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Bar business suffering in January


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https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/19/nyregion/dry-january-bars-liquor-stores.html

Okay, so "Dry January" is trendy. But that's clearly not the only problem for bars. A bigger problem, that will surely stretch beyond January, is the price of drinking in bars. I am sure I am far from alone in having the cost differential between home-drinking and bar-drinking brought forcefully home to me by the lockdown and then the limited bar services (outdoor drinking, compulsory food, etc) that followed. I know we've spoken about that here before.

Recent experiences underline it. Wines by the glass at Le Crocodile typically priced around $19 -- the same as an appetizer. And if you look at the bottle price on the list for the same wine, you are paying way more than the 300% bottle mark-up if you go BTG. And 300% seemed steep.

I was talking to a bartender in a local bar and he admitted (there was no-one there except me) that he often chooses to drink cocktails at home. We reflected that it was easy to make an $18-$20 cocktail at home for a couple of bucks. The differential there is insane.

Beer is less of an issue, but I did a modest local bar crawl on Sunday night. I found the exact same pilsner on draft for $10 plus tip at one bar, $7 plus tip at another bar a couple of blocks away. Guess where I'll be drinking it in future.

I am not suggesting this is greed (for the most part anyway). Bars have that dilemma that in order to charge enough to stay open, they have to charge enough to keep customers away. 

 

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I've heard that a dry January is the harbinger of a very wet February.  $10 bottle wholesale in Europe = $20 glass in nyc (after tip)  

I don’t mind going to bars where the drinks may be merely competent. I mean, i don’t go to a place like Jimmy’s Corner because I want a great cocktail. I go because it’s fucking Jimmy’s Corner!

Exactly, exactly. What I am struggling to explain to myself if that when I worked in an office five days a week, I had a great need to get out for an hour in the evening just to get out. Now I wo

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The other factor in BTG pricing is they have to open a bottle and can't be certain they'll sell the entire thing while the wine is still good.  So the mark-up kind of HAS to be higher.  (Not saying I like this as a consumer, of course.)

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Another version of the same dilemma. The more expensive the BTG price the harder it will be to sell fast. (I am not claiming this is an amazing new economic insight). Le Croc had something on the list at $29 BTG. I think something at $43 too (can't see the BTG list on the websitre). I bet those do't fly off the shelf.

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The biggest advantage to ordering a cocktail in a bar is that a good bar will be more well stocked than my home setup ever will be.  For example, I'm not going to have 10 different sweet vermouths or 8 different gins on hand, or some of the more obscure liqueurs.

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3 hours ago, StephanieL said:

The biggest advantage to ordering a cocktail in a bar is that a good bar will be more well stocked than my home setup ever will be.  For example, I'm not going to have 10 different sweet vermouths or 8 different gins on hand, or some of the more obscure liqueurs.

+1

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14 hours ago, joethefoodie said:

I mean, isn't the bottom line that the same amount of money one spent in say, 2018 at a bar/restaurant, is now getting you 30 - 50% less. 

That's what it seems like to me, yes.

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15 hours ago, AaronS said:

good beer in bars is not cheap.

I agree, but I was thinking about the differential. Even if it costs twice as much to drink a bottle of beer in a bar than take it home, cocktails are like 9X.

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12 hours ago, Sneakeater said:

+1

 

15 hours ago, StephanieL said:

The biggest advantage to ordering a cocktail in a bar is that a good bar will be more well stocked than my home setup ever will be.  For example, I'm not going to have 10 different sweet vermouths or 8 different gins on hand, or some of the more obscure liqueurs.

This is specific to me, but since I tend to order classic cocktails that doesn't help much. I will commit to more obscure ingredients in a bar I really trust, but that's an occasional thing.

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Even for classics, do you have every mixer?  Do you have a range of makes of base liquors, so you can choose the best gin or rye or (here’s where it gets REAL important) rum or tequila or mezcal for each drink?

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I certainly don't have all the ingredients for all the classics. Why would I? I don't even like all the classics. Perhaps more to the point, the average bar doesn't either. I am not talking about specialist bars here; I am talking about bars that make a Tanqueray martini with a splash of Dolin and charge me nine times what I could make it for at home.

I am comparing like with like.

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I used to not notice this kind of thing, but I am still stung by having paid $60 for two martinis that were smaller and worse than I would make and some devilled eggs. (I think that included tip.)

You can buy 3.5 liters of name (not well) gin for less than that. The differential is staggering.

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