This is a busy weekend for the Snark so we will be picking the low-hanging fruit today.
God only knows why, but Megan McArdle thinks we all care that she has to put up with other people when she goes out for a drink.
The gentrification boom in DC has hit up against a limited supply of bars--and neighborhood commissions that are very resistant to quickly opening more of them. The result is that no bar stays un-crowded for long; if it's any good at all, it's soon overwhelmed with a tidal wave of people fleeing the standing-room-only crowds at all the other bars. The bars aren't like this because most people in DC want to spend their Friday nights packed like cheap sardines; the bars are like this because there are so few of them in the areas where people under 35 live, that the only people who can bear to be in them are the people who will tolerate any conditions, including those of veal calves, if only they can endure them while holding a drink.
This is a new development in the areas of DC where, as it happens, Matthew Yglesias, Ryan Avent and I, all like to go out of an evening. When I moved to DC a scant three and a half years ago, there were enough bars where you could enjoy a Thursday night seated in the company of friends. Then came January 2009, when I held a birthday get-together at a previously local place on 11th street. Unfortunately, there wasn't much getting together; more than half the people were turned away because of overcrowding. Several bars had been shut down in Adams Morgan because the weren't serving enough food to comply with their tavern licenses; the result was that Adams Morgan relocated to U Street.
Since then, this pattern has been repeated over and over; any bar that opens is pleasant for a month or so, then completely, miserably jammed.
I think it's fair to say that our views on the relative importance of regulatory factors may be jaundiced by this--but in DC, regulation (and population pressure) clearly is the driving factor behind the lack of cozy, comfortable spots to get a bite and a beer.
It is very difficult to understand why McArdle thinks she is entitled to a bar that is quiet, cosy, in her neighborhood, has excellent food, and will always stay just as she wants it to stay. She may as well whine that she doesn't live next door to her favorite clothing store or bookstore or museum. She blames regulations without describing them or their history because that would mean acknowledging that regulations aren't just something handed down by a fascist, faceless government because liberals are all nanny-staters--they are often in place in answer to public problems and demands. Sure, she admits:
But it is true that London also has more quiet pubs New York--and New York, in turn, has more of them (outside of the East Village) than DC does. And this does make bars and cafes noticeably more unpleasant for the neighbors, as well as the customers. Which in turn causes residents to fight like hell to keep out any business that might attract a late-night crowd..
One possible solution is upzoning--neighborhood bars aren't so obnoxious when you're ten floors above them. But of course, the local residents tend to fight that as well
But she wants what she wants when she wants it, and like every spoiled child she doesn't understand why she can't get her own way. It's regulation's fault! Down with regulation! Get rid of them all! And when a bar moves in across the street from McArdle, she can bitch and whine about how the government destroyed her peace and quiet because governments can't do anything, ever.
Here's a suggestion for McArdle and all her little friends: Entertain at home. Our parents and grandparents did it because they couldn't afford to spend money on drinks and overpriced pub food. They watched tv, played cards, talked, and just spent time together instead of expecting to be waited on and entertained. This merry little band of bloggers bores everyone to death with their endless discussions of the best drinks and foods and cooking methods, but never seem to actually mix those drinks or cook that food. Creating something with your own hands and heart and then sharing it with your friends is infinitely more satisfying than signing a $150 bar bill and having nothing to show for it but a headache and indigestion.
Sometimes people are too tired to cook. Our generation has a way of dealing with this problem: we drive to bars. Yes, that means either taxi fees or a designated driver (we have no public transportation here). But somehow we manage to pull through.
There are a lot of people right now who can't afford to eat, let alone eat out. McArdle's attitude is that they have too much food anyway. (Note that she also complains that nobody cooks at home anymore). It is very unseemly to use The Atlantic and her privileged position to whine that there aren't enough places for her to spend all her ill-gotten money.
One final thing: McArdle came up with the same title as us. Heh.