For so many fine comments.
Having worked in bars, pubs, and restaurants, my attitude toward any bartender, pint-puller, or server who makes someone feel awkward for not ordering an alcoholic beverage (or, indeed, for not ordering anything at all at a table where someone else is ordering) is, “Gosh, there goes your tip. Hope you learn from this mistake.”
And my attitude toward any table companion, date, member of the party, editor, agent, interviewer, passing stranger, or pickpocket who behaves as if it’s strange not to order an alcoholic beverage is, “What a tiresome ass. Now I know not to be in your company a second time.”
I drink alcohol. But I know many people who don’t drink. And I know many people who drink, but who choose not to in numerous specific circumstances, such as when they’re driving, tired, at altitude, have to get up early, are about to go to work, have to give a speech or do a panel in a little while, think they drank too much last night, are watching their calories, are saving themselves for dinner, only drink Very Specific Things that aren’t always available, are having some stomach trouble, plan to go scuba diving, etc., etc
Bars are indeed very noisy and there often tend to be some people there behaving badly. But there are always people behaving badly on the internet, so I’m unconvinced that bad behavior can be avoided with certainty when one is in contact with more than a small, specific set of people one chooses (and even then, things can go awry), no matter where one is.
I think a lot of people would be happy to go to a cafe instead of a bar if they could get alcohol there while their non-drinking friends get something else… but in the US, beverage establishments still don’t overlap much in that respect, and most places are either bars and focused on serving alcohol, or cafes and not selling alcohol at all. Which is too bad.
Similarly, the US has a market culture where you are expected to keep ordering if you’re going to keep occupying a spot in a beverage establishment. In much of Europe, there is not real or perceived pressure to order a second beverage. Whereas in the US, I have on multiple occasions been asked to vacate a table or spot at the bar if we’re not going to order more. There is a whole accepted/imposed culture here that if you’re going to spend 3 hours socializing in a bar, you’re SUPPOSED to keep ordering drinks for 3 hours, rather than order one drink and be done with it while you stay chatting for 3 hours.
@ Aaron: My standard “bar drink” (because it is true that if you don’t have something in your hand you’ll get a lot more pressure from the people around you) is club soda with a slug of grenadine. It’s tasty, and also a good conversation starter because it’s the most amazing shade of electric pink, virtually guaranteed to get someone to ask, “What in the world IS that?”
It’s too bad that I can’t get any non-alcoholic approximation of Romulan ale, but apparently the only way to get that color is with blue curaçao.
Now my imagination is combining Victorian formal dress with hip-hop, rap, and New Wave-style hand and arm movements.
And otters. You mustn’t forget otters.
@Laura: The otters are taken as given.
Jones Berry Lemonade or Big Blue Cream Soda.
Laura Resnick: one needs a machete (and also a nosegay) to make one’s way through it
I laughed out loud at the idea that a nosegay would be in any way efficacious against Puppy poo (thinking especially of JCW here).
Grabbing a non-alcoholic drink from the bar before joining others is one way to avoid the pressure to drink. Another is to talk to your waitstaff away from the table to arrange your drinks. Seltzer or tonic with fruit juice or a slice of fruit or as Aaron suggest ginger ale keeps people from badgering.
A few phrases I’ve used when needed:
1. I’m always the designated driver even when I’m walking *laugh*
2. I’m dehydrated and really need water at the moment
3. Thanks but I’m not in the mood to drink
4. Hope it’s ok with everyone if I don’t drink
5. You never know why someone is not drinking. They could be a recovering alcoholic, religious, on medication which can’t be mixed with alcohol, allergic to alcohol. I’m sure no one here minds my not drinking. (I usually save this one for when I know someone in the group fits one of the above descriptions or the pressure to drink has ratcheted up)
Of course no one should be pressured to drink. If someone in our group is pressuring others to drink we should stop them and let the person not-drinking know they are welcome and don’t have to drink.
It is sad that people who choose, for whatever reason, not to drink alcohol often end up having to purchase something that looks as though it may be alcoholic, to keep people from pressuring them to drink. I hope that eventually that will change (I think that it is changing, albeit slowly).
When I offer to buy for someone, I usually phrase it as, “Can I get you a beverage? What would you like?”, and whatever they reply (unless it’s Dom Perignon ’83), I don’t even blink. I have on occasion chosen not to drink alcohol in a group for whatever reason, and if questioned as to why, will generally say, “Do I need a reason?” which usually shuts the questioner up.
I didn’t drink at all until I was in my late 20s, still rarely drink without food and have been ordering club soda with lime in bars for decades. I’ve never had a bartender object (although sometimes they want to jazz up my drink) and the few people who have asked why I’m not drinking get a puzzled look but no answer.
Bars are too noisy to ever be my first or even third choice for socializing (my hearing is fine, but I have trouble distinguishing conversation when there’s significant ambient noise), but I really love places that combine fine food with craft cocktails (even if I don’t usually drink hard alcohol).
I once had a waiter pressure me to get a drink. BUT… this was 30 years ago, it was in a college district, and (because of that and his appearance) I strongly suspect that it was his first job waiting tables. I came down on him fairly hard — I think I said I was a recovering alcoholic, and I know I said he was WAY out of line — but that was because I didn’t want him to get fired, which he would have if he didn’t get a sharp lesson early on. And that’s the only time I’ve ever encountered that sort of thing from waitstaff.
Monin do a non-alcoholic blue curacao syrup.
In fact, on the non-alcohol subject, any cocktail serving establishment worth its salt can do a non-alcoholic version of any cocktail. Obviously the fruitier cocktails are easier to do this with than, say, a martini.
(The secret of cocktails is that they’re actually really easy to do once you have the ingredients and know a few recipes)
Yes, due US licensing laws (which are downright weird from a German perspective) make the divide between drinking and non-drinking establishments much sharper than elsewhere. In Germany, for example, cafés, bistros, etc… all offer alcohol for those that like it. About the only places where you can consume food and drinks, but no alcohol, are bakeries with a small café attached, some fast food chains (and they mostly have beer) and some Turkish and Arab restaurants for religious reasons.
BTW, is coffee with a shot of alcohol a thing in the US? Cause it certainly is in Germany and that’s sold at traditional cafés full of little old ladies.
In most of Europe, you can also sit for as long as you like in a café, bar, pub, etc…, even if you don’t purchase a second drink. I’ve parked my Mom in British pubs with a glass of cidre, while I went book shopping, and no one raised an eyebrow.
Regarding pressure to drink, I come from rural North Germany, where a lot of socialising focusses on alcohol. And not just beer and wine either, but hard alcohol. And if you attend e.g. a wedding or birthday party or other event where a lot of traditional and often elderly people gather, you might get pressured to drink and drink a lot. I usually blow those people off and support others who are pressured to drink. Coincidentally, it’s gotten a lot better over the years, probably because the really heavy drinkers of years past are all in their 70s or 80s by now.
Interestingly, German traditional bar culture (a bit like British pubs, but different) is slowly dying off, because younger people no longer go to bars every evening or after work. There still are traditional bars around, but nowadays, a lot of them are also havens for smokers, because they are designated smoker bars, which makes them extremely unpleasant places for people like me who are heavily allergic to tobacco smoke.
Can’t say I’ve ever been pressured to drink when I don’t want to. And Scotland is well known for its serious drinking culture. Bar staff are normally busy enough serving people they don’t need to go looking for more work. Plus there’s no culture of tipping on drinks here at all.
Mostly when out with friends these days the shout is, “I’m going to the bar, anybody want anything?” And a vague attempt to even out the bill.
The one caveat is my parents who can’t quite wrap their heads around the recent cut to the drink drive limit in Scotland. I quite like a glass of wine with my meal but not to the point of risking my licence. So when eating at theirs I might have to decline a couple of times.
Missed the edit window as the oven timer went off, so had to rescue the pumpernickel. Really.
I quite enjoyed the German bar culture when I was there, especially the sort that brewed their own on premises and served food too. That sort of thing is slowly catching one here along with microbreweries and gastro pubs. There’s a particularly good one in Glasgow ran by a German expat.
@Cora I’ve parked my Mom in British pubs with a glass of cidre, while I went book shopping, and no one raised an eyebrow.
For the Americans in the UK cider always means an alcoholic drink. But Cora’s mum would have been equally fine if she was drinking lemonade or an orange drink. Also more and more pubs are doing coffee as well.
Another traditional thing which is fairly common is a radler (Germany) or shandy (UK). A drink which is nominally half beer, half lemonade although you can ask for different proportions if you wish.
A few thoughts in regards to barcon at MidAmericon II of things that I saw
1. Based on how understaffed the wait staff was in the Marriott bar, getting a drink every 60 to ninety minutes would have made it hard to get drunk.
2. I don’t drink and did fine with soda and thought I’d mention that John Scalzi doesn’t drink and that didn’t seem to impact his group.
3. Wednesday night had George R. R. Martin hanging out (handing out invites to the Hugo Losers Party).
4. Pretty much everyone (it seemed like everyone) wandered through the Marriott bar.
5. The Tor party had a bar, but also had plenty of soft drinks and snacks as well (and unfortunately the couple that harassed Alyssa Wong).
6. The place with the most booze was the Hugo Losers party, which had multiple bars, spiked ice cream shakes, BBQ, and cake, Also, you were handed a “The Demolished Fan” drink when you came in. I have heard of one incident with a drunk attendee there.
I think that having the room parties in the common area likely cut down on overindulgence, which is where I’ve usually seen it in the past, both at large cons and a small local cons.
Also, you were handed a “The Demolished Fan” drink when you came in.
Or offered one, at least. I declined, having had two beers with dinner.
Exactly what went into “The Demolished Fan”? Enquiring minds want to know!
They were also serving “White Walkers,” though. Some enterprising scholar might want to ask George what was in them over at his not-a-blog, if that hasn’t happened already.
For posterity, of course.
I asked what was in the Demolished Fan, was told, promptly forgot, and took one. It tasted pretty good. It was a sweet and fruity sort of thing. I had water the rest of the evening.
I rarely have more than one drink, or if I do it’s hours apart. I’ve been lucky never to have had anyone even raise an eyebrow when I ordered a seltzer or just a glass of water during barcon. I can’t imagine what anyone who would tease someone, or even ask why (let alone speculate aloud about it) might be thinking. It’s difficult for me to come up with terribly charitable theories as to why they would care about someone having soda or juice, let alone be so nosily inconsiderate.
Oh, and thank you all so much for the Ancillary Bench Plaque! I’ve added it to my display of shiny things. 😀
Sweden is alcohol culture where you are expected to drink and to drink more. I remember all family festivities with the singing and the schnapps. Still, when I come to my father for family dinner, there’s always a small glass of aquavit to the dinner.
Not that there really is a problem of saying no. No one will hound you, as soon as you are over 30 of age (and never a bartender) But before that, you drink to get drunk.
I remember a wedding where the groom and the bride wete absolutists. We turned into those caricatures from movies, standing outside the dinner hall taking sips from small bottles some of us had brought with us. And the festivities split with family staying, being sober and friends left to celebrate with drunkeness. Kind of weird when I think of it.
Any bartender, if you ask them for a “virgin” version of a cocktail, can do you up one. Put a slice of lime on the edge of any kind of soda and there you go. The popularity of fruity and slushy mixed drinks means you can make them booze and not booze. Ginger ale is identical in appearance to scotch mixed with lemon-lime soda, which I learned about going the other direction 😉 Colas look the same whether or not they’re boozy. Orange juice looks like a screwdriver. Bars do make even more profit with non-alcoholic drinks, plus they know they won’t have a belligerent drunk on their hands, so they’re happy to serve those.
Wide open bar spaces are great at cons since it keeps the noise down a bit, and centrally-located ones (often between two programming room areas) are good for finding people.
@Ann Leckie: Yay for a good plaque home.
One non-alcoholic strategy I have employed in US clubs is to sit down at the bar, order a club soda for $1-$2, and then give the barfolk $5-6 (cost of a beer). Normally I don’t get hassled again and often I end up with free refills for the rest of the night.
Tonight, I just started Indra Das’ The Devourers and whoh does it grab you from page one! Looking forward to the rest.
Ann Leckie: Glad you have the plaque in your collection. I’m really pleased.
Mike Glyer: Ann Leckie: Glad you have the plaque in your collection. I’m really pleased.
Dear Mike, your plaque is in the mail. *cough* 😉
robinareid: But I also found a lot of men who did not want girl cooties all over their prime fandom space and who denigrated women in general. That’s interesting; in 1974 I estimated that the Worldcon was 25% female (based on published membership lists, which means there were certainly guesses) after hearing of the convention-bureau person who “helped” the New Orleans bid by telling an audience “We’ve got a great set of facilities for your sci-fi convention, and a great city for your wives to go shopping in!” The NO bid wasn’t in great shape anyway, but everybody I spoke to was floored by this. At least on the US East Coast, most people recognized that there were plenty of women who belonged in fandom as much as the men did; I can’t answer for other parts of the US (or world — the UK in 1979 was a shock), or for fringe cases.
Petréa Mitchell: the seafood restaurant in the Hynes-connected mall was probably Legal Seafoods; that branch closed recently, damfino why. (Maybe 1 ~downtown branch was enough?)
Heather Rose Jones: have you been to any UK Worldcons? 1979, 1995, and 2005 all had very large comfortable seating spaces with mild alcohol (sometimes just Real Ale) served in one corner and no “entertainment”. This probably relates to “pub” being not very much like “bar”. (2005 was especially wonderful because the weather was mild enough for the seating to spill outdoors, which also reduced the noise problem.)
As a woman, one issue I have with bars is that a lone women in a bar (and sometimes even a woman in a bar with female friends) is often assumed to be looking for male company and has to fend off men making passes at her. Which can be annoying, because sometimes you just want to have a glass of wine or beer or cidre or a cocktail in peace.
So I will often go alone to a bar for the same reason I’ll go to a coffee shop: to enjoy a pleasant beverage, a bite to eat, and various wi-fi enabled pastimes on my laptop.
While the laptop generally seems to broadcast a reliable “I am not interested in your pick-up lines” signal, it seems to also broadcast a “I am a workaholic who needs to be taught how to enjoy life” signal. More than once I’ve had people–men or women–come up to me and play-scold me along the lines of “You’re at a bar, you’re supposed to be having fun,” and they seem quite surprised when my answer is “I am.”
OK, the man who delivered the “you’re supposed to have fun” speech while incessantly patting/tapping my arm got it with both barrels. My brother, who was bartending and keeping an eye on the proceedings, came up after I’d chased the dude away and expressed mild surprise that I didn’t deck him. I told him that didn’t turn out to be necessary after I had forcefully explained to him the difference between my forearm and a computer keyboard. Also the difference between a part of his body, which he has every right to touch, and a part of somebody else’s, which he doesn’t.
(Basically I take conscious advantage of the fact that some men go from “ooh, cute little woman” to “what a b—h” at the first boundary-asserting statement. It’s handy. They think they’re punishing me for my rudeness by shunning me. But as long as they leave me the hell alone, I win.)
I do occasionally have awkwardness with the odd woman who (I guess) thinks I must be terribly lonely, feels sorry for me because I clearly have no friends, and makes a project out of interacting at me all night long. I think my laptop needs a sticker that says something like “It’s OK, I’m an introvert, I’ll be fine.”
Chip Hitchcock said:
the seafood restaurant in the Hynes-connected mall was probably Legal Seafoods; that branch closed recently, damfino why.
Thanks! And darn.
@ Chip Hitchcock
Heather Rose Jones: have you been to any UK Worldcons?
Helsinki will be my first non-USA Worldcon, but my previous Worldcon attendance has been very spotty in general. It’s only been in the last couple years that I’ve concluded that Worldcon and I have become extremely compatible, after a long and somewhat variable courtship. It’s also only been in the last several years that I’ve really worked out my techniques for successful con socializing. (As recently as two years ago, I was still describing my win conditions as “never ending up hiding in the ladies’ room crying.”)
And then Chip Hitchcock said:
1979, 1995, and 2005 all had very large comfortable seating spaces with mild alcohol (sometimes just Real Ale) served in one corner and no “entertainment”. This probably relates to “pub” being not very much like “bar”.
I went to the 2005 one, and IIRC the pub area was host to the fan panel track and also sorta the con suite replacement.
At any rate, I remember that the opening of the fan panel track involved reassuring people about the alcohol supply situation. British fans have a particular liking for Real Ale, and the pub/bar/whatever at the 1995 Worldcon had run out of Real Ale during the con.
This time, the host said confidently, there was a Real Ale brewery right around the corner which always had a pad of 3 weeks’ supply on hand, so no need to worry.
I’m sure you can all guess the punchline: at the official close of the track on the last day of the con, it was announced that fandom had managed to exhaust the brewery’s supply.
Petréa Mitchell on August 27, 2016 at 9:14 pm said:
In 1979, the hotel/convention center was, I understand, told ahead of time to lay in an extra large supply of beer, ale, and soft drinks. They thought they’d gotten enough (or they didn’t listen) and by the end of the convention, they were pretty much dry on all three.)
@Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little: “I think my laptop needs a sticker that says something like “It’s OK, I’m an introvert, I’ll be fine.””
Heh, I’m a shy introvert and generally don’t like talking to strangers. I’d probably get a big grin on my face if I saw a sticker like this somewhere (but I would not accost the person with the sticker!).
2011 (Reno) had a bar with booze and soda and seating in the big open area that also had the art show, dealer’s room, and fannish exhibits. So you could sit and talk to people, have a beverage of your choice, and it was only a little noisy. Then you could stroll over and lounge on the Iron* Throne. There were also hotel bars and restaurants, and proper room parties.
*Fiberglass or Resin or something. Still pretty neat.
Today’s Meredith Moment:
Neil Gaiman, Andy Weir, George R.R. Martin, Pierce Brown, and Kurt Vonnegut on sale at Amazon Kindle (and possibly in other e-formats).
Petréa: on the last day of the con, it was announced that fandom had managed to exhaust the brewery’s supply. I think British fans treat this as a challenge. I remember the announcement in 1979 that we’d drunk 19,000 pints of the bog-standard bitter the hotel carried (despite complaints about the high price and poor quality). At the 1993 Smofcon, we were greeted by the last newsletter of the Eastercon that had finished two days before, in which Langford said “Nyah nyah Smofcon, we drank every drop of Old Jersey Bitter on the island!”; he was right — there wasn’t any local beer until at least Thursday.
IME, US conventions have started to try to mimic UK conventions; Noreascon 4 (2004) had the Mended Drum, which was gloomy and dirty-looking inside but also had outside seating. The latter was unfortunately noisy; getting space that is both noise-isolated and findable is non-trivial. (2005 managed this by opening one of the SECC lobbies to the outdoors, but most US conventions can’t do this because of placement (mostly) and liquor laws. Sasquan might have been able to manage this, but they put energy into an effective cabaret instead.)
2005 managed this by opening one of the SECC lobbies to the outdoors, but most US conventions can’t do this because of placement (mostly) and liquor laws. Sasquan might have been able to manage this, but they put energy into an effective cabaret instead.
And hey, doing anything outdoors at Sasquan was a health hazard.
scotch mixed with lemon-lime soda,
Ordering this in Scotland may also be a health hazard.
Kurt: And hey, doing anything outdoors at Sasquan was a health hazard. Be fair; there was \one/ bad day surrounded by great weather. That’s the first Worldcon I can remember in which people deliberately went outdoors to go between program items not because it was a shortcut (it wasn’t) but because the walk was more pleasant.
Chip Hitchcock, I wasn’t at Sasquan so I’m only going by reports… but I’d heard that the air quality (from the upwind wildfires) was such that it triggered asthma attacks in some people when they went outdoors. Did I hear wrong?
(Certainly, I don’t blame Sasquan for that if true; wildfires are entirely outside their area of control….)
Casey B, you are not wrong. Anyone sensitive did best to stay inside all weekend if possible, but the Friday was far worse. We could smell wood smoke even inside the convention center. Ops sent people out to scour the city for face masks, and didn’t find many because local residents had seen the problem coming and bought most of them already. Ops did drop a couple boxes at Access for us to hand out. We at Access sent someone (Xopher Halftongue, who occasionally posts here) to post warning signs on all the outer doors.
On the other days it was beautiful, and most people were able to go out, though the particulate level was higher than normal, and would not have been healthy long-term.
Pictures, news reports, and the complaints of asthmatics who attended Sasquan make it hard for me to believe the weather was “beautiful” all but one day, especially since following the air quality warnings was really alarming.
I wasn’t at Sasquan, but the air from at least Seattle to Vancouver was terrible for days, with a weird color and a lot of particulate. Maybe all the bad air came west, but I kind of doubt it. We were at an outdoor concert near Seattle the night of the Hugo Awards and the sunset was just extra spectacular, but on the Thursday I had to drive to Seattle and it was like driving through yellow fog.
I walked most of mile to/from the CC each day of Sasquan, and went out occasionally for other things (e.g., the cable cars over the falls). I’ve never had respiratory issues and so can’t say what it would have been like for those who do, but I vividly remember that the air inside the CC the morning after the bad day was much worse than the air outside; that’s how quickly the local weather cleared up. And almost every day the temperatures were mild (even a touch brisk before 8am) and the humidity was low; I know heat-lovers who wouldn’t have liked it, but for someone who was happy to move away from DC it was wonderful.
Be fair; there was \one/ bad day surrounded by great weather.
That is very much not my memory. But I missed Sunday.
Cassy B: Chip Hitchcock, I wasn’t at Sasquan so I’m only going by reports… but I’d heard that the air quality (from the upwind wildfires) was such that it triggered asthma attacks in some people when they went outdoors. Did I hear wrong?
You’re not wrong. I walked with Jameson to the Post Office to help package up and mail the EPH t-shirts which had been ordered by people not at Sasquan. It was only a bit smoky when we went. But we were there well over an hour, I think, and by the time we came out, it was very heavily smoky and the visibility was down.
Of course, there were no taxis in sight, so we had to walk back. Google Maps says it was less than a mile, but it seemed like many miles to me — by the time we got back to the Convention Centre, I was hacking continually and had to go up to my room to use the inhaler I normally only have to use a handful of times each year. I apparently did some damage to my lungs, because I was hacking for weeks. The smell inside the convention centre was pretty bad — but not nearly as bad as what we had been walking through outside.
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