Over the last few months, bartending schools have seen a 20-25% growth in enrollment, as the newly unemployed begin to explore their next career move. For former financial-sector employees and office workers, this may be an outstanding move. After all, it's going to be a long, cold winter and it seems likely that a lot of people will be gathering together for warmth and community.
While I'm not much of a bar drinker (frankly, I'm way too cheap), I can certainly understand why so many people choose to while away the hours sitting on a bar stool and paying too much for mixed drinks. Bars are communities, comfortingly familiar, yet simultaneously offering the opportunity for surprise and excitement. They are places where you can drink the old familiar or surprise yourself with something new, talk to your best friends, or strike up conversations with total strangers. In the best of times, they are places to enjoy one's fellow human beings; in the worst of times, they are places to huddle for warmth.
This, perhaps, is why bars seem to do well, even when the rest of the economy is experiencing difficulties. Granted, the bar scene may change: frothy, ultra-engineered drinks will recede and traditional highballs will return, while microbrews give way to cheap, mass-produced beers. However, even as the scene shifts from upscale cocktail palaces to lowbrow dives, the taste for community warmth, leavened with whiskey, will survive. If you're not sure about your next career move, you might consider becoming a part of it.
Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. In bars, he usually just drinks sarsaparilla.
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