When most people picture a bar in a bookstore, they envision the ever-popular coffee or smoothie bar. In fact, the idea of a cup of coffee and a good book are nearly inseparable in many minds. Stop at almost any Borders or Barnes and Noble and you’ll find a Seattle’s Best or Starbucks cafe. The number of indie booksellers with coffee shops isn’t insignificant either, and even libraries are adding coffee and pastries for browsing readers.
It should come as no surprise that when I picture a bar in a bookstore, something different comes to mind. In my mind, beer and books are a perfect match. Book clubs have latched onto the idea, and breweries are hosting their own book clubs. It makes sense – a little liquid courage gets book discussion going, and bars benefit from a pleasant group pumping money into their draft lines.
A few booksellers and brewers – God bless ‘em – have married brews and books. Seattle’s Bookstore Bar, Skye Book and Brew in Dayton, and The Spotty Dog in New York all offer up pints and paperbacks stateside. The Bacchus Bar and Bookshop in Madrid slings the two on the other side of the Atlantic.
Each of these shops has their own charm. The Bookstore Bar has an eclectic selection of books, free for people to peruse and only $5.00 each to purchase. Not only that, but they have a cool beer deal based on Mariners slugger Ken Griffey Jr.’s batting average. Skye Book and Brew has two floors of new and used books, brews their own beer, and offers a great book swap program – swap two used books of yours for one of theirs. Spotty Dog serves up super artisanal beer (including their local Evan’s Ale) along with books and art supplies. Over in Spain, Bacchus Bar and Bookshop has thousands of English-language books on their first floor and a full bar on their second. They also can claim the best motto of the bunch – “Come in for a book, stay for a beer.”
And one final one I came across after starting this piece – Kramerbooks and Afterwords Cafe in Washington DC. I’m glad I spotted it, since the store holds the honor of being voted Washington’s best bookstore and the claim of “the first Bookstore/Cafe in the country to feature cappuccino, espresso, a full bar and food.” Plus, check out that tap list!
I have a lot of (possibly crazy) ideas of how bookstores need to evolve and stay vital in the next few decades. While I don’t think a bar in every bookstore is the right idea, I think a move towards addressing niches and becoming a fun third place for book lovers is absolutely vital. In my mind, these four stores are a successful step in that direction.
Of course, I’m also the kind of guy that finds a few beers and a couple books with someone romantic.
Did I miss any bookstore/bar combos? Can anyone tell us anything about Benjamin Brown Books and Billiards or George Washington Bookstore and Tavern, two intriguing combos without websites? Why isn’t there a place like this in Portland, ME yet? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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