A bar (also known as a saloon or a tavern or sometimes a pub or club, referring to the actual establishment, as in pub bar or savage club etc.) is a retail business establishment that serves alcoholic beverages, such as beer, wine, liquor, cocktails, and other beverages such as mineral water and soft drinks and often sell snack foods such as potato chips (also known as crisps) or peanuts, for consumption on premises. Some types of bars, such as pubs, may also serve food from a restaurant menu. The term "bar" also refers to the countertop and area where drinks are served. The term "bar" is also derived from the metal or wooden bar that is often located at feet along the length of the "bar".
Bars provide stools or chairs that are placed at tables or counters for their patrons. Bars that offer entertainment or live music are often referred to as music bars, live venues, or nightclubs. Types of bars range from inexpensive dive bars to elegant places of entertainment, often accompanying restaurants for dining.
Many bars have a discount period, designated a "happy hour" or discount of the day to encourage off-peak-time patronage. Bars that fill to capacity sometimes implement a cover charge or a minimum drink purchase requirement during their peak hours. Bars may have bouncers to ensure patrons are of legal age, to eject drunk or belligerent patrons, and to collect cover charges. Such bars often feature entertainment, which may be a live band, vocalist, comedian, or disc jockey playing recorded music.
Patrons may sit or stand at the counter and be served by the bartender. Depending on the size of a bar and its approach, alcohol may be served at the bar by bartenders, at tables by servers, or by a combination of the two. The "back bar" is a set of shelves of glasses and bottles behind that counter. In some establishments, the back bar is elaborately decorated with woodwork, etched glass, mirrors, and lights.
There have been many different names for public drinking spaces throughout history. In the colonial era of the United States, taverns were an important meeting place, as most other institutions were weak. During the 19th century saloons were very important to the leisure time of the working class. Today, even when an establishment uses a different name, such as "tavern" or "saloon" or, in the United Kingdom, a "pub", the area of the establishment where the bartender pours or mixes beverages is normally called "the bar".
The sale and/or consumption of alcoholic beverages was prohibited in the first half of the 20th century in several countries, including Finland, Iceland, Norway, and the United States. In the United States, illegal bars during Prohibition were called "speakeasies", "blind pigs", and "blind tigers".
Laws in many jurisdictions prohibit minors from entering a bar. If those under legal drinking age are allowed to enter, as is the case with pubs that serve food, they are not allowed to drink. In some jurisdictions, bars cannot serve a patron who is already intoxicated. Cities and towns usually have legal restrictions on where bars may be located and on the types of alcohol they may serve to their customers. Some bars may have a license to serve beer and wine, but not hard liquor. In some jurisdictions, patrons buying alcohol must also order food. In some jurisdictions, bar owners have a legal liability for the conduct of patrons who they serve (this liability may arise in cases of driving under the influence which cause injuries or deaths).
Many Islamic countries prohibit bars as well as the possession or sale of alcohol for religious reasons, while others, including Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, allow bars in some specific areas, but only permit non-Muslims to drink in them.