Many bars have a happy hour to encourage off-peak patronage. Bars that fill to capacity sometimes implement a cover charge during their peak hours. Such bars often feature entertainment, which may be a live band or a popular disk jockey.
The term "bar" is derived from the specialized counter on which drinks are served. The "back bar" is a set of shelves of glasses and bottles behind that counter. In some establishments, the back bar is elaborately decorated with woodwork, etched glass, mirrors, and lights.
There have been many names throughout history for establishments where people gather to drink alcoholic beverages. Even when an establishment uses a different name, such as "tavern," the area of the establishment where the bartender serves alcoholic beverages is normally called "the bar."
There were prohibitions of alcoholic beverages in the first half of the 20th century in several countries, including Finland, Iceland, Norway, and the United States. In the United States, illegal bars during Prohibition were called speakeasies or blind pigs.
Cities and towns usually have legal restrictions on where bars may be located and on the types of alcohol they may serve to their customers.
Some Muslim countries, including Brunei, Iran, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE emirate of Sharjah, prohibit bars for religious reasons. Some other Muslim countries, including Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, do allow bars but only permit non-Muslims to drink in them.
A bar's owners and managers will choose the bar's name, décor, drink menu, lighting, and other elements which they think will attract a certain kind of patron. However, they have only limited influence over who patronizes their establishment. Thus, a bar intended for one demographic can become popular with another. For example, a gay bar with a dance floor might, over time, attract an increasingly straight clientèle. Or a blues bar may become a biker bar if most its patrons are bikers.
A cocktail lounge is an up scale bar that is typically located within a hotel, restaurant, or airport.
A wine bar is an elegant bar that serves only wine (no beer or liquor). Patrons of these bars may taste wines before deciding to buy them. Some wine bars also serve snacks.
A dive bar is a very informal bar.