Stop Working From Coffee Shops and Start Working From Bars

woman working in bar on laptop
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

I should probably tell you this, first: I don't like to work in public spaces. Probably for the same reason I don't like to wear sandals. It just doesn't seem necessary. Almost ever. I know some people think it's fun, logical even (again, like wearing sandals), but it just makes me feel uncomfortable (again, like wearing sandals).

This applies doubly hard to coffee shops.

But when I was stuck, in need of WiFi to siphon in the middle of the day, in the middle of New York's coffee shop-littered Soho, I was warming to the idea of sandwiching myself between an aspiring reality show script writer and a 300 lb Ukrainian guy who keeps refreshing the same Wikipedia page over and over again to finish a pressing project.

There was one catch. Every single coffee shop in the immediate-to-kind-of-far vicinity was tighter than the khakis on that hypothetical Ukrainian guy I was talking about, above. I could not find a spot to plop my Mac. I could not find a space to sit. The mobile office eluded me. I said "fuck coffeeshops" and almost gave up and decided "work" is nothing but a capitalist construct, until I saw a bar, advertising their "more than proficient, we assure you" WiFi. The light switch flipped.

Bars have computers. Bars have internet. Bars also allow people to sit in one spot for an inordinate amount of time as long as they order -- and continue to order -- beverages. 

I walked into the bar. There were more seats in there than a 4:30am Megabus to Camden. They were playing Exile on Main St. The bartender was reading a book. 

I ordered a beer (happy hour prices!) and wondered how... and why... coffee shops ever became the de facto "professional" office-away-from-the-office anyway?

woman working in bar on laptop
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

First off, there was actually room to sit down

The bounty of table -- and bar -- space makes sense: I'd wager there's a sleepy bar in any given neighborhood in any given city that is mostly free of patrons during the mid-afternoon lull. Inside this particular WiFi-capable pub, there were a few patrons who seemed like they spent most afternoons staring into the bottom of a pint glass. As if i needed more validation, I actually Seamlessed a few slices of pizza to my (now firmly entrenched) "desk." Something that obviously some bars won't allow, but almost zero coffee shops would entertain. 

And while room (and the ability to bring in outside food) is certainly one of the biggest benefits to working in a bar in lieu of a coffee shop, it's certainly not the only pro. 

And the clientele was... well, better (for these purposes)

While the afternoon bar crowd might not be ideal company for a road trip to Napa, for example, a few solitary winos squatting over stiff drinks make excellent (read: silent) companion for working stiffs. As long as you don't get stuck in the web of an overly friendly yarn-spinner -- and you won't, as long as you keep your distance -- you should feel mostly alone. Which is what you want of course.

Coffee shops sometimes try to employ a spirit of camaraderie amongst derelict co-workers. At bars, in the middle of the day, you are as innocuous. You will have peace. No one will be hovering over your seat; no seat-vultures eyeing your half-drained latte like it was fresh carrion. Nary a beanied barista in sight, silently judging you for nursing your iced coffee

The vibe is just more accommodating, and also, beer

And -- for me at least -- the general vibe of the barlends itself to productivity, more than any coffee shop ever could. Coffee is a stimulant. Are you one of those people who can't drink coffee after 11am, without risking an impeding, jittery, insomnia-fueled Netflix marathon later that night? And we all know decaf is designed exclusively for sociopaths and Mormons (plus, if you really need it most bars have coffee, by the way). 

More often than not, I choose to cultivate an aura of relaxation while gettin' that paper. Something that a beer or two (and not a handful of neuron frazzling caffeinated drinks) certainly lubricates. A few rounds of moderately consumed alcohol can provide a jolt of creativity that coffee... well, can't. And it's not like you have to get blotto while you work (personal tolerance and line of work depending, here): a well-placed beer in the middle of the day can get you out of a rut, or be used as a "reward" for a menial task. Why not order some food and an iced tea or ginger ale at first, and switch to beer at 3pm when you are winding down?

(Or you know, just start with a beer, and also end with a beer, too.)

The drawbacks (and also, why they don't matter)

Alas, every rose has its thorn. And, of course, every bar isn't perfectly suited for this type of experience. Some bars don't even offer Internet access. And some bars aren't really appropriate places to whip out a laptop (just read the room, you're an adult). This advice really applies to a specific time of day, and admittedly a specific type of bar. 


Bars are dark. Bars are lonely. Bars serve alcohol. Bars (sometimes) have basketball highlights droning on, silently, in the background. For me, at least, this is my ideal workspace. If you can bold your liquor, enjoy ordering pizza, and have no problem ignoring a few depressing daily binge drinkers littering your peripherals, working in a bar might just be right for you.

Just don't go spreading the word too hard. I don't want to blow this. 

Wil Fulton is a staff writer at Thrillist and a passionate doer of other stuff. For more info, you'll have to do a free background check.

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