If a familiar bar moves to a new location, does it retain any of its identity from its prior incarnation? The NY Times asks a philosophical question this morning.
But if drinking and dining have always been a moveable feast in New York, is charisma cartable? Can the character of everything from venerable pubs to palatial eateries migrate with their names and owners? This portability issue has gained new urgency in a season of economic disarray, when property owners are less willing to extend the leases of even the most beloved old-timers.Setting aside the important cultural ramifications to the current economy, I think it's a set of questions with a fairly clear answer. A bar or pub is not solely its food and drink menu, its ownership and employees, and its clientele. It's also the place itself. Good bars become habituated and build a history of this habituation over time - that's their talent. Much of this history is physically manifested. Right? It seems that, once the basic requirements of food and drink are taken care of, it's the physical place itself and how its habitués have worn into the place over time that matters most to bar identity.
But, on the other hand, if a friendly and familiar bar, while remaining in the same physical place, suddenly took on a completely different clientele - say, shifting from a clientele of academics and artists and musicians to a clientele of club kids, or from long-term locals to the latest wave of hipsters - would we still say that it has retained its identity?
Maybe it's that the physical place must also have a relatively non-transitory clientele, at least in part, and that this combination of place and regularity gives the bar the core of its identity?