The bar sign is a ubiquitous sight in urban areas around the world. From neon lights to wooden plaques, these signs are designed to catch the eye and entice passersby to step inside and enjoy a drink or two. But the history and significance of the bar sign goes far beyond its practical purpose of advertising a business. In this article, we’ll explore the origins and evolution of the bar sign, as well as its cultural and social significance.
The first bars, or taverns, can be traced back to ancient civilizations such as the Greeks and Romans. In these societies, drinking was often a social activity that took place in public spaces. As a result, taverns were established as gathering places where people could come together to drink, eat, and socialize. While these early taverns didn’t have the neon lights or wooden plaques that we associate with modern bars, they did have signs that identified the establishment and its offerings.
In medieval Europe, the concept of the tavern evolved into the alehouse, which served beer instead of wine. These establishments were often located along major trade routes and were frequented by travelers and merchants. As a result, alehouses began to use signs to identify themselves to their customers, many of whom were illiterate. These signs were often elaborate and depicted images that related to the name of the establishment or its location. For example, an alehouse located near a river might have a sign depicting a boat or a fish.
The use of signs to identify taverns and alehouses continued into the 18th and 19th centuries, when the pub became the dominant type of drinking establishment in England. Pubs were often owned by breweries and served their beer exclusively, which meant that the signs used to identify them often featured the logo or emblem of the brewery. These signs were often made of wood or metal and hung outside the pub to attract customers.
In the United States, the use of bar signs became widespread during the Prohibition era. With the sale of alcohol illegal, speakeasies and other illegal drinking establishments needed a way to advertise their presence to potential customers. As a result, many speakeasies used elaborate and eye-catching signs to identify themselves and attract customers. These signs often featured images of cocktails or other alcohol-related themes, and were designed to be easily recognized by those in the know.
After Prohibition was repealed in 1933, bar signs continued to be an important part of the advertising and branding for drinking establishments. Neon signs became popular in the 1950s and 60s, and many bars and clubs used these signs to create a sense of excitement and energy around their establishment. These neon signs often featured bold colors and flashing lights, and were designed to be seen from a distance.
Today, bar signs continue to be an important part of the branding and marketing for drinking establishments. While neon signs are still popular, many bars and clubs are now using LED signs that can be customized with different colors and designs. These signs are often used to create a unique and memorable atmosphere for the establishment, and can be used to highlight specials, promotions, or events.
But the bar sign is more than just a marketing tool. It also has cultural and social significance, and is often associated with the idea of the neighborhood bar or pub. These establishments are often seen as important gathering places where people can come together to socialize, relax, and enjoy a drink or two. The bar sign is a symbol of this community and social aspect of drinking, and is often seen as a way to identify and connect with others who share a love of the bar scene.
In addition, the bar sign is also associated with the idea of the dive bar, which is a type of drinking establishment that is often seen as rough around the edges and a little bit gritty. These bars are often located in working-class neighborhoods and are frequented by locals who are looking for a place to unwind after a long day. The bar sign is an important part of the dive bar aesthetic, and is often seen as a way to identify these types of establishments.
In conclusion, the bar sign is much more than just a practical advertising tool. It is a symbol of the cultural and social significance of drinking establishments, and is often associated with the idea of the neighborhood bar or pub. From its origins in ancient taverns to its use in modern LED signs, the bar sign has evolved and adapted to changing times and cultural contexts. But its importance and significance remain the same, and it will continue to be an important part of the bar scene for generations to come.