Every Complete Neighborhood Needs a Good Local Bar

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

The Gem Bar and Grill is two blocks south of our house. We have been going there since we moved into the neighborhood 26 years ago and it hasn't changed much; the spaghetti carbonara that my kids loved as babies (I fed them raw egg?) is still on the menu and still good. Now my grown kids are keeping the place hopping.

I thought of the Gem when I read Kaid Benfield in NRDC Switchboard, where he asked Does a sustainable community need a good drinking establishment? Kaid quotes Michael Hickey, who describes them as a form of "Third space" in his post In Praise of (Loud, Stinky) Bars

We shouldn’t romanticize third spaces as only being about brightly lit cafes, pedestrianized streets, and the local public library. Bars work in their scruffy way by offering a place to get away from an overcrowded apartment or a squalid loft or a grimy job. They are a place where someone with little to spare can go for a change of pace.

It certainly worked that way for my family. Some days, coming home late from another day of clients yelling at me and me yelling at trades, you just needed that break. They play an important role; I have often noted that in cities, people can live in smaller spaces because the city is your living room, your recreation room, your media room, all those places that people building into their suburban houses.

The Gem (circled) contributes to the walkscore in my neighborhood/Screen capture

Bars are not always beautiful, but as I say about heritage buildings, they don't all have to be tourist attractions. Like old buildings, they are part of the fabric of our lives, and it is important that we can walk to them. Kaid concludes:

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.

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

A complete neighborhood has to serve all kinds of people, and offer all kinds of services. It also has to have all kinds of buildings, big and small, new and old, grotty and gorgeous. And they all deserve a Gem of a bar.

Tags: Toronto | Urban Life | Urban Planning

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