Bookstore combos are amazing, right? Bookstore and café. Bookstore and tearoom. Bookstore and museum. Bookstore and art gallery. Bookstore and health food. Bookstore and board games. Bookstore and indoor playground. Bookstore and stationery. I’ve even read about a bookstore and barbershop.
Incredible, right? But you know what the coolest bookstore combo I’ve ever heard of is? Bookstore and bar. Yep. You read that right. Bookstore bars. It’s a thing.
In fact, it’s such a thing that you can find them all over the world! Although I have to say that during my research I found no such magical institutions in Canada (insert sobbing emoji here). The rest of you lucky literati can check out these beer-serving, cider-guzzling, martini-sipping, mind-blowing bookstore bars in a neighborhood near you.
“The Pendulum” is a chain of bookstores scattered throughout exotic Mexico City, and three of these locations house bars that look so classy, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into The Great Gatsby. In particular, Bukowski’s Bar is on the second floor of an El Pendulo shop, with a balcony that overlooks the street below and an area that is open to see the bookish customers. It’s described as “a space that worships Bohemian writers inspired by alcohol.” I mean really. Worshiping writers by buying a classic tome from a chic store in a sizzling city, and then reading said tome while sipping a specialty “michelada” (a Mexican cerveza preparada made with beer, lime juice, and assorted sauces, spices, and peppers in a chilled, salt-rimmed glass) in the store’s own lounge… maybe even during the live jazz that happens on Wednesdays. Heaven.
There is probably no other place in the world where bibliophiles can experience such feelings of extreme classiness. Seriously. This place looks exactly like I picture library heaven, zigzag wallpaper and all. Known for its rare copies, 20th century novels, bewitching artwork, and literary martini list (for reals), the SC even host super cool events. For instance, poetry nights where patrons can read aloud their personally penned verses or recite their fave lyricist. And it’s in England, the birthplace of all my heart’s favorite classical authors. You can even bring… wait for it… your PETS along with you. A first edition of Leonard Cohen’s Death of a Lady’s Man + Nicolaus Copernicus (my obese orange cat, not the astronomer… although maybe him too!) + a Hemingway Daiquiri = my kind of Friday night!
The name means “Infamous Types,” and the rough translation of Tipos’ tagline states that they think wine pairs well with books. I already like these guys. Judging by the website’s photos of wine, books, and beautiful Spanish people, I can confidently say that this is the first place I want to visit if/when I head to Italy (the Leaning Tower is soooo 12th century). There’s even a section of the second floor that is made of glass, so you can see through to observe the shoppers downstairs. People watching while imbibing: the perfect activity for book lovers. Besides reading, obviously. But back to important details: this shop offers a meticulously curated collection of independent works. As The Economist said in a 2011 article, it is “stocked with books with the sort of books you were always meaning to read, until work and children got in the way.” In that case, I’ll have a glass of the 2012 sherry and a volume of Calvin and Hobbes… wait, I mean, Thomas Hobbes. Cause I’m a grownup, after all.
Australia is home to the ultimate trifecta of amazingness. Actually, a quad-fecta: bookshop, café, bar, and music shop. I know, right! And the photos look amazing: faded staircases, grafitti-ed walls (the place used to be a youth center), stacks of well-loved books, and rows of classy records. The merchandise is second hand, and the store will buy both your previously-loved books AND records. Their website says they particularly like to acquire classic rock and punk albums. I can only imagine the goodies available for discovery in the Da Capo music shop, as they buy and sell sheet music and scores of all genres. The café offers a specialized vegan menu, as well as gluten free and free range options. Totally “with it,” right? The courtyard café actually transforms into a bar at night that serves jugs of their own mulled wine in winter and sangria in the summer. Mmmm sangria mmmm.
I came across this one on Facebook a few months ago and my mind was blown. I’d never heard of a bookstore-bar combo before, but the clever, witty name of this one caught my eye. The bookstore part is called Changing Hands, which is fitting since they deal in used books. They offer great events and activities for kids, including book clubs, costume story times (I wanna go!), and even a “read for review” program where teens can experience books before they’re published. As for the bar, their espresso stout is pretty popular, and you can sample it when you attend their monthly book club that’s hosted by a local TV news anchor, Barbara VanDenburgh. Dude. That sounds like the coolest book club of all time. Who wants to join with me?
Exclusive Books is a chain of stores in South Africa (they even have on location in Botswana), similar to the Barnes & Noble group, that offers glossy new copies of all the most popular titles in all the popular categories. The website claims that they take the same care with their restaurant as they do with their books: everyone should be able to find something intriguing and worth the experience, no matter what their budget may be. Hmm, yes, I AM intrigued. Do go on… The bar has expansive windows that offer an incredible view of the Randburg area, and a list of delightful, literary inspired cocktails! Makes me wanna grab a copy of Nathaniel Hawthorn and a swanky glass of Scarlet Letter (tropical orange liqueur, cognac, and cranberry juice). And perhaps share some tapas with a dashing young reverend…
Researching and writing this article has made me want to do a world tour and write a blog about all the bookstore bars I come across. Genius, right? And there’s a LOT of them. If you Google “bookstore bars” you’ll find a pretty long list of them just in the USA alone. Now Canada, come on. Get your act together.
I think I’ll start with Australia and it’s eclectic Sappho Books, Café & Bar. Who’s with me?
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