A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from March 18, 2009
Wine Bar

Wine bars started in France; they weren’t called “wine bars,” but countless places in France serve wine. Beginning by at least the 1940s, wine bars began to be established in London. Unlike restaurants (that serve food) and pubs (that mostly serve beer and some limited food), wine bars specialized in wine and wine-friendly foods such as cheeses and sandwiches. The first American wine bar opened in 1974 in San Francisco and was called the London Wine Bar; it closed in 2008.

Wine bars were first established in New York City in 1978. The wine bar trend picked up in the United States in late 1990s and 2000s, with many bars offering larger food menus.


Wikipedia: Bar (establishment)
Wine bars
Although the trend of wine bars in the United States was not well-received in the 1980s, they began to gain popularity in the 90s. By early 2000, wine bars became very popular and started popping up in many metropolitan neighborhoods across the country. Wine bars now rival the local hangouts such as coffee shops and local bars. The wine bar phenomenon offers the taste before you buy philosophy.

Wine bars put a new spin on wine tasting. They seek to remove the association of wine with upscale clientèle and overwhelming wine lists and replace it with a more casual and relaxing atmosphere. Many of these bars are furnished with nooks and booths encased in rich colors and plush surroundings in hopes their guests will linger. Wine bars look to embrace the intellectual stimulation linked to wine and offer an alternative to the bar scene. The laid-back environment lends itself to a good socializing setting with a less crowded feel and more intimate appeal.

Modern wine bars have begun to incorporate a larger variety of food choices. Traditionally associated with cheeses and desserts, wine bars are looking to combine wine with appetizer-sized gourmet selections to enhance the palate. The concept brings the tastes of fancy restaurants to a dressed-down setting. Restaurant owners and chefs take the opposite approach and use wine bars as an opportunity for expansion.

London Wine Bar (San Francisco, CA)
The London Wine Bar,
“America’s First Wine Bar” TM
Was established in 1974 and is located in the registered landmark Fugazi Building at 415 Sansome Street, in the San Francisco Financial District.

The London Wine Bar is home to an extensive cellar list of rollicking good wines with special emphasis on Small California producers while routinely offering 40-50 wines available by the glass.

“We bring a bit of the wine country to the heart of the financial district.”

Lunch: 11:30am to 2:30pm
Evening Small Plates: 2:30pm to 9:00pm

Customers can choose between approximately four dozen wines, champagne & sparkling wines by the glass. Also available are ports, sherries & madeiras.

Our inventory of wines, currently contains approximately 13,000 bottles, & is heavily influenced towards small California producers, although we have a nice selection of French & Australian wines.

The London Wine Bar is an annual winner of “The Wine Spectator’s” “Award of Excellence” since 1982.

The Free Dictionary
wine bar
Noun
a bar that specializes in serving wine and usually food
Collins Essential English Dictionary 2nd Edition 2006 © HarperCollins Publishers 2004, 2006

(Oxford English Dictionary)
wine bar, (a) a bar or counter in a club, shop, etc., where wine is kept or sold; (b) a licensed establishment specializing in the serving of wine (and food).
1938 R. GRAVES Count Belisarius iii. 65, I was busy at some task behind the *wine-bar.
1940 M. SADLEIR Fanny by Gaslight I. 270 He offered her a job as barmaid… Her new place of business was a girlery as well as a wine-bar.
1976 Amer. Speech 1974 XLIX. 117 Wine bar, counter in a liquor store, stocked with wines.
1981 B. KNOX Killing in Antiques iv. 87 Dunbar stopped the car in a side street..just a stone’s throw from the wine bar.
1983 Which? Dec. (Publications Suppl.), For an accurate description of over 200 wine bars across the country, this section of the book is unbeatable, with critical comments on the range of wines, and an assessment of the food and perceptive summing-up of the atmosphere.

Google Books
Life Interests
By Douglas Goldring
Published by Macdonald
1948
Pg. 145:
The London wine bars have not quite the same democratic quality, or the same wealth of tradition behind them as the public-houses.

4 July 1971, Bridgeport (CT) Post, pg. D6, col. 7:
Because Paddington is an area for the young, the middle aged and the chic, a crop of restaurants and wine bars have leaped into prominence. Men in shorts, opened neck shirts, white socks and tennis shoes drink wine and eat cheese with their “birds” in the hot summer sun in a wine bar garden.
(Sydney, Australia—ed.)

10 November 1976, New York (NY) Times, “Living Abroad: London” by Robert B. Semple, Jr., pg. 59:
Talking about wine bars means dispelling certain myths about pubs. Pubs are friendly and warm and good for beer. But their food is usually terrible. At the other end of the scale lie the West End and Soho restaurants, very good and very expensive. The wine bar, of which there are perhaps 50 or 60 in London, is Mr. In-Between, offering a selection of wines but no hard liquor, and a simple, usually unvarying menu (soups, smoked salmon, cold chicken, ham, quiche Lorraine, plenty of cheese).

20 April 1977, New York (NY) Times, “Wine Talk” by Frank J. Prial, pg. 63:
More interesting still, but hardly very convenient for most readers, is a place visited in San Francisco recently called The London Wine Bar. It is, in fact, a handsome bar in the financial district, but no mixed drinks are served. The WIne Bar has a list of some 250 wines and each week six of them are available at the bar by the glass.

Any bottle on the list can be bought at retail for off-premises consumption at $1 above retail for drinking in the bar. The list is mostly California wines but there are good European wines, too. The cellar is both a restaurant and a retail shop.

3 January 1979, New York (NY) Times, “Wine Talk” by Frank J. Prial, pg. C10:
Here in New York, it was also the year of the wine bar. Paris, London, even San Francisco are well ahead of us in this field but we are catching up. Last year saw the opening of the SoHo Wine Bar in, of all place, SoHo, and Garvins, in Greenwich Village. ALso, late last year, work was begun on a third wine bar, Claret’s, on East 60th Street.

4 February 1979, New York (NY) Times, “A Different Kind of Bar” by Frank J. Prial, pg. SM18:
No matter what they may think, New Yorkers are not always trend-setters. Take the matter of wine bars. London has 300 or so, Paris has a few dozen, San Fracisco has one and is about to get another, but, until recently, New York had none.

That’s been changed now. There is a very good wine bar in Soho called, cleverly, the WIne Bar in Soho. WHat’s more, there are said to be three or four more on the way. WHether they will be authentic wine bars or not remains to be seen.

An authentic wine bar is truly devoted to wine. It has a really extensive wine list and offers a goodly selection of its wines by the glass. Some places pretend to be wine bars by keeping several jugs of wine available to sell by the glass, but they are really good, old-fashioned hard-liquor bars.

Wine bars started in France, although no one called them that.
(...)
So successful has the British experience with wine bars been that the first successful one in this country was modeled on the English version. In fact, it was—and is—called the London Wine Bar, and it is located in the center of San Francisco’s financial district. Opened early in 1974, the London Wine Bar was an instant hit and a continued success.

Eater SF
The Shutter: Lease Woes End London Wine Bar’s Reign
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Financial District: Down on Sansome Street, London Wine Bar—the establishment that touts itself as “America’s First Wine Bar “—has officially shuttered after losing its lease. That’s the bad news. The good news is that London Wine Bar will be relocating before long, on Polk Street to be precise. The exact location is a bit up in the air, but if all goes to plan, it should be in the Russian Hill zone, around the Broadway/Vallejo stretch. Either way, the FiDi office crowd should probably start scouting new post-work vino stops.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityRestaurants/Bars/Bakeries/Food Stores • (0) Comments • Wednesday, March 18, 2009 • Permalink


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