The Truth About Why We Go to Bars

Bottle of Grey Goose at Ye Old Liquor Store: $30. Same bottle at a prime NYC club: $350. Bottle imported beer at Felipe’s Corner Bodega: $1.75. Lounge price? $10. From the consumer side of the bar, we all know it makes zero financial sense. Yet, throngs of college-edumacated adults, who all took Economics 101 at the least (or who are Wharton MBA’s and Hedge Fund managers at best), continually make terrible business decisions by imbibing in the company of others. WTF? Why in the hell do rational people knowingly throw away money at some dark alter, voluntarily ingesting crap-tasting mind-altering fluids that – quite honestly – quench your thirst nowhere near as well as water or Gatorade? The explanation is simple: it’s The Bartender’s Theory of Social Anarchy.

If Moral Bedlam and Inhibition could be plotted against Time and Alcohol Consumption what’d you’d wind up with is a non-linear,increasing (to a point) curve (see Figure 1 – above). In Mathematics, it would be described as an Exponential Curve where y = b^x. I was big on Calculus in college – a Mechanical Engineering major – what can I say? I’ve been studying the situation and collecting critical data (from both sides of the bar) for decades. My findings are described herein.

If you’re hot, panting, and sweaty, would you rather have an ice cold Lemonade or an astringent, shaley, highly-tanic, Old World, Merlot? On a sub-freezing January evening, where your fingertips no longer register as being part of your body, wouldn’t common sense encourage you to have a piping hot Buckey’s Caramel Macchiato instead of a couple of Black Label’s on the rocks?

The Bartender’s Theory of Social Anarchy is simple. In spite of the obvious, people do not go out to bars because they’re thirsty or because they want to get their buzz on.

If it were that simple, bars wouldn’t exist – only liquor stores would. And I assure you, there are plenty of folks who are perfectly happy guzzling a Fifth of $6.79 Gordon’s Gin out of brown paper bag all by their lonesome. However, those folks are clearly, severely troubled and in the overall minority of the population.

I suspect that, like me and the majority of others, you fall into the social drinking category. That is, your desire to get sauced at an appealing Cantina is one based on “higher aspirations” – social satisfaction (whatever that means to you personally). I look at it kind of like Herzberg’s Theory in the workplace. In the drinking sense, alcohol equals workplace salary. Booze is not a motivating factor. In essence it’s simply a lubricant. And to be perfectly fair, much of it tastes like total dookie.

Leading to Satisfaction

  • Sex
  • Meeting Strangers
  • Sex with said Strangers
  • Believing the bartender think’s you’re “unique” and is going home with you
  • Sex with said Bartender
  • Believing the stripper thinks you’re special and is going home with you
  • Sex with said stripper
  • “Free” drinks
  • Being remembered by your bartender

Leading to Disatisfaction

  • Drinking
  • Not getting sex
  • Drinking more
  • Getting even less sex
  • Drinking to blackout state
  • Not remembering sex that supposedly happened
  • Sexting your wife messages intended for your girlfriend
  • Realizing you’re never going home with the stripper, but only after having spent $2,000
  • Realizing you’re never going home with the bartender, but only after having spent $500
  • Visits to the Drunk Tank
  • Coerced to have sex with cellmate, Drunk Tank “Bubba”
  • Walk-of-Shame
  • An unusual burning sensation
  • Unplanned mini-you
  • Awaking next to The Beast of All Beasts, and casually trying to get your naked ass out the door unnoticed
  • No rent-money on the 1st of the month
  • Divorce
  • Being remembered by your bartender

See where I’m going with this? The only issue with all these motivating factors is – you guessed it – a…a…a…a… a…alcohol (as Jamie Foxx puts it so nicely). Blame it on the Goose and the Henny, but all these motivating factors are at direct odds with feeling buzzworthy and often, getting shit-faced (as illustrated in Figure #1). Drinking – particularly in a public place, is an enabler of all the above demotivating factors, and more.

Furthermore, people absolutely love do deny it. Yet, as my data suggests and my observations confirm, practically everyone in most bars leverage alcohol for hookups. It’s the tie-that-binds, the “engine oil” that allows all the magic to happen, with a whole lot less trepidation. And let’s face it, the entire process of hooking up with some random “Strange,” is rife with anxiety. But, we all love the prospect as well as the kill regardless, don’t we? Unsurprisingly, booze dramatically lowers those great walls of inhibition (good or bad – depending on your perspective).

There are those that don’t necessarily require hookups in sexual sense, and simply desire to meet-n-greet strangers, but they’re in the minority – at least where I’ve tended bar and where I’ve socialized. It should also be mentioned that although a hookup may not be always be in the mind’s forefront when heading out, ((time x drinking) + familiarity) is the deadly formula that magically rearranges most people’s priorities as an evening drags on. As you can see from the formula, both time and inebriation have exponentially more dramatic affects than familiarity. The thought of getting down with the dude or chick next to you, creeps up on you – sometimes, rather quickly. The normal logic pathways and synapses of your gray matter, the ones that keep you faithful to your significant other in many cases, are slowly overtaken by new, short-term satisfaction logic – the fermented kind. This is the real reason why significant others get all hot and bothered when their mens are out “with the fellas” (or girls with fellow girlfriends) way the late. Nothing, good (depends on your perspective) happens from 1:00am – 4:00am or thereabouts. It’s prime time for crime time. Get the drift?

I’ve been witness to, and (unfortunately party to) some seriously mismatched and egregiously bad hookups in my day. Every single one of them, would never have taken place without copious amounts of drinking. It’s just the way it is.

Just your friendly, neighborhood bartender dropping another useful nugget. Carry on…

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