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In the UK, at least, this term is used for a style of drinking establishment also known as a 'continental style wine bar' - cannonical examples would be All Bar One and Bar Ha Ha.

As far as I know, they began taking over the high streets at some point in the nineties, offering a younger, hipper, more contemporary environment for get very drunk and starting a fight than the traditional British pub. This is often mistaken for the rise of a cafe culture that will free us from antisocial binge drinking.

There are a few problems I have with them.

  • They aren't wine bars. They tend to be full of people drinking Stella, who'd call you a poof if you actually bought a glass of wine.
  • They aren't continental style - no waiter service, no coffee, just binge drinking culture with pine furniture.
  • Presumably for reasons of planning permission, you can't just open one. Instead you have to buy up a dingy, atmospheric, 15th century pub, throw out the furniture, chuck out the locals, stick down a laminate flooring and refurnish it entirely from Ikea.
  • They're normally chain places, which is mildly evil in itself, but also results in complete lack of variation or individuality. This also means that they tend to fill up with the sort of people who view variation and individuality as things to be discouraged.
The term itself was popularised, if not actually coined, by a bank advert (HSBC, I think), which featured various people looking vaguely dejected at things their banks had done, in order to later contrast them with HSBC's high standard of customer service. The climax, a reference to branch closures, was a little old lady approaching the place where her bank used to be, and sighing 'oh dear, my bank is now a trendy wine bar!' This gives rise, as the wine bars spread, to related expressions like 'oh no, my metal pub is now a trendy wine bar!'

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