Bar Time vs. Real Time

I'm probably going to catch a lot of heat for this one, but I've been meaning to write about it for a while, and I don't mind stirring the pot now and again. Here goes:

Will someone please explain the purpose of Bar Time to me?


Just about every bar I've been in (at least in Baltimore) sets its wall clocks ahead at least 15 minutes.

I'm not sure how long this practice has been going on.


Probably a long time.

And I'm not sure who thunk it up.

Probably no one knows.

I assume Bar Time was invented to make sure that nobody is left drinking in the place at 2 a.m. -- just in case an inspector from the liquor board shows up. That way, nobody gets fined for drinking after hours.

But I have a couple of problems with Bar Time, and I'll bet I'm not the only person who does ...

Bar Time only becomes a factor twice a day -- at last call and happy hour. Depending on the bar, last call is sometimes as early as 1:30 a.m. Real Time (that's 1:45 a.m. Bar Time), and bars often close at 1:45 a.m. Real Time (2 a.m. Bar Time).

As you can imagine, this can get incredibly annoying. I mean, yes, I understand bars can close whenever they want.

But setting the bar clock 15 minutes ahead and then pointing to it and saying "Hey man, it's closing time" when it's not closing time for another 15 minutes is just plain shady.

They should just close at 1:45 a.m., plain and simple. No hiding behind a clock set to the wrong time.


Bar Time is also messes people up near the end of happy hour.

Midnight Sun reader Mike S. was recently at two bar/restaurants that shall remain nameless (ahem, ahem) about 10-15 minutes before happy hour specials ended and was told to buzz off. According to Bar Time, happy hour was over.

That's a dirty deal if I ever saw one.

Mike S. writes:

To deny someone a half price or Dollar Off drink at 5 to 10 minutes PRIOR to posted or advertised or menu-note HappyHour Time Ending is deceptive, bad for business, and costs the pub good retail Food Business.

I agree, Mike.


Though I think I understand Bar Time when it comes to closing for the evening, I don't like it. And I definitely don't like being scammed out of a happy hour special because of Bar Time.

I want to hear from industry people as well as some average bar-goers on this one. Is Bar Time fair? And is it fair to close early/end happy hour early based on Bar Time?

(Top photo from Sun archives. Bottom Sun photo by Amy Davis.)