Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Monday, January 09, 2006

New Year's dissolution

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I don't really believe in New Year's resolutions. No-one ever seems to keep them after about February, and anyway they're always so boringly wholesome: lose weight; save money; be nice to your liver.

So I didn't make any formal resolutions this year, but I did think of a project that could be thought of as such, even though it's in direct opposition to the usual spirit of resolutions. My aim for 2006? To have at least one drink in every bar in central Wellington.

A sidecar
This poses some problems of definition. First, what are the limits of "central Welllington"? The Lambton and Te Aro regions obviously count, but I somewhat arbitrarily included Thorndon but not Newtown. Mt Vic and Oriental Bay would count, if only there were any bars there.

Secondly, what is a "bar"? I could go with the Wikipedia definition ("A bar is an independent business or a section of a restaurant, club or hotel where alcoholic beverages are sold to be drunk on the premises"), but it still leaves a lot of grey areas. For example, while it would include most restaurants and cafés, there are a lot of restaurants that would serve you a drink without food, but would hardly fit most people's definition of a "bar". Some even call themselves a "café and bar", but their bar is essentially for serving diners. While I have some absolute requirements (they must serve drinks without food, and they must be open past 7pm at least one night a week), I've had to rely on my own instincts, judgements and prejudices, and I tend to lean towards inclusiveness.

The next step is to come up with a definitive and comprehensive list of bars to target. My first port of call was the Yellow Pages website, but that was harder than I thought. First, I had to look up several obvious categories (Bars & Brasseries, Hotels & Taverns, Night Clubs and Wine Bars). Others only turned up under other categories, such as Cafés, Restaurants and even Function & Party Planning. After saving the HTML from all these pages and doing a bit of Perl hacking to extract the names and addresses (oh, if only they provided the results as nice, clean XML!), I noticed a lot of false positives that I had to remove, and I realised that a lot of well-known bars were unlisted. Some of these I could fill in from Wotzon's food and drink pages and Positively Wellington Tourism's search page, but some were still unlisted.

So, a spot of ground truthing was required. I've started walking all the streets in the area of interest, noting any bars that were omitted by the online sources. I've also been able to check some of the known ones to see whether they meet my criteria. I've got a few more streets to go, but otherwise this phase is pretty much complete, and I'm well into the actual visitation stage.

My list now includes a grand total of 154 bars. That sounds like a lot, but it's really only three a week. So far I've checked off 10, which is not bad going for just over a week's bargoing, but of course that includes a lot of regular haunts that are bound to be repeated. It's going to take a lot of dedication and alertness to stick with the programme. For some of the more (ahem) "interesting" venues I may need some drinking buddies, as an ageing straight white middle-class bloke like me might look a bit out of place without some security in numbers.

Obsession? I prefer to think of it as a mission. I may even see if I can produce a useful resource from this: a comprehensive database of Wellington bars, with links to maps, reviews, photos and other information. But for the moment, a man's gotta drink what a man's gotta drink.


At 5:29 pm, January 09, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

how about calling a truce and inviting Jack Ruby / Ruben / whatever out for a drink?

At 1:22 am, January 10, 2006, Blogger David said...

Why not publish the list of the 154, then issue a challenge to see who can drink a pint or glass of wine in each in the least amount of time?

Sort of like the Munroes (hills above 3000ft in Scotland, of which the record is 51 days to chimb all 284). Or visiting all the London Underground stations, which can be done in a day.

At 4:01 pm, January 10, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

Alright David, you're on.

And I may very well invite Jack Ruben, John Macalister and Pauline Swann out for a drink. I think the Queens Wharf Hilton would be the ideal location.

At 4:42 pm, January 12, 2006, Blogger Br3nda of coffee.geek.nz said...

i'm in for this challenge...
Where's the list?

At 4:57 pm, January 12, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

The list is here.


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