anywhere - not just to bars - was just awful. That's because zoning rules emphasize a strict separation between commercial and residential areas, especially in places like Irvine and Huntington Beach. You'll also notice that property located closest to these "downtown" areas tend to be worth less (or are more likely to be rentals) than the more isolated McMansions tucked away inside subdivisions. The majority of the people who live permanently in Orange County tend to be older couples or families, thus not the bar-going types, who enjoy the privacy and protection offered by gated communities. The entire point is to NOT make things walkable. No one who actually wants to live in Orange County wants to live in walking distance of a bar.
Put another way, this is what happens when zoning rules and city ordinances are skewed to benefit the relatively wealthy and over the relatively poor and young. This lack of walkability, in addition to the sprawl, makes public transit less than useless, which again makes things difficult for the non-affluent who are forced to take on the large expense of owning and maintaining a car.
I think you ran a link to this item a few months ago.
It maps out the number of bars per capita in various locations in the United States. The comments section sheds even more local light on the topic. Especially worth noting is that in many Midwestern cities, the experience of the neighborhood bar (or tavern as we call them in Wisconsin) is alive and well. There are about a half-dozen within walking distance of where I live (none closer than 2 blocks, for which I'm grateful, even if I like having them close-ish.) I suspect that our older cities (Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, etc.) can thank their European founders, especially the Germans, Pols, and Irish for the tradition of the local pub. My mother, now in her late 70s, recalls being sent down the street as a young girl with her dad's beer bucket to the local tavern to get his nightly, well, bucket-worth of beer. I suppose bottle beer was available (no cans though) but apparently he liked his draft fresh from the huge keg they kept in the cool basement. This tradition continues in Milwaukee, where small-batch micro-breweries abound and which many taverns sell exclusively.