Pub? Bar? Tavern?

While we were developing our comprehensive list of Irish bars, Kevin & I got to wondering…what’s the difference between pubs, bars, taverns, and public houses?


Bar is easy-peasy, but twofold. It’s a simpler expression than the dated “tavern” or “saloon” and quite literally comes from the countertop area where drinks are served. Also, there is often a metal bar or wooden step near the floor, convenient for patrons to rest their feet upon, making one more comfortable and inclined to stay just a bit longer.


Universally, people think American "bars" are like this:


The term Public House is a bit more intriguing, and it’s from there that the more common nickname “pub” generated. And, conversely, Americans have this view of public houses:


The United Kingdom, Ireland in particular, takes the origin of the name quite seriously…public houses are the true center and focal point of community life. They’re the places where meetings are held, where friends gather, where local politics are hammered out, and where those in need of a spot of solitude can sit in a quiet corner and nurse a pint of Guinness.


Right behind proximity to their home, atmosphere tops the list of how the Irish choose their favorite pub. We all know the feeling we get when we enter a pub with an authentic Irish vibe; the warmth, camaraderie, toe tapping music, a great selection on tap. You feel it in your soul, it lifts your heart. What draws YOU in? What speaks to your Irish spirit when you enter a pub?

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