CHICAGO — If the city’s skyrocketing murder rate, failing public schools and dreary winter weather have you down, you might want to make more regular stops at a corner tavern close to home.
People who consider themselves a “local” at a neighborhood bar say they’re significantly happier than people who don’t frequent tiny corner taps, according to a University of Oxford study released last month called “Friends on Tap: The Role of Pubs at the Heart of the Community.”
As a former bouncer and bartender at a tiny North Side tavern on a diagonal street, I can tell you the British eggheads who got paid by a pro-tavern advocacy group to do this “research” got it right — sort of.
The study shows neighborhood tavern regulars reported having more “close friends,” a term defined as people you can rely on for support.
Now, the study doesn’t specify whether tavern regulars have more good friends who offer emotional support after a bad breakup or physical support that keeps a guy from falling off a stool.
That makes sense. The way I remember it, anyone sitting next to a tavern regular for too long became a “good friend” one way or the other.
Also, the study says, tavern regulars typically have longer conversations that make them feel more connected to their community and more satisfied with their lives than people who don’t frequent a “local” pub, socialize at large Downtown bars or drink alone at home.
Clearly, those findings gloss over the times nice people get stuck listening to a fire-breathing drunkard with strong opinions opposite of their own.
Still, face-to-face interaction over beers generally makes talking with strangers seem less risky, which aides in making friends, building small social networks that “has dramatic effects on health, well being happiness and even survival,” the study shows.
The extensive research conducted at British pubs does suggest that the key to being a happy tavern regular might be drinking in moderation — and for good reason.
Tavern-goers who have had one or two drinks appear to be better looking, more trustworthy and approachable than sober folks and, you know, loudmouth drunkards, the study’s most obvious finding showed.
So, if you're hoping to find supportive friends and become better looking, more trustworthy, and connected to your community spend more time at your cozy, corner tap.
But remember this: You won't get to be a regular at a respectable neighborhood joint if you’re always the loudmouth drunk who falls off his stool.
Take it from a former bouncer who wants you to be happy.
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