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May 24, 2009

In praise of the working drink

wi-fi in barsI've often wondered if anybody actually does work in bars. The answer, it seems, is yes. From Midnight Sun guest poster Matthew Smith:

In the late 19th century, John D. Rockefeller carved out a monopoly for Standard Oil in part by ruthlessly underselling smaller, less durable companies.

Over the last couple decades, a certain mermaid-emblazoned coffee company has accomplished a similar (though more legal) end through various means. Among which I would number underselling not coffee, but time.

One of the pleasures of visiting a café is staying a while. Unfortunately for local places, a table occupied is a dollar lost, especially when there’s somewhere else to go.

Just check out the sign at Carma's Café in Charles Village (3120 Saint Paul Street). Thus can a corporation named after a Melville character gain an edge on locals simply by not hassling the lingerers ...

And, damn it, that’s crucial. Particularly if you’re a writer, like this writer. When you’ve got a deadline (or a whim) it’s nice to be able to go somewhere free from the duties and distractions of home.

The natural choice is a coffee house, what with the constantly snapping beatniks and so forth. But lately it’s gotten hard to buy a cup and hunker down anywhere but that green-and-white place. Which, yeah, I do. But if you’re a determined locabeve, then try taking your work to a bar.

Sure, there are a lot of obvious reasons why that’s a bad idea. Among them alcohol. Plus, it’s noisy in bars, and people think you’re a melvin when you bust out the laptop between pints. (Disclosure: I have in fact been called a melvin. By a former student.)

So, the working drink is not a method for every project, or for every night (read: during Terp games). And it’s not much use to bring your tablet and stylus along if you’re just gonna get slammed.

But I’ve shared some pleasant and productive nights with a few beers and a writing buddy to help me stay on track. Granted, I’m half deaf, so the noise doesn’t faze me. And I’m Irish, so beer is like mother’s milk, if mother’s milk were something I drank all the time and didn’t feel weird about.

That said, I honestly enjoy writing in bars, and it’s not a bad way to practice moderation on a couple of fronts. Because your bar friends won’t make you do shots if you’re busy typing something serious, and you won’t take your prose so seriously if someone in the next booth is singing passionately along to “Don’t Stop Believing”.

But remember, not all bars will suit the working drink. Booths are good. So are slash-grilles.

My pick, for service, atmosphere, and tolerance, is the Charles Village Pub (3107 Saint Paul Street). It’s where I’m writing this.

(Photo by Sam Sessa)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:00 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


I've written many of my guest posts in a bar. Sometimes the random inputs of the surroundings can help with the creative process.

it's a source of creative inspiration to hear "don't stop believing" while you're trying to work, too.

Yes, sometimes the random environment is inspiring but often it is maddening.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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