I went to a Small Bar yesterday, one I’ve been to a few times now. I went to meet some dear friends for an afternoon drink. We all enjoy its quietness, tastiness and attentiveness. You enter through a laneway to a spacious, warmly lit den. The waitstaff are dressed in a kind of forties man-chic, and the menu is quality rustic food and a range of old school cocktails with bitter, sour, dry notes. Drinks start at about nine dollars for a beer, seventeen for a cocktail, and it’s about fifteen dollars for a fulsome tapas-like plate of snack. On the way out I saw two gorgeous women I know.
This place is a clear fit for some of my proclivities, bar its less clear match on an income calculation. At the same time there are two particular things about this place that weird me out. The first has to do with its successful contrivance of a kind of Mexican-Chicano aesthetic. Part of this involves vintage signage advertising what looks to me like haircuts for young Chicano men. In Chicago, perhaps in the 1960s; when the Chicano Movement was at its height, challenging their racialised impoverishment in the US. The second is that the venue hosts a music night called Strange Fruit. I suppose this is also a forties reference, linked to the Chicano thing by North America. Some time ago I wrote an email to the venue about this name, and its connotations of murderous racism. (No reply as yet).
Can you taste my ambivalence and anxiety? I guess I just think that, if these venues are going to be articulated as places for ‘the thinking person’; and then advocated as a space to do better than pokies and endless beer taps, there might still be a capacity to imagine other other interests.