This should not be news to anyone who's watched someone drive home from a not-so-neighborhood bar. Neighborhood bars help their neighborhoods in other ways, too:
The vaunted “third space” isn’t home, and isn’t work—it’s more like the living room of society at large. It’s a place where you are neither family nor co-worker, and yet where the values, interests, gossip, complaints and inspirations of these two other spheres intersect. It’s a place at least one step removed from the structures of work and home, more random, and yet familiar enough to breed a sense of identity and connection. It’s a place of both possibility and comfort, where the unexpected and the mundane transcend and mingle.
And nine times out of ten, it’s a bar.
Atlantic Cities writer Kaid Bailey elaborates:
What does this have to do with sustainability? Well, quite a bit, in my opinion. The more complete our neighborhoods, the less we have to travel to seek out goods, services and amenities. The less we have to travel, the more we can reduce emissions. People enjoy hanging out in bars and, especially if they are within walking distance of homes, we can also reduce the very serious risks that can accompany drinking and driving.
On that subject, my friend Scott Doyon has gone so far as to map "pub sheds," or five-minute walking zones from pubs in the Atlanta suburb of Decatur. Writing in his firm’s excellent blog PlaceShakers and NewsMakers, Scott concludes that the community is fairly well covered. He further suggests that, if one extends the walkability zones to ten-minute distances, it would be well-covered indeed.
Long-time readers will know that substantial portions of my software was written at Duke of Perth, one of Chicago's best bars. Evanston's Tommy Nevin's served the same purpose a few years back, especially when they allowed dogs on the patio. I can imagine living in a city without neighborhood bars, a thought that drives me deeper into my Chicago—New York—London—San Francisco worldview.