Bar Scene

How does Precinct Bar fit in the larger community?

Sitting at the counter in Precinct Bar on Sunday afternoon, I was lucky enough to meet a fellow patron who worked a neighboring bar, The Independent.  Knowing the bar scene well, he described to me how each bar was alike and different.  He did this while tracing an invisible map on the surface of the bar with his finger.  This was an example of relational/conceptualized space.

The bartender told me about the ambiance of Precinct Bar.  He explained what types of music was played (usually indie rock) and who usually frequented it (locals, except for the college students coming for shows on the weekends).  “The [indie] rock crowd are usually alright, but when we have ska bands come play that’s when it gets really nasty”.  With a short jab of the finger along the bar’s surface, he then described The Independent.

The neighboring bar was owned by the same people, so the environment was similar.  On the weekends, the clients were similar too.  However, the music played was different, and the patronage was more varied on the weekends still.  However, these two bars were still fairly close in proximity and philosophy.

Then, with a long swipe of his finger, the bartender told me about Bull McCabe’s.  The crowd is different entirely.  Mostly young couples coming out for dinner.  There is still live music, but it is not as major of a feature as with Precinct Bar.  “If you want to have a nice evening with a girl, take her to [Bull] McCabe’s.  If you’re going out with your buddies, you’ll want to go to Precinct [Bar] for the music”.  Bull McCabe’s was described as cozy, rather than rowdy – a big difference compared with Precinct Bar on the weekends.

The bartender continued mapping out different locations (Sally O’Brien’s and PA Lounge) with his finger and describing their different ambiances and philosophies.  Where was the bar?  Was music more important than food?  What were the patrons like?  The simple finger-mapping technique is a great example of David Harvey’s tension between relational and conceptualized space.

Using his finger to show me the location of each bar, the bartender was clearly describing a conceptualized space with a unique concept map.  However, it became less clear whether that tension was with absolute, relative, or relational space.  I argue that it was with relational space, because the purpose of the bartender’s explanation was to describe the philosophy of each bar.  He wanted to tell me about the essence of each establishment, and implicitly was describing the process in which they came to be (what were the key values, patrons, defining characteristics and how did they evolve).