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.

Another reader:

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.

Another reader:

I live in San Francisco where every few weeks we are confronted with stories of violence breaking out outside of nightclubs in North Beach, almost always around closing time, 2am.  The Entertainment Commission seems perplexed about how to improve this situation, but you said exactly what I have been thinking for years.  By forcing all the bars and clubs to close at 2, it also forces a flood of drunk patrons out onto the sidewalks at the same time.  If the bars had staggered closing times, then people would slowly trickle out and find their way home without having to navigate the gauntlet of other drunks who seem to inevitably get into fights.  I've seen the same thing in San Jose, where their solution has been to increase police patrols so there are cops on every corner.  The laws mandating closing times are the cause of the problem here.  I join you in your toast to their repeal.

Another reader:


Obviously you are not a home owner and secondly you have never lived near a bar.
 
Where I currently live there is one micro brewery which stops selling quite early and one bar. It's not an entertainment district yet but the owners are trying to make it into that mindless of the fact that four condo complexes on the same site with a fifth currently being built...It really is amazing how much noise people think they can make when the bar closes...but in this case I blame the design of the condos rather than revellers...and I guess I shouldn't complain too much...I make about $5 per week off both...picking up empty beer cans and bottles...THAT IS 50 PER WEEK...just along the street...
 
Where I used to live there was only ONE bar...I lived in an apartment at what was called 'street level'...I awakened more than once by drunks....peeing in the alley...outside my bedroom window...

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I find it humorous that Conor would write an article lamenting where he can or can't drink when the rest of the world finds it humorous that the self proclaimed Greatest County In The World has a drinking age of 21.   21. Really?  This is even more bizarre to me then Glen Beck or the baffling attachment of many Americans to the 2nd Amendment.  An 18 year old American can vote, fight for their country, procreate, marry, drive, obtain credit, but they can't have a cold one with friends?   Drinking a cold one with friends is American as apple pie is it not?  It certainly is portrayed that way in all mediums of entertainment media.  As an aside the boys and gals at Ft. Drum certainly seem to like the drinking age up here.   One would think that after gay marriage this would be that the next big issue to be tackled but it seems that legalising marijuana will be the big issue.  What I don't understand is why this isn't a bigger issue stateside.  

 
PS --  I suppose though we have the opposite problem in my home province (Ontario).  The drinking age is 19 but we can only by hard booze at a government run liquor store and beer from a multi-corporate owned Beer Store (literally, it's called "The Beer Store").

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My Baltimore Maryland neighborhood, Medfield, has at least one small neighborhood bar in it, the "Backstretch Saloon", located in the lower level of a corner rowhouse.  In the old rowhouse neighborhoods, many of the corner units were built to be used as small local businesses, and this one survives as very small, but hometown-y little watering hole for the neighborhood.  I wish there were more like them.  There would probably be a lot fewer drunken driving fatalities.  I often take a long walk through the neighborhood before bedtime and while strolling past the bar I have never once seen any sign of rowdiness...probably because the bar's customers are each others neighbors too.

That said, "dry" towns aren't all that bad either.  One of my favorite beach towns is Ocean City, New Jersey, which is dry (visit the public water fountain in the center of town, donated back in 1912 by the Women's Christian Temperance League).  I love it because it is a very laid back beach and boardwalk, always free of drunken rowdiness (Which is not to say that I don't also like the occasional trip to Key West either).  I had a great time there New Year's Eve 1999.

For a nice time in a vacation spot where you can relax with a drink in public, believe it or not, Disney World in Orlando is actually very nice.  When I first went down there it surprised me to learn alcohol was allowed anywhere there, but only Magic Kingdom is alcohol free, as you would expect of a park that is mostly geared toward small kids.  But all the other theme parks there serve drinks and you are perfectly free to wander about with them. 
World Showcase Lagoon in Epcot is a particularly nice place to enjoy a drink and a relaxing stroll.  The tequila bar in Epcot Mexico (La Cava del Tequila) has some of the finest tequilas Mexico exports (with prices you would expect...but worth every penny...if all you've ever had is Cuervo then take a wander into La Cava del Tequila and be pleasantly surprised...).  The frozen margarita shack outside Epcot Mexico, and the stand in front of Epcot France where you can get a Grand Marnier orange slushy are also favorites stopping points.  Epcot Germany has a lovely little German wine tasting spot...the German ice wines are just lovely.  And once every October Epcot has its International Food and Wine festival.

It's a very pleasant atmosphere to relax with a drink in public and I was completely surprised to discover that would be so in a setting with the Disney name on it.  But there it is.  I suspect the Disney crew ("cast members" as they're called), are very good at keeping unruly people in check without disturbing the other guests, but probably the reason I don't ever see any rowdiness there is that kind of person doesn't do Disney to start with.  The transportation system there is very good...excellent if you're staying at a hotel on the monorail system...but from anywhere inside the compound you don't need a car.

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I moved to Indiana (Bloomington) and some odd blue laws in my early twenties. When I moved here you couldn’t buy any takeout alcohol unless it was from a winery on a Sunday. It was an odd feeling to be in the supermarket on a Sunday shopping, and see the beer you couldn’t add to your cart. This finally changed this past 4th of July, sort of. We can now buy growlers and 6 packs from our two local breweries, which thankfully is my favorite. It’s a welcome change as there is nothing more depressing then sitting down to watch some football on Sunday to discover their isn’t any beer in the house. There has been some efforts to get rid of these blue laws, but the most interesting thing I found was who actually opposed allowing alcohol sales on Sunday; liquor stores. The argument went that if people could buy booze on Sunday they would just pick it up at the grocery store, and in order to compete with that the liquor store would have to stay open longer. I don’t know what’s worse, being told you can’t buy alcohol by some religious fundamentalists with aspirations teetotalism or by liquor stores. It seems to be a reoccurring problem in life; being told what to do by well-meaning though off based people, or ones that know better and are just being cynical.
 

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