The Sociology of Alcohol, Bars & Pubs

Petr V. Ivanov Feb. 11, 2020

The Sociology of Alcohol, Bars & Pubs

The question of who, what, where drinks and how it all ends has always worried researchers.

In 2004, for example, the Austin and San Antonio examples in Texas were used by the latter to calculate that, of course, the level of violent street crime is related to the social demographics of districts. And if we add a layer of density to the settlement map, the explanatory force of their model will jump significantly. Simply put, the district population alone accounts for only 59% of violent crime in Austin and 39% in San Antonio, and the concentration of bars accounts for 71% of violent crime in Austin and 56% in San Antonio.

In a report to a conference of the Southern Sociological Society in New Orleans, gender researchers expressed serious concern - bars and restaurants are conservative environments that reproduce gender stereotypes and female victimhood. Huge security cabinets are on duty at the entrance or in the hall, ready to be violent at any moment. But there are miniature waitresses in the hall, ready at any moment to become a victim of attack, from which only a male guard can save them.

In general, research into bar violence is almost the most developed topic in bar criminology and anthropology. For many years there has been an interdisciplinary scientific discussion about whether a safe glass can exist. This started at a time when some English bars began to write that they use unbreakable glasses. So, even if you're in a bar fight, it's not going to be a big deal. In 1994, the first report "No such thing as a safe glass?" started a scientific discussion with the statement that an unbreakable glass can also cause serious injuries. Research led to a 2007 Glasgow pub and bar ban on glass glasses, which in turn triggered a new round of scientific debate.

Safety in bars and pubs is definitely linked to how drunk customers get. Therefore, an important skill of those who serve alcohol is to determine the degree of intoxication of the client. Therefore, in 2002, researchers from Purdue University and the University of East Michigan conducted a survey of 822 bar workers. It turned out that the correct indicators are that the client is no longer pouring bar workers based on the fact that the client is hitting on other guests, speaking indistinctly, unstable in his legs and, most importantly, how many drinks he ordered from the bar. However, only female workers pay attention to the client's illegible speech, for male workers it is not so important. Also, the researchers note in the section of recommendations, training for bartenders and waiters should contain criticism of the indicator "number of drinks ordered by the customer". Because nobody knows how many drinks the customer had before he came to your bar.

As researchers from the University of Western England note in the study "Bad bars: A review of risk factors", mainly bars are pleasant places where people spend their time culturally. However, there are bad bars where the opposite is true. According to their research, design is the most important thing - poor visibility of the room, overcrowding, lack of background music, but also too loud music and other noises, poor ventilation and even uncomfortable furniture - all of which increase the level of aggression in bars.

Secondly, the organizational part is important, for example, training the staff in first aid skills in case of an alcohol-induced stroke, the ability to work with client's aggression. An increased risk factor to become a bad bar is "happy hours", alcoholic promotions and gambling events.

Third, the social characteristics of clients play an important role. Surprisingly, in terms of health risks to themselves and others is equally dangerous, but for various reasons, both large companies drinking and lonely drinking regular customers. Big companies are characterized by significantly higher alcohol consumption, as well as the group process, which under the influence of alcohol and mutual instigation can lead to trouble. Lonely drinking regulars also tend to drink more than usual because of weakened external control - bar staff is more loyal to him because he is a regular customer, and a drinking colleague, who might also notice that his colleague has had dangerously too much to drink, he does not.

In terms of traffic management, the main problem with bars is the increased risk of drunk driving. The bartender may not always know if the customer has arrived by car or not, if he is going to drive away in it and if he will not, if he drinks too much. And here lies one of the key risks for regular customers of bars - studies in 2000 show that regular customers are more likely to forgive excessive intoxication and give them the keys to the car. This becomes a risk factor for subsequent traffic accidents, injury and death of regular customers.

Despite all the dangers of bars and pubs described above, public drinking areas remain attractive for leisure time. Sociologists of leisure, note that now, under the influence of digital technology, leisure around the world is undergoing a serious transformation. According to a survey of IT use and time displacement, the active use of gadgets leads people to believe that they have much less free time, especially spontaneous free time, which in earlier studies was associated with bar leisure. Which means that the movement of slow communication will bring people back to the bar.

Key texts used to write the article:

  1. J. Green & M. A. Plant (2007) Bad bars: A review of risk factors, Journal of Substance Use, 12:3, 157-189
  2. Burns, Edward & Nusbaumer, Michael & Reiling, Denise. (2003). Think they’re drunk? Alcohol servers and the identification of intoxication. Journal of drug education.
  3. L. ZHU, D. M. GORMAN, S. HOREL, ALCOHOL OUTLET DENSITY AND VIOLENCE: A GEOSPATIAL ANALYSIS, Alcohol and Alcoholism, Volume 39, Issue 4, July 2004, Pages 369–375
  4. James G. Fox, James J. Sobol (2000) drinking patterns, social interaction, and barroom behavior: a routine activities approach, Deviant Behavior, 21:5, 429-450
  5. Roberts, Melinda R.. “The Use of Leisure: A Qualitative Study of Tavern Patrons.” (2013). Sociology and Anthropology 1(3): 153-157
  6. John P. Robinson (2011) IT USE AND LEISURE TIME DISPLACEMENT, Information, Communication & Society, 14:4, 495-50

The texts for acquaintance can be downloaded here


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