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London Can Drink New York (and DC) Under the Table

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“Why are pubs in London better than bars in New York, which are better than bars in Washington, DC?” The Economist blogger Matt Steinglass wonders.

Matt Yglesias, Ryan Avent, and Megan McArdle all weigh in.

Avent defines “better” as, unlike DC bars, “quiet and well-maintained with a great menu, and while there were always people there, there was also always a free seat. Kids were welcome during the day, as were dogs.”

Loath to acknowledge the obvious -- there are no “better” gastropubs in DC because, dude, it’s DC -- Avent blames the “pernicious feedback loop.” There aren’t enough bars; so the good bars are always crowded, hooligan self-selecting, and neighbor-disgruntling; so neighbors chase new bars away; so there aren’t enough bars.

Yglesias is all about more bars, too, neighbors be damned. “It’s not like there’s some excessive quantity of affordable housing in Manhattan,” he notes. “If a given block becomes less desirable to live on, that just means someone else will live there. In equilibrium, we’re looking at lower housing costs and higher employment rates.”

Yglesias began pondering bar-side economics after he read Sarah Laskow’s article. Among other things, she recounts how prospective New York restaurateur Han Kao got his hat handed to him by a “community board’s liquor control committee.”

Kao tried to get the neighbors on board with his open-until-4 a.m.-nightly concept, but they were having none of it.

It would seem the a priori stance is always “not in my neighborhood” -- even when my neighborhood is the bleedin’ East Village, and the proposed spot would replace former frat trap Superdive, where you could once preorder kegs.

"You don’t like this idea?" the restaurateur asked incredulously, Laskow reports. Then he went all There Will Be Blood on them and “warned the community that his offer was a good option. If they fought him, he said, they could get another Superdive.”

Superdive was at heart a London pub, if McArdle’s take is accurate. “London has a sizeable population of obnoxious drunks, many of whom decide to get into fistfights outside their local pub,” she notes. She thinks the true situation is this: London has more “quiet” pubs than NY -- which, naturally, has more than DC.
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