At their best, neighborhood bars serve as the social hubs of their neighborhoods — vibrant places that draw people in and draw them together. At their worst, they are nuisances, producing excessive noise, littering, vandalism, etc.
The question, then, is this: What are the pros and cons of investing in real estate near such places?
A New Jersey-based blogger named Michael Hickey wrote in 2012 about a developer who bought into a derelict industrial neighborhood, in hopes of turning the area into a hipster haven that would earn him boatloads of cash. That happened -if only over time- when he reluctantly agreed to let his son’s girlfriend open a bar. Before long it drew young and old alike and led to the opening next door of a trendy coffee shop.
It had become, in other words, a “third space” — a place Hickey describes as being “like the living room of society at large. … a place at least one step removed from the structures of work and home, more random, and yet familiar enough to breed a sense of identity and connection.”
That it raised the profile of the surrounding neighborhood makes it that much better, and more appealing to developers.
Beuben Duarte went so far as to argue that depending on the neighborhood, bars actually make the surrounding area safer, not less so — his point being that with more “eyes on the street,” less crime is likely to occur.
Anecdotal evidence, not to mention common sense, would indicate that such accounts paint a far rosier picture of what it’s like to live near a bar than is actually the case. While it is possible to settle in the vicinity of a quiet corner bar where everybody knows each other’s name (and the regulars quietly shuffle home after last call), there is ample proof that that is far from typical.
Noise is just one potential problem. Whether in New York or Los Angeles or all points in between, complaints about this issue are legion. The residents of one Baltimore neighborhood, frustrated when their gripes appeared to fall on deaf ears, went so far as to campaign to have the liquor license of one local watering hole revoked.
At least two accounts (found here and here) have indicated that noise alone can affect property values, but there are, of course, other potential hazards that can be associated with living near bars. They range from public urination (a problem that led to increased fines in State College, Pa., and the novel use of urine-deflecting paint in some neighborhoods in San Francisco) to violence and illegal activity outside an establishment in one Ohio town to traffic tie-ups and littering in El Paso, Texas.
A Prevention Research Center study found that neighborhoods featuring bars, restaurants, liquor stores and other places that sell alcohol tend to have “more frequent incidences of violence and other alcohol-related problems.”
One study did indicate that commercial properties can have a profoundly positive effect on a neighborhood — that, for instance, opening a movie theater can raise property values between 14 and 30 percent, since restaurants and bars tend to follow, to accommodate theatergoers.
The best that can be said to those building or rehabbing residential properties near bars, then, is this: Do your homework. Go in with eyes wide open. Assess the bar and neighborhood in question.
And then you have to ask yourself a question: Do the potential rewards outweigh the risks?