A Bar Is A Bar, But A Tavern, That’s History


THERE are many places to have a beer in the state, and then there are taverns.

In Connecticut, there is a legal distinction between a bar and a tavern. Bars can serve whatever you’re having, including hard liquor. Taverns, once known as public houses back when residents were still British subjects are places that can serve only beer, wine, cider, and food if they choose. The tavern license is one that few establishments want because the limits keep sales and profits down. As a result, in a state where the tavern was once a neighborhood fixture, it is now an endangered species. By some counts, there are only about 10 left.

”I was aware there were fewer and fewer places like this, and one by one, they’re gone,” said Peter Detmold, owner of the Dutch Tavern in downtown New London. ”They’ve either been reclaimed by development, gone out of business or just have gone through some kind of image change where they’re no longer a classic neighborhood bar.”

For many New Englanders the word tavern evokes images of dark Colonial watering holes in clapboard houses, but taverns in post-Prohibition Connecticut actually bear little resemblance to those ancestors. When Prohibition was repealed in 1933 state lawmakers created a license to serve beer and cider — the tavern license — and in the tavern heyday of the 1940’s and 50’s there were as many as 600 or 700 throughout the state.

Now, a tavern license, which costs $240 a year (a full bar permit is $1,750), has become a relic.


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