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TVs at the Bar - What Are Your Feelings About Them?


Dave Pressley
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Finally opening up my own restaurant (with partners, of course) in Clarendon later this year. Yeah for me!!
Here's one question we're back and forth on: Do you like or dislike TVs at the bar? We've had a couple focus groups and it seems as if men want them and women do not, in general.
As I've come to respect the opinions of many Rockwellians, I put the thought out there to you all. Please substantiate your answer with reasons for your personal preference (for my notes). Thanks!!
-Dave

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Replace the televisions with fishtanks or satellite aquarium TV if your bar does/can not offer enough social lubrication to have patrons interact with each other or the staff. The fishes are supposed to be therapeutic and won't curdle the atmosphere like shiny yet boring athletic results analysis does.

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I suppose it depends on who you hope to attract. TV can kill conversation, sociability and conviviality for anyone who isn't interested in watching what's on. And the noise is irksome. When I go to a restaurant it's for an experience (food and/or social) I can't recreate at home. It's irritating to have that trumped by the idiot box. Then again, I'm the kind of grump who can't stand music playing outside a store or at a gas station, so my opinion's probably worthless.

I have a sneaky little device called TV-B-Gone that I use in public places only when no one else is watching. I mean, fer Chrissakes, doesn't anyone enjoy reading in peace and quiet anymore? Or having a civilized conversation?

Clearly I need to drink more coffee, log off, and go to work.

Care to tell us anything about the place you're opening?

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I don't mind it and sometimes enjoy having a tv on in the background when I'm out. (I'm female.) In my experience, a lot of places decide to keep the sound off and often have closed captioning turned on, which works pretty well. Then if there aren't many people there and/or people actually want to hear what's happening on screen (say, a news story or sporting event), they'll turn the sound on. That way the tv is there and not there at the same time.

Watch out for the closed captioning during sports, though. It can cut off a key part of the action on the screen :blink: . That happened once where I was during a major game and they couldn't get the cc turned off. People weren't real happy about that.

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TVs ruined my favorite bar. The last time I went in, instead of having conversations and listening to the great juke, everyone in the place was gaping at the tube. It was depressing beyond belief. I don't go there anymore.

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The question is somewhat vague. Are you opening a sports bar? Then you'd be crazy not to have a TV at the bar. Are you opening a more "formal" restaurant? Then I'd agree that a TV at the bar is an unwanted distraction. Neigbourhood dive? Then TV is good. Destination dining? TV is bad.

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I concur with Pat- as a woman (and CNN addict) it can be a nice place to let your gaze fall. Especially when CNN is on with CC and you just want to chill with your glass of wine.

I think I may have just inadvertantly revealed my favorite watering hole...

Nothing says "big night out" like hanging at the bar watching CNN. Woo-hoo! Sometimes I get all liquored up and ask the bartender to put on C-Span -- talk about crunk! :blink:

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I am inclined to dislike them. I hate them with the volume on; I tolerate them with CC on. I think there has to be something better to put up -- something more interesting for people to look at? I guess, in general, I think that people who want to go to bars with TVs should go to bars intended for that purpose (e.g., sports bars), but if the purpose of the space isn't TV watching, then leave them out.

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TVs ruined my favorite bar. The last time I went in, instead of having conversations and listening to the great juke, everyone in the place was gaping at the tube. It was depressing beyond belief. I don't go there anymore.
If given the choice, I would prefer a good jukebox to tv, but there don't seem to be many places with good jukeboxes anymore. Am I sounding old and cranky? :blink:

(On the original subject, in a really posh bar, tv would seem out of place.)

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I think there has to be something better to put up -- something more interesting for people to look at?
More eye candy? I'm usually too busy checking out the babes to watch the tube.

(Pat, Temperance Hall has a decent juke & so does the Hitching Post, but you're right that they are few and far between.)

Al, great minds... :blink:

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The question is somewhat vague. Are you opening a sports bar? Then you'd be crazy not to have a TV at the bar. Are you opening a more "formal" restaurant? Then I'd agree that a TV at the bar is an unwanted distraction. Neigbourhood dive? Then TV is good. Destination dining? TV is bad.

Again, the canadian hits the nail on the head.

A part of me died inside when they put TVs in upstairs at the Brick, but the TVs make total sense at the Rustico bar. I hold up Bourbon: the crazy movies they show on the projector upstairs are perfect. Although I am inclined to say "no TVs" because I don't watch much sports, there's an unavoidable financial incentive to have TVs at your bar. There will almost locals in Clarendon who come in specifically to watch the game, especially if there is a dedicated bar area. These people are your friends, especially in a new bar.

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I concur with Pat- as a woman (and CNN addict) it can be a nice place to let your gaze fall. Especially when CNN is on with CC and you just want to chill with your glass of wine.

I think I may have just inadvertantly revealed my favorite watering hole...

Vidalia!

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If you're at a bar with friends or colleagues and a tv kills your conversation, you need new friends or a new job.

If you're dining alone at the bar, TV becomes that friend. But please remember to put on the closed captioning!

Pax,

Brian

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If you're at a bar with friends or colleagues and a tv kills your conversation, you need new friends or a new job.

If you're dining alone at the bar, TV becomes that friend. But please remember to put on the closed captioning!

If you're dining alone at the bar and TV becomes a friend, you need a new personality.

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I'd add as a consideration the design of the restaurant. If the bar is somewhat distinct and out of the view of the rest of the restaurant, I'd more likely consider a TV. If the bar is integrated into the restaurant with the TV in full view of dining patrons, I'd be more likely to leave it out. If the bar area is fairly large, a TV will work (I concur with the suggestion that flat screen HDTV is the only way to go; anything else just looks too 20th century); if the bar area is small, those flat screens will overwhelm the bar space. Notwithstanding all of this, however, I agree if the restaurant is fine dining, you just can't have a TV at the bar. As much as anything else, that's a feeling without sound logic to back it up.

I agree that almost no matter what, the sound should be off and closed captioning used in its place. If the sound is on, you're more likely to get complaints that it's too faint for some and too loud for others.

Although I probably lean towards having TVs at the bar in the right circumstances, I equally frequent bars that have TVs and that don't have TVs. Short of joining a group of my friends looking for a place to watch a game (which generally equates with finding a sports bar), I can't recall ever picking a place to go based on whether or not there is a TV.

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Again, the canadian hits the nail on the head.

A part of me died inside when they put TVs in upstairs at the Brick, but the TVs make total sense at the Rustico bar. I hold up Bourbon: the crazy movies they show on the projector upstairs are perfect. Although I am inclined to say "no TVs" because I don't watch much sports, there's an unavoidable financial incentive to have TVs at your bar. There will almost locals in Clarendon who come in specifically to watch the game, especially if there is a dedicated bar area. These people are your friends, especially in a new bar.

On the other hand, if every other bar in the area has a TV then joining the crowd may not give would-be regulars much incentive to change their established habits. Why go through all the trouble of breaking in a new bartender when you're still watching the same old ESPN San Diego-Denver non-playoff baseball game. Now, if you're going to show something groundbreaking -- I was in a couple of bars in Miami's South Beach that showed some groundbreaking stuff above the bar, but I don't think it would go over in Clarendon -- you might be able to get a little product differentiation going.

You've never been in downtown Oklahoma City on a Tuesday night. Crickets are your only other choices.

I actually usually bring a book to the bar. Even if I don't feel like talking, I assume the bar TV will have something on I don't care for...."It's a swing and miss for strike two...and there's some action in the San Diego bullpen...."

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It does depend on the restaurant style (casual/formal), the design of the restaurant/bar area (open/separate), and what crowd you want to attract (families/romantic/neighborhood). I'm female - and a sports fan - so I like the tvs - being able to watch a game (or bits of games depending on the circumstances) is great. In general, I'm much more concerned about smoking/non-smoking in a bar/restaurant than I am about tvs.

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To reiterate other replies, I think it totally depends on the bar. I think Poste handles it nicely. One bar is TV-less, but the bar adjacent the patio has one TV. In any case, I don't think it is a really big deal. Unless you position yourself as a sportsbar, it won't really make a difference if you have 1 or 2 TVs in my estimation. I've been hanging out in Clarendon bars for the last 12 years, and other than Mr Day's (do) and Iota (don't) I honestly couldn't tell you which ones do or don't have TVs--just doesn't register with me. I wouldn't sweat it.

I'm curious as to what type of place you're opening up, though. I hope it it isn't another faux-Irish bar. not that there's anything wrong with that...

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Finally opening up my own restaurant (with partners, of course) in Clarendon later this year. Yeah for me!!

Here's one question we're back and forth on: Do you like or dislike TVs at the bar? We've had a couple focus groups and it seems as if men want them and women do not, in general.

As I've come to respect the opinions of many Rockwellians, I put the thought out there to you all. Please substantiate your answer with reasons for your personal preference (for my notes). Thanks!!

-Dave

I personally like to have one or two. But with the sound off and the customer with the option to read or not to read the captioning. Most bar goers DO sit at the bar just for the tv's and one can always turn them off....I say get the tv's and if you need a GREAT bartender......let me know...wink wink wink!

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I'm curious as to what type of place you're opening up, though. I hope it it isn't another faux-Irish bar. not that there's anything wrong with that...

It's going to be a faux Irish tavern with lots of 80's music cover bands...something that Clarendon has never seen before. :blink:

Seriously, it's going to be a fun, friendly bar/lounge on the first floor (60 seats), an unpretentious, upscale American fine dining room on the 2nd floor (90 seats) and about 100 seats on the roof for rooftop drinks & dining. (All roof seating will be done through the host stand. There will be no "standing only" areas on the roof--we're trying to prevent the "butts-in-your-face" scenario from occurring on our patio.)

I'll start a topic thread once we come up with a name, hire a chef, etc..

-Dave

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IMHO there are two options:

1)Bartender(s) capable of constant scintillating conversation

2) TV(s)

True!

I was also thinking of how they've done it at Harry's Tap Room, where -- with the CC on -- you can choose to sit so that you're viewing the TV, or you can choose to sit NOT viewing the TV. The choice is there, and it's yours. Even for the screen at the bar, it's at the end of the bar, so you don't have to see it if you're looking ahead, but you can look to the right to view it if you wish.

And a big YES to nonstreet outdoor dining in Clarendon! I hate, hate, HATE sitting outside as cars idle next to me, or honk, etc. Ugh. A rooftop patio will be a real addition, and I'm already looking forward to trying it when it appears :blink:

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interesting topic...in Denver there are TVs in the bar everywhere, sports bar, hotel bar, steakhouse bar, politico/wheeler-dealer bar (we've got exactly one, the local outpost of the Palm), neighborhood bar, hipster bar, beer geek taphouse, brewpub....

But virtually always the sound is off (exception being Avalanche and Bronco games--basketball and baseball, nah, and the more I think about it it's only the playoff games in hockey where the sound is on) and the one thing I have NEVER seen in a Denver bar is CNN playing with the CC feature engaged. (come to think of it, I don't think I've seen close-captioning in use at a TV in a bar here. Gym yes, bar no. Maybe we hicks don't know how to activate it).

And with the sound off, and no mesmerizing CC crawl, and good music playing on a good sound system, a TV doesn't seem that intrusive to me.

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Had dinner tonight at one of the tables in the bar at a la Lucia. I was facing up close a small flat screen tv right behind one of my dining companion's shoulders. It was silently screening the TV show "Cops." Close up shots of cops hurling alleged bad guys to the ground, bloodying their noses, subduing them, cuffing them, clubbing them, stunning them. Somehow it wasn't helping me enjoy the sprightly house penne puttanesca. So after making sure nobody else was watching the tv, I asked the bartendress if she wouldn't mind changing the channel. She changed it to VH1. So instead I got to watch rappers (of both genders) prancing around grabbing their crotches. Given the demographic in the room, it would seem that the bartendress would be the only one remotely interested. At least the sound was off and nobody was getting bloodied.

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Had dinner tonight at one of the tables in the bar at a la Lucia. I was facing up close a small flat screen tv right behind one of my dining companion's shoulders. It was silently screening the TV show "Cops." Close up shots of cops hurling alleged bad guys to the ground, bloodying their noses, subduing them, cuffing them, clubbing them, stunning them. Somehow it wasn't helping me enjoy the sprightly house penne puttanesca.

It would have been apropos if the cops were arresting folks for solicitation.

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Was at the bar at Beck the other night. CNN on one screen -- annoying as always (who the fuck watches CNN at a crowded happy hour? I mean, even if you'd watch it alone at a quiet bar) but silent. More surreal: the closed circuit TV showing the action at the pass. Highlight: some guy with a growing bald spot layying out skatewing and frites. The next most interesting thing to watching paint dry.

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More surreal: the closed circuit TV showing the action at the pass. Highlight: some guy with a growing bald spot layying out skatewing and frites. The next most interesting thing to watching paint dry.

The pass thing doesn't bother me but CNN should be banned anywhere that serves alcohol.

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I gotta say, I hate TVs at bars. Bar Civita would have a really decent bar if they didn't pipe thru CNN and ESPN there. Just stay home if you are going to watch TV.

That said, Mark Kuller had cool TVs. Proof has rotating portraits featured at the National Portrait Museum, and Estadio has those 1930s soccer footage, which is kinda funny in a way I can't describe. Also, back when I visited Central a lot, I always managed to see great sports moments at their TV bar, such as Michael Phelps' fingernail .01 second victory.

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I don't mind tvs at the bar.  I am often waiting for someone or dining solo and it's nice to catch up on things I may have missed during the day.  I do prefer them silent with closed captioning, unless I am at a more like sports bar, or there is a major sports event.  

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My kids will stare at any TV.  Doesn't matter what the programming is, they'll stare at the TV.  I would hate for them to ask me what Cialis is because we went to a restaurant that was showing golf.

Kid: dad, what is Cialis?

Dad: it's for treating erectile dysfunction

Kid: what is erectile dysfunction?

Dad: that's when a guy can't get his pee pee up

Kid: why does a guy need to get his pee pee up?

Dad: go ask your mom.

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I am anti-TV for a number of reasons (exceptions made for sports bars, or for special events), but, like Eric, one of them is that my kids immediately zone out if a TV is in the vicinity.  We had a huuuuuge struggle recently at Addis Ethiopian on H St. where no fewer than 4 TVs were playing at various points around the restaurant.  There was no way we could position our son so that he couldn't see a TV and ignore his family/food.

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Kid: Mom, why does a guy need to get his pee pee up?

Mom: So when dad is out of town, mom can save money on batteries.

I'm kidding! I'm kidding!

In DC, btw, it is (or was) usually forbidden, if not flat-out illegal, for kids to sit at bars - so I was told dozens of times when Matt was young - bar *tables* are okay, and I never had a problem in Virginia.

Ironically, Matt *hates* TVs in restaurants - he, too, says that they are completely unavoidable to look at, and he doesn't like it. It isn't bars so much as ethnic restaurants, which often have TVs in the dining room.

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As a frequent business traveler, a TV in the bar area is a prerequisite for any place I eat, as I'm often dining alone, and don't care to spend my time staring down at my phone.

And as a restaurant maggot, I memorized every menu in town years ago. :lol:

(That's not true, btw, but I have done my share, as I dine solo 90% of the time, and figure I may as well study the menu as long as I'm there, and remember whatever I can take away - it really *does* help in spotting food trends early on.)

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Ironically, Matt *hates* TVs in restaurants - he, too, says that they are completely unavoidable to look at, and he doesn't like it. It isn't bars so much as ethnic restaurants, which often have TVs in the dining room.

I agree- in the restaurant area very distracting and even when I don't want to look at it, some movement or sound will catch my attention which I don't like.

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I agree- in the restaurant area very distracting and even when I don't want to look at it, some movement or sound will catch my attention which I don't like.  

Yes, and in many places, it's hard to avoid having them in their sightline even from the restaurant (when the restaurant and the bar aren't separated).

Bigger problem for me is that many moments on TV have light flashes that can be migraine triggers for me, and I wind up having to shield my eyes.

My son, on the other hand, is always pleased when there's a TV showing sports.

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