Barred: Beauty Bar
When: Wednesday, 8:37pm
Beauty Bar was a thing in my 20s, so maybe it perpetually appeals to 20somethings. As soon as I walked in and sat at the empty bar stool closest to the door, I realized I had made a mistake. It appeared as if I had walked into a sorority party, lots of white wine and shrieks, but maybe that’s a normal Wednesday night.
Two nerdy men I had pegged for around 28 came after I did and were hovering for a seat. One said, “I haven’t been here since 2008″ as if that may as well have been 1908.
Was I carded? No.The bartender was diligent about asking everyone else for ID, though.
Age appropriate? Not even close. I drank my beer as fast as possible and high-tailed it out of there.
Barred: The Sackett
When: Wednesday, 6:28pm
I’m 99% certain that I have never heard Gene Loves Jezebel played in a bar in all my life. The bartender, who was mid-30s at most, was playing a distinctly Gen X soundtrack: Depeche Mode, “Never Let Me Down Again,” Talking Heads, “Road to Nowhere,” Beastie Boys, “Sabotage,” then skipped Green Day and eventually played “Jane Says,” which people at the bar complained about, so the bartender said she was going to play it again. Maybe two of the roughly 15 patrons, males, were in high school when that song came out.
Age appropriate? Eh, sort of. Eventually one of the regulars’ wives showed up and I’m fairly certain she qualified as middle-aged–or maybe it was the Ann Taylor style.
Barred: Banshee Pub & Finnegan’s Wake
When: Tuesday, 6:20pm
Banshee Pub I used a visit to Tanoshi Sushi for an excuse to finally ride on the Second Avenue subway (no one told me the station had one of those never-ending anxiety-provoking escalators). I then had an hour to kill before my reservation, so chose one of the two Irish bars on the same block, one block from Tanoshi. Nothing was remarkable about this place, except that apparently there had been a gas explosion earlier so (under-40) temporarily displaced neighbors trickled in.
Age appropriate? Not while I was there, though no Irish bar is age-inappropriate even in bro-centric Murray Hill.
When: Tuesday, I’m guessing around 9pm
Finnegan’s Wake I’m the type that the more I drink, the more I want to drink so even though I told myself that I would have a few beers before dinner and then to go straight home after sushi, especially since I nearly polished off a large BYOB bottle of sake, I did not. Instead I book-ended my evening by going to the other Irish bar. But it was the right thing because I’ve always thought running into people you know in all corners of NYC was a trope (though based on social media, I have “friends” who run into “friends” all the time) and yet I walked in and saw a “friend” (I’m not sure what you call someone you’ve only met once or twice in person and only have a Facebook relationship with) who lives in far out Brooklyn sitting at the bar. She is only 35, however, so did not qualify for my middle-ages quota. She also mentioned on Facebook shortly thereafter that she wasn’t drinking anymore, a strangely common declaration with women in their mid-30s. Maybe that’s called wisdom.
Age appropriate? Yes. Clearly, the ladies come out later.
Barred: Probably All Bars in Vegas
As is the case with the other, maybe the only, US city where you can consume alcohol 24 hours a day and up until recently could smoke indoors, New Orleans (duh), Las Vegas provides one of the more democratic drinking experiences you’ll probably find in this country. I guess vice is a middle-age magnet. Or maybe it’s that you could spend all day and night drinking for free-to-$3 a beverage and that’s a boon to those on fixed incomes.
You’ll notice, though, that while I stayed two nights on the strip and two nights downtown, I did not hang out at any bars on the main drag so I’m really only speaking to off-strip characteristics.
Fireside Lounge: Yes, girl’s nights and 40something dates.
Hennessey’s Tavern: Yes, white-haired couples.
All sitting outside (I was the only one indoors during the day) because these Vegas good-timers do not care one lick about sun damage.
Freedom Beat: Yes, more white-haired couples.
The Parlour Bar: Yes. In fact, at the 4pm-7pm and 11pm-to-close happy hours, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone under 40. I was fascinated by a va-va-voom 40-ish Asian woman with a mixed race mildly hip man two decades younger because I assumed it was a mother and son, but why would I assume that? A nice “functioning alcoholic” (his words) with gout decided to chat with me until security threw him out because he’d already been banned from the El Cortez. The guy on my other side threw himself out and started screaming obscenities at the man next to him. I patronized this bar four times.
All casino floors: Not technically bars but free drinks are available from roving waitresses (and they are all waitresses) if you can flag them down, and little matters like walkers, scooters, and oxygen tanks do not prevent any women from planting themselves at slot machines for hours on end.
Barred: Tokyo Edition
I can’t exactly generalize about bars in Japan because I’m not sure I went to to totally representative ones.
I can say:
No one cards (me) in Tokyo.
You can smoke in 90% of bars.
Whiskey highballs are so popular you can get them in cans at 7-Eleven.
Women drink alone, which was surprising.
Spoiler: I did not feel too old to be anyplace I went.
Age appropriate? Yes. I technically went to two Kirin Cities. On my last night, in Shinjuku, just before closing, and a middle-aged couple were eating and drinking. I spent probably 2 hours in another Kirin City, in the basement of Tokyo Station drinking beers and shots, which the Japanese don’t seem to do. The after-work crowd consisted of mostly men, and I even got to experience a salaryman on the left side, passed out, slumped against the wall, though there were women interspersed, like one for every five men. I was surprised that it didn’t seem weird at all for solo ladies to be at the bar. A mousy woman in her 20s was on my other side, eating a basket of tortilla chips with chopsticks and working her way through three beers. Impressive. I do not doubt that she was the human Aggretsuko (the new secretly rage-filled, beer-drinking, heavy metal-singing Sanrio character).
Age appropriate? Oh yes, gloriously so. This bar was like a movie set, wood-paneled and smokey, bartenders in vests, the menus looking straight-up 1980, whiskey starting at $3 a glass (and well on up). Patrons under 40 were the exception not the norm. A++
Age appropriate? Yes. Just off the Harajuku fray, this izakaya showcases Baird Beer, a Japanese craft brew. The bar seating on a Saturday afternoon was commandeered by a group of middle-aged tourists that I wanted to say were English but that’s just because the English have a drinking reputation. Once again, a young Japanese woman sat alone on my row of stools facing the window. She had two large beers (not the smaller size) and left. And I was impressed again.
Age appropriate? Yes. I expected an Irish bar in Tokyo to be an expat hang, but the only Irishman present was the ruggedly handsome, Japanese-speaking owner and bartender. A tough 40-something Japanese woman rounded out the staff. There was a group of dressy men, clearly regulars, clustered at the bar. The tables were occupied by large mixed gender groups, not all young. I went back twice and the second time the bartender remembered our order: Kirin and shots of Jameson.
Old Imperial Bar
Age appropriate? Yep. I can’t really imagine this place is a draw for youth. On a weekday afternoon this mezzanine bar was almost empty while the lobby lounge was hopping. When I was seated, I was given architecture books with pages marked to show the bar’s original Frank Lloyd Wright details. I guess they assume that tourists wouldn’t accidentally stumble into this bar unless they knew what they were doing and/or were history buffs. A man wandered in and drank coffee, a lone woman, roughly my age was seated at the very long bar, drinking a cocktail.
Age appropriate? Sure. The only other woman present among the 5 who reserved at the 8-seat bar at 6pm on a Sunday was 30-ish with a hint of a Nuyorican accent yet she was from L.A. She and her boyfriend had been traveling around the world for a year and could never get their body clocks straight. So, I originally thought that if you had $60 to spend on a flight of tiny cocktails, you might be older with more disposable income, but then I remembered that there are people who don’t even work at all.
Barred: Pearl’s Social & Billy Club
When: Wednesday, 9:30pm
What did I drink? Gin and tonic, Maker’s Mark on the rocks (prices unknown, but not expensive)
Do you ever feel possessive of something that matters to nearly no one? Neighborhood borders are the smallest stakes. I still have a sense of ownership for Ridgewood, Queens, my first NYC neighborhood, circa 1998-2000. (I even wrote a Village Voice snapshot a million years ago.) When people tell me (and they do) about how kids are now doing cool things there fifteen years later, I don’t think that they mean there are music venues and galleries in the Archie Bunker/Italian/Polish/Bosnian/Romany heart of Ridgewood, but closer to the Bushwick border, if not actually Bushwick, a strange reversal where claiming Queens grants cachet.
A friend and former coworker from my Ridgewood days, now also somewhere in her 40s, recently moved to “Ridgewood” and had mentioned Pearl’s as a local bar of sorts (three L stops away in Bushwick proper, this leads me to believe that Ridgewood still lacks a substantial hipster element, despite reports to the contrary). A seed was planted.
And then I really had to see for myself after reading a Yelp review (sure, I’ll consult the site for questions of atmosphere and tone–never food) containing this troubling bit: “Plenty of dirty hipsters – old ones! Like, peeps in their mid thirties. Mmmmm, come ‘ere gramps." No grammas?
No. There were tattoos, cocktails in mason jars, muscle shirts, beer-and-shot drinkers, mostly men (and to be fair, a solo young lady ordering Fernet) and an androgynous butt rocker that excited me more when I thought it was a woman emulating ’70s-era Jodie Foster.
It was certainly not "Berry Hill;” bros and tourists aren’t treating Flushing Avenue like Bedford quite yet, and the rash of recent muggings targeting oblivious bar patrons only emphasizes how in flux the neighborhood is.
Pearl’s is probably the closest bar if you decide to hit up alcohol-free Bun-Ker or Western Beef, so it does have that going for it.
Age appropriate? For Bushwick, perhaps, where an older crowd means 31.
Was I carded? Yes, indeed. And the man sitting outside on a stool should’ve been a giveaway; grown-up bars do not need to ward off underage drinkers.
Photo at Pearl’s: Lauren Carol Smith via Bedford + Bowery
Barred: Spuyten Duyvil
When: 10:47pm, Saturday
What did I drink? Dieu du Ciel Revenante Smoked Porter, $9; Single Cut 18 Watt IPA, $6
Nilsson. Destroyer. Man music for a beer bar that’s not really all that beer geeky. People, i.e. couples and groups, just go for the backyard seating.
I had written off the entire place when an hour or so in, a friend (a previously unmentioned 40-year-old–apparently, I know more neighborhood old-timers than I thought) clearly on a date, passed by my stool. She was with a visiting Italian gentleman in his early 30s, it turned out.
Apropos of nothing: If I ran a bar, I would put on Duran Duran’s Tiger Tiger as the let’s close this place down music. It would work as a dog whistle to the aged and a repellent to the cool. In other words, there would be no stragglers at 4am.
Age Appropriate? There’s nothing overtly inappropriate about Spuyten Duyvil…apart from the ages of 98% of the clientele. You could sip a beer unnoticed, no problem, unless you wanted to be noticed. Bringing a younger foreigner might be the only remedy.
Barred: Roebling Tea Room
When: Tuesday, 9:29pm
What did I drink? One Manhattan (unsure of price)
Despite the name (it put me off for quite some time) Roebling Tea Room is more restaurant than café. It’s not really a drinking establishment either, but there are a sufficient number of eaters and drinkers sitting on stools that the bar area is more than a holding pen.
There was a finance dude in a pristine ten-gallon hat and cowboy boots who insulted the bartender’s intelligence while thinking he was complimenting her beauty, then later slipped her his number (I think—hope—she wasn’t having any of it) which seems exactly what a 30-ish bro dressed like J.R. Ewing in Williamsburg would do.
The bar clientele was more motley than I’ve come to expect for the area, as if partially made up of lost walk-ins. Steely Dan, a persistent aural neighborhood presence, would seem to indicate a certain level of comfort for the older set, but the adult male in his 50s with thinning hair seemed out of place (he may have been a P.O.M., a.k.a. parent of a millennial). So too, the mid-30s gent with a leather jacket and dangly earring. That was more a matter of wrong decade than physical place, though.
Age appropriate? I really don’t know. My first instinct is a yes, though the masculine vibe, maybe not typical, further clouded the lack of grown women issue.