February 6, 2020

Bars need competition in order to get crowds

In Nashville, when I was in college, there was a bar across the street from a bunch of dorms. I can’t remember its name. It constantly changed names. It kept failing.

After a new owner hung a new neon sign out front, the bar’s manager tried hard to attract everyone on campus. One night, we went. He offered penny beers. We got to bring in our own DJ. There were lasers, it was dark, you could feel the bass and couldn’t hear well enough to hold a conversation. We had a great time.

Then we never went back.

A few months later, the bar shut down. Another neon sign replaced the old one.

Somebody, I wish I could remember who, mentioned his theory for why this bar kept failing: it was all alone on the block.

Nowadays there’s a 20-story luxe hotel at the corner of campus and 21st. But back then, there was a fenced-off parking lot. A few hundred yards away there was a Wendy’s. That was about it.

He theorized that we went to Tin Roof and Rippy’s in part because we liked those bars, but also because there were tons of other bars around them. If there was a long line, or there wasn’t enough EDM, or they were charging $5 to get in, then we could go next door.

I’m sure if I opened a bar, and a new bar opened next door, I’d worry they were stealing my Bud Heavy sales. At the micro-level, it’s a valid thought. But two bars is better than one. Three is better than two. At some point everybody ends up splitting the same pie, but at what point? Empirically, lone bars struggle.

Bars need competition in order to get crowds.

I thought back to this theory when I saw a poll Barstool ran the other day. They asked people in each state what their least favorite states were. Pretty much everybody said their least favorite state was a state touching their own. Ohio hated Michigan and Minnesota hated Wisconsin. The funniest was North Dakota saying South Dakota was their least favorite, and vice versa. Really?

We view those closest to us as competition. At the same time, we need each other.

It’s only fun when the Crimson Tide crushes Auburn because Auburn fans hate Alabama.

If we need each other, are we actually enemies?


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