Updated: Nov 5, 2021
According to a study from Oxford University, frequenting your neighborhood bar may be more than fun — it can be good for your health, too.
People who regularly patronize their local bar are happier, have more friends, and are overall more satisfied with their life. Since hanging out at the pub provides face-to-face interaction with friends and neighbors in a setting that’s free from the duty and drudgery of everyday life, it enhances our social lives and community connections. Considering that a rich social life can lower your blood pressure, reduce stress, and even help you live longer, this is a great excuse to drop in for a pint.
Having a drink at your neighborhood bar may be good for your health beyond the social benefits. Moderate drinking has been linked to improved health outcomes like a better memory, reduced disease risk, and resistance to inflammation. Just don’t go overboard, or those health pros may turn into cons.
Surprisingly, people who frequent their neighborhood bar tend to be more moderate drinkers anyway. While it’s not clear if this is due to the social environment promoting measured consumption, the higher prices of drinks, or a strong arm by the bartender, it’s a compelling reason to meet up at the bar rather than having friends over to imbibe at home.
And local bars aren’t just great for individuals — they’re good for neighborhoods, too.
Bars are often an epicenter of activity. If a budding musician is playing a gig or a small-name touring band is coming through town, they’re most likely playing at a local bar. And you’ll find pool leagues, dart tournaments, trivia nights, running clubs, and more happening at local bars, transforming them from a mere drinking establishment into a cornerstone of community.
When people can walk to a nearby bar, they’re far less likely to drink and drive, a dangerous and illegal decision that takes 28 lives every day in the U.S. Plus, when someone stops in for a happy hour drink, they’re much more likely to grab an impromptu dinner in town than if they’d headed home first, which means more money flowing into the local economy.
Speaking of the local economy: When we think of small businesses, our minds tend to go to restaurants and retail stores selling specialty goods, but local bars are an important part of a community’s business sector. Besides generating tax revenue from alcohol sales, bars employ local workers who put their earnings right back into the community.
And since the owners of local drinking establishments tend to have strong community ties, bars and breweries are often invaluable contributors to city events and charity causes. A bar may host an on-site fundraiser, donate alcohol to a charity event, or donate a portion of its proceeds to a local cause.
Partnering with local drinking establishments can even help struggling small businesses find success. With the country’s growing obsession with craft beer, adding local microbrews to the menu can help restaurants increase their sales and attract new customers. Food trucks can reach a stable flow of customers by parking outside of bars, and take-out restaurants are gaining cash flow by offering free delivery to patrons of nearby drinking establishments.
With all the good that bars can bring to our lives and our towns, you’d think there would be one on every corner. Unfortunately, local bars have been vanishing from our cityscapes. Over 10,000 neighborhood bars shut down in the U.S. between 2005 and 2015, and the trend shows no signs of slowing. So what can you do about it? Make a point to stop in for that happy hour drink, chat with the regulars, and come back for more next week.