Where Everybody Knows Your Name
April 5, 2022 5:05 PM   Subscribe

For many of us, Metafilter is our online 'third place.' Off-line, however, how easy are they to find? Do Yourself a Favor and Go Find a ‘Third Place’ is fundamentally describing the bar in Cheers or Central Perks — the cafe — in Friends. A pleasant place to hang out that's not home and not work — where folks know your name, or maybe could learn your name. Reminiscent of a college hang-out, they are not anyplace you're supposed to be: Instead, they're simply a place where one afternoon, or on the odd night, you choose to be. Sitting, sipping, shooting the sh*t with the bartender or the cafe keeper, chatting with your neighbor at the next table, cracking wise to the person beside you on a stool.

NYC used to be known for its "third places": The Beats had one, the AbEx painters had one, Mike Nichols and Elaine May had one. The list goes on. Paris is famed for its romantic cafes where many Americans imagine the ghosts of Hemingway and Fitzgerald still frolic. Those in the know think of cafes in Spain, Italy, and several other places in Europe too. Do you have a third place? How do you find one? Are they open to all age groups? How hard are they to cultivate? Are they even affordable anymore? What does a post-pandemic third place look like?
posted by Violet Blue (89 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
The author's dive bar is more authentic and third-placey than your poser dive bar.
posted by flamk at 5:28 PM on April 5, 2022 [7 favorites]

In my case, it's either whatever theater I'm performing at or the karaoke bar. I've never been a "coffee shop" person.

Do you have a third place? How do you find one? Are they open to all age groups? How hard are they to cultivate? Are they even affordable anymore? What does a post-pandemic third place look like?

How do you find one? I assume if you are a Coffee Shop Person, you just keep patronizing the same place over and over again, but I tend to be a person who finds those places via taking classes or doing some kind of activity.

Age groups: depends on what you're doing.
Ease of cultivation: it depends.
Affordable: I dunno.

Post-pandemic: I think people are just going back to what they did pre-pandemic, to be honest.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:31 PM on April 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

I'm already exhausted with just two places.
posted by bondcliff at 5:34 PM on April 5, 2022 [70 favorites]

No work now, and coffee shops and bars never did it for me. My #2 after home is a beach. In particular a break where a bunch of us old surfers (men and women) surf - or at least check - almost everyday. This being FL, waves are not that consistent so this usually amounts to us standing on the dune at dawn, drinking coffee and telling lies. This also the only beach where the county allows dogs off the leash, so there’s a good mix of regulars and, being outside, appropriately distanced. I’ve been surfing this break regularly since ‘91 but I’ve shared various breaks with some of these guys far longer.

It’s a bit off the beaten path, down a dirt road, but still gets crowded on some weekends. Luckily there are a couple of other reefs up the coast less well-known with less parking. During the first part of the pandemic, the county locked all the gates so the crowds were gone. We’d park out off the highway and walk it. It was a real respite from isolation (and on the beach or in the line up you’re never too close). Still, I’m close enough to snake my buddy George on a wave or two.
posted by sudogeek at 5:36 PM on April 5, 2022 [18 favorites]

Would this require making eye contact with other humans? That is not on my list of things to do.
posted by blakewest at 5:36 PM on April 5, 2022 [36 favorites]

I've had a third place a couple of times. Both times working class bars in small towns where I was entirely an outsider and had to be there for months and months and months, several times a week, before anyone other than the bartender had any "real" conversation with me. I quickly moved from outside to inside and it became a joy to be there. Rarely saw any of those people outside of that setting, but always felt a bit like coming home when I got there for an evening.

I don't have that now. I wish I did, but it requires a level of time and pocketbook that I don't have at the moment. Maybe soon.
posted by hippybear at 5:49 PM on April 5, 2022 [14 favorites]

Until Covid* I was on-the-road selling/networking, always seeking places out of the weather to sit/debrief/ and interesting and connected folk gathered - mainly cafes and bars, esp. where loitering is tolerated, even encouraged, and with a clean bathroom, good food & wifi (a short list in far South NZ)! One of my favourite spaces was/is Wolf at the Door [own blog link]

* The same month Covid hit work changed and I've become a lot busier and able to drop most residential landscape design. Covid marks a weird liminal that in retrospect feels like I was working towards a change horizon.

I do miss the travel side of work as it's the only social life I've ever found that made sense, but few people are travelling now, many are WFH and the city is very quiet.
posted by unearthed at 5:51 PM on April 5, 2022 [3 favorites]

I avoid third places because I just don't trust the asshole majority in the US anymore. Even in the pretty darn liberal oasis I live in.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 5:54 PM on April 5, 2022 [28 favorites]

Best advice my dad ever gave me: become a regular. When I was a journalist in DC, I got mail, phone calls, met blind dates, cashed checks at the Tune Inn. Now, I go to my local coffee place, hiking trails, dog park. You don’t have to do more than smile and nod, if you’re not feeling all the chatty.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:01 PM on April 5, 2022 [16 favorites]

The best thing about owning a yarn shop is creating a "third place" for people. We try to build community by offering classes and social groups and movie nights, some of which have truly long-term regulars, others are more of a rotation of folks coming in, drifting off, sometimes drifting back (people move, people try different hobbies). Some people who participate I consider good friends, others are just good acquaintences, others are just customers.

We work hard to create a welcoming atmosphere, and we're sometimes people's only queer crafting space. Now I'm starting to run some RPGs at the shop as well. For a while I wasn't sure if reopening in the wake of COVID, after a year of being online only, was worth the risks. But (and not to toot my own horn here) I'm convinced that we provide something awfully important for people. The main down side is that because it's my workplace, it can't be MY third place, and I don't really have one of my own. But it feels good to do.
posted by rikschell at 6:05 PM on April 5, 2022 [61 favorites]

As someone who lived out of a suitcase for 29+ years with apartments where I kept my 'stuff' but was rarely there I ALWAYS found a place where I could become grounded. Additionally, I did not share the location with other people I worked with so I definitely got away from the endless and boring 'so what do you think about the new project guidelines' sort of discussions which would eat into your soul - often the asker was simply bating you or trying to brown-nose themselves into your favor.

In Brussels I found a bar and kept it to myself. In Munich a Thai restaurant where the owner and I had many conversations about useless shit. In Peru it was a local bar where I was the only foreigner for several hundred kilometers and my language skills at the time were atrocious. And there are many more places around the world where I simply hung out and met with REAL people and just shot the shit with them.

I have life long friends as a result. Most major cities I can travel to and a friend will host me for a few days. I met my wife in a bar 25 years ago and we are heading back there in a few weeks time to celebrate. Rick Steves is THE person to give you the opportunity to peel back the layers of your insecurity and self-doubt and go places. Sadly most American imagine the world is a crazy and dangerous place. I have news for you.... Yes it is! But seriously, GET OVER IT! Your local city is probably more likely to kill you than a the improbability of you meeting a jihadist or plunging over a cliff in a poorly maintained cab where the driver is drunk, high, or stoned.

Most people die at home. Alone. Go out and meet people and die in good company while having a good time...
posted by IndelibleUnderpants at 6:07 PM on April 5, 2022 [21 favorites]

We've had two such places. One was a small bistro a block from our house, that we went to twice a week for about ten years. The other Santiago's first sushi restaurant—from before there was one in every strip mall in the city—where we used to meet for lunch about once a week.
We even managed the holy grail in both places: walking in, and ordering "the usual"
In the bistro, we knew the waiters and it was in a hip part of town, so friends would often come in at random.
In the sushi place, the waiters greeted me by name and would say 'your wife is waiting for you at your usual table."
Sheer heaven. Lost the bistro by moving across town, and the sushi place to first the social uprising and then covid.
posted by signal at 6:10 PM on April 5, 2022 [4 favorites]

Abehammerb, one of the cool things about running a third place is being able to (gently) educate people about gender identity, racial microaggressions, and various things that older folks and more sheltered folks aren't up to speed on. Metafilter is one of the places I learned that one of the best things I can do as a cis white straight man is provide lots of 101-level info for people who shouldn't be bothering people who have enough on their plates.
posted by rikschell at 6:13 PM on April 5, 2022 [16 favorites]

The other day I came across this great twitter thread about the value of "public space" and, a little, the way that capitalist, pay-to-enter "third spaces" have supplanted "public space" in how we order our cities and towns. I feel like this article uses "third space" to mean both sorts of space and I don't introduce the distinction as a criticism but to add a dimension to the conversation.

I read somewhere that being in community is not just knowing and caring about a number of people; it's knowing and caring about a number of people who also know and care about each other. Community facilitates people of goodwill looking after one another: if a person I'm in community with becomes ill, I know several of their friends and we can come together to look after them, sometimes, without the person who is ill having to ask. (To be sure, community can also and in the same way, facilitate officiousness and gossip and things still worse -- it is not an unalloyed good.) You could graph the relationship of having two friends as an angle; only once you add the hypotenuse -- the connection between your two friends -- and form a triangle are the three of you a (small) community. And that makes building community hard because you are relying on connections of which you are not a part. I'm not a node in the friendship between my friends J-- and K--, and I have no control over that relationship, but the fact of their friendship augments my life.

I've taken several long-ish breaks from social media in the past few years, and I feel I could quit the thing altogether except for one thing: I have people I know and care about that I don't have community with. Except for Facebook, I would not know how my friend's cancer treatment is going, because I don't talk to anybody outside of Facebook who would think to reach out to me about that. I literally stay on Facebook because it serves that function of community, the function of letting me know about other people's lives without them telling me directly.

In a physical, architectural sense, I feel like third spaces and public spaces can facilitate the creation of that hypotenuse between and among three people that is essential to the creation of community. I've advised folks on this website, who are trying to make friends as adults, that one of the ways to make friends is to spend long enough in the same place to be seen as a regular by other regulars. At least two things are necessary for that to happen: you need to have the time to spend in a third space, and you need to have a third space in which to spend it.
posted by gauche at 6:17 PM on April 5, 2022 [31 favorites]

The last two places I've lived, I found bars (actually one was a brewery, the others were restaurant bars) that were (for me) the perfect blend of semi-social, always easy to chat to a person next to you or the bartender but low key enough to read or chill out without forced conversation. Where I am now I haven't found quite the right space yet. The best bar I've found doesn't serve food, so I can't do the "I just need a burger and a beer" after work, and the places with good food aren't set up well for what I like. Now that we are in a covid-lull I'm going to keep trying new places to see if I can find the right fit.

We even managed the holy grail in both places: walking in, and ordering "the usual"

Also fun is when the kitchen sends out one-offs or new dishes they are experimenting with, just to get the feedback.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:27 PM on April 5, 2022 [8 favorites]

At this point in my life, my third place happens to be the parks that I frequent. I like crossing paths with the same people all of the time, even if we're generally going in different directions. There are also my birding friends, but we're there for the same purpose, and that seems somehow different.
posted by mollweide at 6:46 PM on April 5, 2022 [4 favorites]

Pre-COVID, it was my comic book store (but my partner owns it so it wasn't like I was just there to be annoying everyone). We also had a couple of bars in that neighborhood we'd hang out in (one had cheap drinks and bad food but it was cozy in a real Irish bar way -- it was run by an actual Irish person!) and then a bar we'd go to on Sunday nights (even if it was a bit of a drive -- it was a tradition started before either of us moved away). But you know ... COVID.

When the weather is nice, I do have a good tree in a park nearby I go sit under (I have a whole to-go picnic kit with a blanket, chairs, cups, Bluetooth speaker, etc.) but that's only when the weather is nice. And it doesn't quite scratch the same social itch.

I have often lamented there's not a good place to just go hang out that's not my couch or bed (or my partner's couch) even before COVID.

I just think this is another one of those things that we can't really go back to. It's OK. I can manage with that.
posted by edencosmic at 6:59 PM on April 5, 2022

I wrote about third places once, during the five minutes I was successfully keeping up a newsletter: Welcome to the Jerk Pit

At the risk of looking like a huge asshole by blockquoting myself:
The thing about brief shining moments is that they’re shining, and that they’re brief. Third places are supposed to be neutral and pleasant, but at the same time, any crucible of community contains implicitly within itself the possibility of rift, disappearance, estrangement. Even if it’s never realized, it’s there, the way death lurks in every wedding vow.

I’ve been thinking about this as I repeatedly see friends apologize for eulogizing a restaurant or bar when people are dying—as if only the largest grief is real. A coffee shop isn’t a person, but it’s also many people: all our old selves, the shells we climbed out of and can’t climb back in. And it’s the relationships between people, all that scaffolding we built together, some of which hangs on even after the roof caves in. To lose these places, or even to be separated from them for a while, makes it difficult to be whole.
posted by babelfish at 7:04 PM on April 5, 2022 [26 favorites]

Alchemy Coffee, 17th South, 5th East, SLC, Utah. I used to hang art there. Hi Jason!
posted by Oyéah at 7:16 PM on April 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

I spent 25 years working in said third places via the bar business. Alcohol in a communal setting can indeed be quite the social lubricant and provide an alternative to the daily drudgery...
posted by jim in austin at 7:18 PM on April 5, 2022 [3 favorites]

I've had a lot of these, working in restaurants we always have a place for after work drinks. One was a place around 21st street in NYC called Ciel Rouge, owned by Mike Imperioli. He was there a lot and when he occasionally brought us drinks we'd say "Thank you spider." When I lived in Brooklyn it was Ceol (gone now) or the Brooklyn Inn. Before I moved to NY it was O'Flaherty's Piano Pub just over the town line in Wormtown. In high school we'd go to Denny's late at night, or the Kenmore Diner in Worcester. When I worked at Remi on 53rd street it was Faces and Names on 54th, or Bar Nine over on, you guessed it, 9th Ave.

I imagine so many places I've worked were a third place for thousands of people, over the years. At Qatorze Bis uptown, I saw A.E. Hotchner several times a week, Jules Pfiefer as well, and met Art Speigleman briefly. JFK junior used to come to Remi for lunch, we had a semi private dining room so he could read his paper and have lunch in peace. When he found out I was from Mass we hit it off. I remember so many other regulars from so many places, not celebs, just wonderful real people, and when you are a waiter or bartender, regulars tell you things, you learn about and get invested in their lives. They rely on you.

I do not have a third place now. I have a couple of go to restaurants I'll visit if we have guests or it is a special occasion, but I'm a total work-home human, unless there is a good reason, or perhaps the beaches I swim at in warm months or just walk in colder, but not the coldest, days of the year. So I guess that makes the blue my primary third place. When I retire I'll end up being one of those guys sipping beer at the Portuguese American Club or the Wharf or the Ritz for 8 hours a day.
posted by vrakatar at 7:22 PM on April 5, 2022 [7 favorites]

We even managed the holy grail in both places: walking in, and ordering "the usual"

Also fun is when the kitchen sends out one-offs or new dishes they are experimenting with, just to get the feedback.

Or when they know it's your birthday without anyone telling them! God I miss my breakfast place. Fuck you, Covid. Just fuck you forever.

My partner is such a master of third spaces that even a pandemic could not take ALL of his regular joints out of commission, though, and it is my fervent hope to become a regular at some of them in my own stead (as nice as it is to be granted entry as his partner, there's nothing like having your own regular status).
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 7:25 PM on April 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

My third place for a while was a UU church, but their constant designs on my volunteer time made it less a refuge and more of a second job. So I have pulled back.

Any bookstore or library works for me. We're about to move to another state though, so I'm following this thread in search of ideas.
posted by emjaybee at 7:38 PM on April 5, 2022 [9 favorites]

think this is another one of those things that we can't really go back to.

People are doing it here. I don't go out for after work drinks, but plenty of the staff do, and I've got regulars at the bar and at the tables. I of course stopped going out to just hang out years before the pandemic, tho.
posted by vrakatar at 7:39 PM on April 5, 2022

Mine are one bar in my neighborhood on quiet weekend nights, and the tiny 2 table seating area inside a Salvadoran carry-out that I could hit with a rock from the front of my house. My neighbors are very often in one or the other, and the former now employs two people I've known for over twenty years, co-workers from old jobs.

These places have been around so long - and I've been nearby for so long - that they feel almost like extensions of my living room.

We even managed the holy grail in both places: walking in, and ordering "the usual"

In the mid-90s, I went to the same place 3-4 times a week for lunch, nearly always getting the same thing. In the last few years, they started making my order when I walked in without my even having to ask. Haven't managed that since, however.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:44 PM on April 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

Never heard or thought about a "third place." But now that the place where I've played piano and hung out for forty years has changed hands, and my other third place, a meditation center, is not active currently because COVID, I'm in limbo, and a little nervous. Especially since I'm kind of retired and don't even really have a "second place" any more. Op-eds about the atomization of society are making sense to me at this moment. Hoping for the best.
posted by kozad at 7:52 PM on April 5, 2022 [6 favorites]

We even managed the holy grail in both places: walking in, and ordering "the usual"

I lived in Brussels for 6 months a long time ago and went to my neighborhood Chinese restaurant pretty frequently. I ordered in my terrible French (my Dutch was worse and my Chinese nonexistent). I knew when I reached regular status when they felt comfortable giving me waitstaff that had progressively less English skills.
posted by mmascolino at 8:10 PM on April 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

Weed speakeasy. Because the cops aren't going to show up unless someone is drunk
posted by clavdivs at 8:22 PM on April 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

The one that I'll always remember is the Hungry Brain in Chicago. The doors didn't even open until 8 and a lot of the time the other patrons wouldn't more than trickle in until 9 or 10. So on the quiet nights I'd shoot the shit with the bartender while they opened up creakily. But it was also a former improv venue that had inherited a lovely stage, so there was (is) an ongoing jazz series for all but a few months of the last 20... getting toward 25 years, that (at least when I was attending) was this loose mix of the local free jazz guys shooting the shit musically, touring acts and heaven knows. One bartender decided to get in to events and set up his own variety series early in the week that was absolutely charming. And while very few of the staff drank beer, damn they had so many good draft beers rotate through over the years (the draft part is gone in an ownership change).
posted by wotsac at 8:34 PM on April 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

Shout out to the local game store where I played tons of Deadlands, Pokemon TCG, and M:TG as a teen.

I've considered seeking out a social club or something equivalent in the L.A./O.C. greater area for a few years now, where I have an excuse to dress up in a sport coat, order a sparking water, and have the kind of low-stakes conversations the article describes, but Discord servers have really filled that social niche for me as well, so it's hard to get the motivation. (Obviously the pandemic didn't help.)
posted by mesh_drifting at 8:36 PM on April 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

I used to hang out in bars, but when I stopped, nobody missed me. For the 2nd half of my life, it’s just been rehearsals, gigs or caving trips. I meet more new people out caving, because while there’s a core group, folks come and go, so there’s always a new face or two. Around a campfire after a good cave trip together is an unparalleled place to get to really know someone.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:46 PM on April 5, 2022 [5 favorites]

Nod. The library.
posted by Jane the Brown at 8:49 PM on April 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

Third place is a new concept to me as well, and on retrospect, I've been lucky enough to have several. But as I think about each situation, it was because there was a monetary discount that I would not have been able to have the frequency without. Be it the rock club a block from my apartment, in a city devoid of neighborhood bars, that waived the cover. The bar attached to a family restaurant that we stumbled upon after softball on Tuesday nights, finding half price drinks to entice on a slow night. To the crown jewel, the neighborhood bar in a neighborhood that was losing its character. That last one was the longest, but was wiped out by the pandemic. And to be honest, it was cheap because my partner worked there, I couldn't afford to drink three to four nights a week without. All places I found folks to commiserate, and I miss them dearly.

Nuts to capitalism, if I can ever get a garage like the sociologist, y'all can stop by for homebrew on tap.
posted by Brainstorming Time! at 9:06 PM on April 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

pinball arcades. I can be as social as I want or I can just play games. Refreshments available. Lots of happy people coming through.
posted by Theta States at 9:07 PM on April 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

The book the author mentions, The Great Good Place is an excellent book, and had a solid formative effect on college age Ghidorah when it came out (gah, I’m dating myself), and it instilled a deep appreciation in me for all of the places that have largely been supplanted by the era we find ourselves in.

The book gets into how the third place has declined, in large part due to zoning laws and suburban expansion. You can’t walk to the neighborhood pub when it’s a ten minute drive by car, and if you drive, you shouldn’t be drinking (but, well, yeah). The further away from our homes we push the necessities of life, the harder it is to actually feel like we are living.

One of the things I love most about living in Japan is the very, very lenient zoning here. More and more, you’re starting to get western style development, where whole blocks of land are turned into cookie cutter houses, but even out here in the burbs, there are tiny little bars and restaurants all around, that only require the bravery needed to open the door. In the years prior to corona, when going out was a common thing and beer festivals abounded, Mrs. Ghidorah and I noticed a weird quirk. Alone, beer vendors wouldn’t recognize either of us. When the two of us were together, somehow we were suddenly recognizable by all, which was its own little WonderTwins sort of magic, I guess. Lacking that sort of fun, that sort of place we could go and manage to strike up a conversation with any one of a dozen acquaintances that we were sure to bump into has made the last two years ever so slightly more difficult to get through.

Now, when things are just, “fuck it, go back to doing stuff” it’s odd and dispiriting to see just how much of the “oh, hey, it’s you” head nods and smiles have faded with time and distance, and how many friends have slid into acquaintances, and how many acquaintances are just another stranger now. Part of it is my own reluctance to get out of the house, which, as the whole premise of the book says, is it’s own problem.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:12 PM on April 5, 2022 [14 favorites]

My 3 place is Alcoholics Anonymous. Ironically, it's also the closest thing I've ever found to the Cheers bar. Endless coffee too, but that's just a Perk.
posted by johnjohn4011 at 9:16 PM on April 5, 2022 [23 favorites]

I work from home (for years now, long before the pandemic) and I guess I have 2 of these places.
Park Island, a small nature reserve in walking distance, where I used to walk my dog and got to know all the other dogs and their people.
It was locked up for months during our hard lockdown, which was one of the things I found most difficult to cope with.
Then they got special permission to open it as long as there was a guard "screening" you at the gate, so absurd to have your temperature taken and have to fill out the "no, no, no, temperature is x" form to be outside in a nature reserve.
Now they chain the gate open so we don't have to touch it, and they also made it so you have to keep dogs on leash.
That means I no longer see most of my dog friends, but it also means the local wild life is more visible and relaxed.
I have contributed 15 or maybe 16? African Four Striped mice to the population so far, transporting the ones that hang out in my kitchen instead of staying politely in my backyard.

The other place is Joons restaurant/coffee shop in Palmer Road.
It was our place since before the pandemic. Only place it's that has outside tables, so I feel safe there. They delivered pizzas to us during the hard lockdown, while we had Covid.
The owner's (June) daughter reads my books. It's next door to a yarn shop, and across the road from an animation studio run by a guy I taught animation to years ago. Lovely guy. He runs a homeless shelter.

The street is very narrow one way, and there's a sort of unspoken rule that dogs and small children have right of way over cars. Every now and then a rat runner tries their luck and drives too fast along there, and get a lot of stink eye from the community.

I am setting my current book in the neighbourhood, in a building that doesn't actually exist right on the sea on the beachfront that's just a few blocks away. It's incredibly comforting to write.
posted by Zumbador at 9:26 PM on April 5, 2022 [7 favorites]

Post covid is definitely different. Zoom poached a lot of people from IRL meetings, and during the lockdowns, sooooo many people blew their sobriety. The meeting venues are feeling the lack of contributions, and some probably will go under. I think in the long run, Zoom will be a good fit fir AA , but the adjustment period is painful.
posted by johnjohn4011 at 9:28 PM on April 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

I like the idea. The hard part is that I'd do almost anything to avoid having to spend time with the characters in either Cheers or Friends.

While I've had this experience in the past (it seemed easy as a late-20s/early-30s person in San Francisco), finding a place I actually want to spend time today is a real challenge. Most of the options are either activism or hobby based. They're worth enduring for some outcome, but the other people are taxing rather than relaxing. As much as I love the idea of a hacker space, I've never spent more than a couple of hours in one without despising the people who run them. (There's one 3500 km away that I still like, but perhaps only because I haven't spent enough time there.)

As an introvert who finds interacting with people frustrating, I think my third place is actually a long walk alone where nobody knows my name.
posted by eotvos at 10:07 PM on April 5, 2022 [6 favorites]

There are several volunteer organizations for which belonging and participating became a third place for me. One, the local fire volunteer fire department. For medical/physical reasons, I was never an active firefighter, but my two sons were/are, and I was active in the administration of the organization. To voluntarily put your life on the line, and to risk physical harm sort of acts as a binding agent for people of varying social, economic, racial backgrounds to come together. Walk into the fire station and I could always just have a good hang with whomever was there. And, even though it is a community orgainzation, I never saw a lot of these folks outside of the fire station.

Two, I have a cabin in the ADK in a small town (they're all small towns in the ADK), and I go to the bar in that town in the summer and never got even an acknowledgment of being a "local". You know you have it made when the bartender both calls you by name and stops asking, "What'll have?" when they well know that you order the same cold Miller High Life beer every time you come in. You get caught in the in between between a year round local and a weekend tourist.

It wasn't until I started going to the bar in the dead of the winter when it was -15 degrees F that I finally got some traction. I also learned to do all my business, even if it meant paying a little more with the few local businesses. Sort of like paying the local mob in a city, I hired a local to be the caretaker as sort of initiation money. Anyway, after a few years, I could finally go in there on a crowded summer day and have a local tell me I could have the stool next to him that he had told 5 people before that that it was taken. The only way to become an "in" person was patience and persistence. And offer to help neighbors with chores. I have a pickup, I can stop at the Marina and pick up that part for your boat type of help. They are leary of outsiders, but when they accept that you are here to stay and willing to be a part of the community, they could not be nicer or better friends. A lot of the cabin owners never interact with the true locals. It is too bad.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:20 PM on April 5, 2022 [8 favorites]

I had a third place for about eight years - a not-so-authentic Irish pub called The Druid across the street from my apartment. My grad school friends and I were regulars, we knew some of the staff, and on quiet Thursday afternoons our favorite bartender would comp us drinks and join us during her breaks. I wrote most of my PhD dissertation there. After it changed ownership and rebranded it wasn’t the same, and I’ve spent years trying to find somewhere new. I miss it, and that time in my life, constantly.
posted by Fully Completely at 11:27 PM on April 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

Home is First. // Introverts FTW!
Work is also First since they're the same place. // Introverts FTW!

I'd be nowhere without MeFi, let's call that second.

As a lazy person I subscribe to the English concept of "my local". The closest bar to me is the Ram's Head //third! which is part of the McMenamin's franchise which is the PNW McDonald's. It's the same burgers, the same beers, the same tots at every restaurant.

But still, it's the closest bar to my house. I had bartenders there who loved me but in the last couple years everyone's different. It's still my local.

Pre-lockdown I visited the same grocery store and/or liquor store and/or pharmacy every day and got to meet cashiers and pharmacists and cheesemongers and learn their names and stuff about them. It was always the majority of my social interaction.

Now I rarely leave my house. I get delivery every day and I used to strike up conversations with deliverers but now I barely bother.

I was in my local on Sunday and I didn't even recognize the bartender who served me even though he remembered me and my friends' previous visits.
posted by bendy at 12:47 AM on April 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

And as a person who spends holidays alone I appreciate a restaurant that has a seat at the bar and will feed me a delightful prix fixe menu and all the attendant cocktails. The last time I had that fortune was at a lovely restaurant a block from my house on Thanksgiving in November 2019. I decided from then on that it would be my "local" and then COVID happened and the "third place" was less attainable.
posted by bendy at 1:09 AM on April 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

I don't think I've ever had a third place as described, except maybe my friends' place when we lived on near enough the same street.

I do think the flat I lived in with my now partner and two mates functioned that way for a few people. We were just on the edge of the town centre, our door was never locked, and there was always someone in and usually up. There was at least a half dozen people who would just show up unannounced to hang out, play or listen to music, or play video games. Or just chat. People started bringing their mates. We had two different people move in temporarily on separate occasions to get away from abusive relationships. One of them I only vaguely knew before the two months she lived with us, now she's one of my best friends. We had people that didn't really know anyone in the house, but had been there a few times because of mutual friends, turn up in emergencies, whether that was a panic attack, being locked out at stupid o'clock in the morning, a massive fight with a partner. We might not even have known everyone's name when they knocked (or just walked in, as was the custom - ground floor front door, first and second floor flat, knocks weren't always heard) but we always just put the kettle on, made extra when we were cooking, and made sure people were alright. Many of them are now close friends.

It's kind of strange, looking back on it, the setup we had. I don't think it can be recaptured - it was partly a function of being a houseshare, the living room and kitchen always felt like a shared space and not like you were invading somebody's privacy somehow, and partly a function of a large social network of recent graduates, post-grads, and a handful of other twenty-somethings, many attached to a thriving local music scene (now withered - we lost all the local venues). I do miss it though.
posted by Dysk at 1:18 AM on April 6, 2022 [6 favorites]

My gym was getting to be like this, pre-COVID. I'd always gone to big box gyms but about a year before the pandemic I joined an independent gym that I ended up loving. I usually went at a pretty consistent time and so I'd see a lot of familiar faces. I was mostly a "get in and get out" kind of exerciser but I still remember when some folks who I barely knew started to say "Hi, synecdoche." it was a good feeling and probably a big part of why I worked out regularly that year when I never did much in the past. I haven't been back since COVID lockdowns started and I do miss it but I'm still pretty cautious so I'm not comfortable going back yet.
posted by synecdoche at 3:35 AM on April 6, 2022 [4 favorites]

My partner is really good at finding these places and thrives on it. For me, I detest being observed, so whenever I go somewhere long/frequently enough for someone to comment on it, indicating that I have not only been observed but my existence has also been *noted* and *remarked upon*, I find it hard to go there again. I wish I didn't feel like that.
posted by urbanlenny at 4:04 AM on April 6, 2022 [10 favorites]

I'm like urbanlenny: as soon as I reach the point of having gone somewhere frequently enough that I'm recognised (usually by the staff), I come over all self-conscious and uncomfortable, and start avoiding the place, or at least avoiding it when the person who recognises me is there. Which is absurd, on the face of it... I'm relieved to find it's not just me!

I can somewhat get over the hump if I'm usually in company when I go there, but I've never made it to the point of being truly comfortable.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 5:34 AM on April 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

Thus in the old times, fraternal orders, e.g. Odd Fellows, Shriners, Moose, Knights of Columbus, etc. The extra advantage was that they have/had chapters across the country and globe, and so for a new man in town, instant network both personal and professional and social. Of course they do/did engage in communal charitable work, which may put them outside the remit for some.

Still, it's a sadness to see their old halls (like churches) in small to medium sized towns going to wrack and ruin.
posted by BWA at 7:33 AM on April 6, 2022 [6 favorites]

My 3 place is Alcoholics Anonymous. Ironically, it's also the closest thing I've ever found to the Cheers bar. Endless coffee too, but that's just a Perk.

All I know about AA is what I've read in comments here and seen portrayed in movies, which always makes the meetings look frankly like better and more interesting settings than your average cafe or bar. I don't have (or I don't think I have, anyway...) a drinking problem and am not trying to quit, but if I ever do I am hoping to find a meeting that gives that kind of feeling.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:01 AM on April 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

I've never had a set 3rd place where staff knew my name, always a long-ish rotating list, and was just whereever a group us decided to go. (Friends (as in the Tv show) occasionally talked to other people at Central Perk, but for the most part it was just a place for the core group to hang out away from their apartments. Same as that bar on How I Met your Mother. I like people watching, so I very much prefer public 3rd places to staying at home or Zoom (no, not ever!). If I'm at home, I don't want to be always be prepared to host a party.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:21 AM on April 6, 2022

Yep I get it.
posted by firstdaffodils at 8:46 AM on April 6, 2022

My one skill is becoming a regular. For me, it's usually bars. Depending on travel, there can be many months between visits, but the staff still remember my name and orders.

Los Angeles
Musso and Frank

Santa Monica
The Fairmont Miramar


the Cava bar in Pango Village

Enoteca Sociale, Pizzeria Defina

Due to the Pandemic and travel, I hadn't been to Enoteca Sociale in almost three years, but went on a blind date in November. Kyle, the chef, who presumably reads the reservation list, brought out our mains and commented how good it was to see a friendly face. I almost burst into tears.
posted by dobbs at 8:54 AM on April 6, 2022 [4 favorites]

I think for many of my friends, my house is their third place. We low-key entertain a lot.

We just moved, and I am cultivating the park down the road as a possible third place. There's a pond you can walk around, and people bring dogs and babies, which makes for an easy ice-breaker.
posted by joannemerriam at 9:19 AM on April 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

One of the reasons I've come back to MeFi is the dwindling of online third spaces as social media and corporate takeovers have conglomerated, consolidated, and walled-off online social spaces. One of the main places I hang out now is discord, which while online, is not on the web. Most discords are closed-off spaces with limited (by design; I don't hang out in big servers) entrance points. I miss LiveJournal (where I occasionally still post, but it's a relative ghost town), forums, and websites unaffiliated with corporate ownership.

My IRL third places are no-go during the ongoing pandemic (and many are now permanently closed). I haven't performed on a stage in over 2 years now. I've definitely been feeling closed off to the world because of it.
posted by Eideteker at 9:22 AM on April 6, 2022 [3 favorites]

become a regular.

This is indeed the way, and if you follow people/activities rather than places regularship is transferable. I've always had several third places because bartenders and servers change jobs or I gain interests.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:24 AM on April 6, 2022

Third places in Cambridge and Somerville for me:


Shays, in Harvard Square. Poetry on Wednesday nights in the basement of the Cantab Lounge in Central. Also, annually, the Boston Poetry Marathon.


The Atomic Bean Cafe in between Harvard and Central--I wrote a book there! And a chapbook! Then the place died in the pandemic.

Stone Soup Poetry night at Out of the Blue Gallery--in my late twenties, approximately 20% of my weekly calories came from bags of free pastries/stale bread that I got there. Now it's a fancy little Vietnamese coffee / banh mi place, which is ok--the salmon banh mi there are tasty--but i miss being adrift and hungry. Sometimes. Just a little bit.

The outside patio of the Harvard Sq Au Bon Pain. I'd sit there every day, typing away and chain-smoking; come away with a poem and bird poop on my shoulder and elm flowers stuck in my hair. The new patio is not. the. same. Not as much seating. Wimpy trees, and no shade. Less diversity in the people who sit there--used to be 1/3 weird Cambridge townie, 1/3 people without homes, 1/3 Harvard kids. Plus various street performers, hawkers, daydrinkers, baseball game listeners, chess hustlers, etc etc. Now mostly kids with IPad Pros.

Algiers, in Harvard Square.

Sherman Cafe in Union Square.

The Biscuit, near Union Square.

The first iteration of Toscanini's in Central--lived around the block in a terrible and loud apartment; they always had a seat with an outlet.

not quite there yet--maybe someday, when I'm better at actually talking to people--

The Grolier Poetry Bookshop
The Woodberry Poetry Room

During the pandemic, none of these places were physical places for me. They disappeared. Shays closed for a while, to save money. The Cantab changed owners, briefly looked like it was going to die forever. Poetry readings were Zoom-only. Place after place went out of business. Places where people met their spouses or married their spouses or broke up with their partners and had teary post-mortem lunches, or sat nursing single cups of coffee for hours dreaming of the shape of the universe or listened to baseball games on battered transistor radios or asked hoarsely for just a little bit of change or bullshitted loudly about books they hadn't read or bullshitted loudly about books they were going to write that everybody knew they weren't going to write--all gone, fallen off the cliff of profit and loss.

I wish we knew, as a society and as a culture, how to make places last, how to make communities last.
posted by what does it eat, light? at 9:38 AM on April 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

--I mean: you can be a regular elsewhere, you can follow the activities to other places, but what happens when those places are priced out as well? What happens when the activities die for lack of space? Walking through Cambridge feels like dementia sometimes--was that bank always there? wasn't that a place where you could buy physical literary journals? Is Curious George happy on the internet, happier than he was in his cozy little street corner toystore? Did we need another pizza place? Why is that movie theatre still empty--didn't the billionaires kill it a decade ago; what did they do that for if they're just going to leave it rotting?
posted by what does it eat, light? at 9:45 AM on April 6, 2022 [3 favorites]

I've worked in a lot of bars and restaurants, and while I liked regulars (the likeable ones, anyway), it was always kind of an odd feeling because it's such a transactional relationship. But then at the same time, since service work has such odd hours, at the end of every shift, everyone would go to the same handful of places for drinks or dinner. So I was a regular myself during all those years, too. In general, I got to feeling very comfortable in bars and restaurants, they felt more like home than home to me. When I moved to a new place, I would immediately try to pick up a restaurant job because it was in my "comfort zone." But now it's been about five or six years since I've worked as a bartender or waitress, and I don't feel that same kind of comfort anymore.

Right now, I'm in school, and I guess that's my "third place"? It's a very intense program, so I'm on campus at least as much as I'm at the office, and I'm much closer to the other students than I am to my coworkers. It's where I've made all my friends in my new city. But because it's so intense and rigorous and competitive, it isn't a "third place" in the way that I think a third place is meant to be. There's always a frission of tension and overwork, and the competitiveness undermines friendships.

My natural third place is the library. Wow, I missed the library SO MUCH during lockdowns. When I went back for the first time in 2021, I got surprisingly emotional. They had put up barriers everywhere and tried to make it Covid-safe, and I was grateful for that because ANYTHING to get the library open safely again. But it was just so heartbreaking to finally be back "home" at the library and have it feel so unfamiliar.

I love any library, being surrounded by all those books makes it feel like I can breathe, it's so lovely. But it's not a great place to make human friends. I've never made any in a library, and I've certainly spent a lot of time in them. I also don't feel that comfortable studying in libraries anymore, Covid just trained me not to hang around public spaces for hours and hours like that, and I miss that so much.

I feel like hobby spaces can be good "third spaces," too, but in some ways they're like socializing on hard mode. Maybe I just like hobbies that tend to appeal to more introverted and socially reserved or even socially inept people. It's very possible. But also, you're focused on doing this thing together and less focused on being together, and it kind of feels like that gets in the way of connection sometimes. Even if the hobby is really awesome.
posted by rue72 at 9:47 AM on April 6, 2022 [5 favorites]

My house is a disaster right now from moving and ADHD and anxiety and grief and everything else, and it's also my workplace currently, and I'm desperate for a "third" place in which to meet friends and make new friends in this area I moved to just before the pandemic. But I'm not taking off my mask indoors, so there's nowhere to go, and soon enough I'll just be a hollow lump lost amidts the papers and half-empty boxes of my so-called office.
posted by wintersweet at 9:58 AM on April 6, 2022 [3 favorites]

pre-plague I was a Friday regular at the local Legion.. the Royal Canadian Legion network resulted in a dedicated space in just about every small town in Canada, and nowadays with the decline in veteran population, these spaces are either shutting down or they're finding ways to become busy social spaces: pool, darts, cribbage, and the Trivia Night every Friday was a draw. The Meat Draw on Saturdays, and Beat the Deck, is still a draw.. A real bonus is the open-door policy for all ages, I've seen some friends' kids literally grow from infant to toddler and school-age, every Friday, via visits at the Legion. you get all kinds at my Legion and it feels very good being there.
posted by elkevelvet at 9:59 AM on April 6, 2022 [3 favorites]

I've worked from home for years (well before covid). I'd love to have a 3rd place, but I struggle to imagine how, or where? It feels like these places just don't exist anymore.

There's one pub within walking distance, and it's a run-down "old man" pub in which I doubt I'd be welcome or safe (as a trans woman). And that's kind of it. There's nowhere to go. And even if there was anywhere to go, we've got covid to contend with.

I'd like to find some kind of community, but it just seems implausible. Nothing human survives the acid-bath of capitalist modernity.
posted by shanek at 10:00 AM on April 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

I live literally next to the local tavern. But I've only lived here 15 years, not 30, so I'm considered an outsider and generally not welcomed when I go there. (Being an older awkward single female doesn't help.)
posted by Melismata at 10:22 AM on April 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

I'm old.

Never had a "third place" in my entire life.

But I'm not that social. Might have something (a lot?) to do with it. Got that way when I was young, out of necessity. Never realized I didn't need to be after the earlier necessity was gone and the habits were established.

Hard to change now but I can (finally) see the...
posted by aleph at 10:33 AM on April 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

I read The Great Good Place as a young woman, got to the later chapters about men-only spaces, got mad at the whole book, and didn't finish it. It didn't feel like it was speaking to me. I don't drink, I don't enjoy loud or crowded places, and I don't like hanging out at places where I have to figure out whether somebody talking to me is being friendly or creepy.

But several years ago I became part of a different type of third place project that is still hanging on despite COVID and capitalism. I help run a nonprofit feminist makerspace in San Francisco. It is primarily for members and their guests, and membership is open to nonbinary people and women (of any presentation); the majority of members are queer and/or trans; dues are sliding scale $0-100/month.

It has about 40 active members (people who may show up, participate, etc) and at least 60 more inactive members (such as people who have moved away from the region but still support things, people who are doing other things these days but may be interested in being active again someday, etc). So it can be a place for people to make a bunch of friendly acquaintances if they want to, and it's pretty much made of weak ties - people can end up helping each other / supporting each other in small ways that are helpful, like finding a new housemate or a new job. It has some tension, mistakes, difficulties. It means a lot to me.

I joke about it sometimes - like, what if there was a lesbian bar I could hang out at, but it was just as friendly to non-drinkers as to people who drink, there was no expectation to buy anything in particular (could pay a small monthly fee instead), and it was open during the day, and didn't have to make a profit (just meet its costs), and the bathrooms were fully accessible and clean, and maybe it had some well-lit crafting tables and a few sewing machines and a lasercutter you could borrow because your SF/Oakland apartment is too small to have a garage or workshop, and you could volunteer to run a mending circle...
posted by dreamyshade at 10:41 AM on April 6, 2022 [9 favorites]

My Martial Arts community was mine and then I went to work there, which does switch one's experience around.

I actually was shooting the breeze around pandemic recovery and also residential schools and I thought about the Canadian Legion Hall system for war veterans. I think it will be important for people to have third places to process what's happened over time (I am not the person to speak to the First Nations/Métis/Intuit experience but I would like public funding for whatever is required); just not sure how we can get there.

If anyone knows of a Legion Hall for sale for cheap in Ontario's GTA (sorry can't move further right now) lemme know. :)
posted by warriorqueen at 10:42 AM on April 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

During my college years, it was the radio station I volunteered at.
During my Philly years, it was Eulogy, a Belgian bar (RIP).
During my early, working from home Portland years it was Three Friends coffee shop (RIP).
During the pandemic Portland years, it was Powell Butte (still there!)
Now heading out for new adventures in Virginia, and I hope to find a welcoming Third Place in my new town.
posted by medeine at 10:45 AM on April 6, 2022

one of the cool things about running a third place is being able to (gently) educate people about gender identity, racial microaggressions, and various things that older folks and more sheltered folks aren't up to speed on.

This kind of casual ageism is going to make a third place less welcoming for the older folks you assume you need to educate. Believe it or not, we have access to the same online resources you do - and some of us were dealing with issues of gender identity and racial microaggressions before most people reading this were born. Wrinkled skin and gray hair in themselves tell you nothing about whether a person is "up to speed."
posted by FencingGal at 11:04 AM on April 6, 2022 [17 favorites]

"...some of us were dealing with"

Some of us were, some of us weren't. Especially around the South where I spent a lot of time growing up. Always interested in "gentle education". Depending on the people doing it. Usually it's all mixed in with who people are which is interesting to me.

But that's me.
posted by aleph at 11:24 AM on April 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

I've conducted extensive research and the answer is pubs.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:49 AM on April 6, 2022 [3 favorites]

I think the answer is moderation, just as it is with online third spaces. *Some* bars and pubs are great for ?most? possible people, and some of them are sketch, and isn't the difference whether the staff will keep a protective eye out for [you|your people|maximal number of people]? And wow, talk about a complicated and invisible social skill, being a host, let alone a semi-commercial semi-social services host.

I don't much like drinking, so I really miss coffeehouses of the not-an-office style. I'm not at all surprised that high rents drove them out. I can't imagine what the margin was for the Last Exit in Seattle, or Cafe Pergolesi in Santa Cruz. Low.
posted by clew at 12:05 PM on April 6, 2022

This is a nice Nostalgia Post, since indoors with strangers is the last place you want to be now.

In the Before Times: my graduate school; a library; a cafe.

Maybe some day again.
posted by DMelanogaster at 12:10 PM on April 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

Maybe some day again.

From your lips to god's ears.

I keep an eye on the 7-day rolling COVID average for my area. My criteria for feeling safe to go out are quite low, and they continue to not be met. The trend is right, but probably weeks or months yet.
posted by hippybear at 12:12 PM on April 6, 2022 [3 favorites]

In the early 90s, my favorite 3rd place was a coffee shop, the Java cafe in Victoria BC. The kind of place where most patrons wouldn't have a problem with a stranger sitting down at your table to chat you up. New in town, I made a circle of friends there who have all remained close for over thirty years. A rare and phenomenal thing that would never have happened if not for the Java. I miss and love that place.
posted by hoodrich at 12:18 PM on April 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

I think this is another one of those things that we can't really go back to.

Literally it is already being gone back to all the time? I mean, of course, everyone can set their own levels of caution but ... there are still actually bars and restaurants and cafes and libraries, and people go to them.

But I'm not taking off my mask indoors, so there's nowhere to go

Neither am I, and I go places all the time? I suppose I am lucky to live somewhere that nobody gives a rat's ass what is or is not on someone's face, so I just go on ahead to all the places I need to go, with my KN-95 on, and...I mean, it sucks a little? But not as much as lying on the floor in my apartment losing the will to exist day by day.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:28 PM on April 6, 2022 [6 favorites]

I miss Cafe Revolution in SF dearly for that reason.
Haven't found this low-threshold, monday night jazz at a walking distance from my current house.
posted by Thisandthat at 12:34 PM on April 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

And wow, talk about a complicated and invisible social skill, being a host, let alone a semi-commercial semi-social services host.

I love doing it on a non-commercial basis (mostly I just leverage my kitchen skills and propensity to drink at least a dozen cups of tea a day to offer people food and drink, that seems like 90+% of the job) but fuck me did I hate working customer service. Back-of-house, sure, but any kind of professional hosting? Oof, no.

Come to think of it, the back-of-house approach basically is how I "host" at home, and always has been. I blame inherited rural Danish values.
posted by Dysk at 1:35 PM on April 6, 2022

I go places all the time?

I'm genuinely happy for you, but I don't feel comfortable sitting in a cafe/coffeeshop/pub not eating or drinking anything, and I don't know of any other candidate places here. I don't think I'm the only person in this position, either.
posted by wintersweet at 1:51 PM on April 6, 2022 [6 favorites]

Like I said, everyone gets to decide how they want to do this. For me, the awkwardness of wearing a mask in a coffee shop (I buy a coffee, and sometimes just don't even drink it, or sit awhile and then drink it outside, or straight up drink it there, just depends) was overcome-able in the face of basically just wasting away to nothing otherwise. Not everyone's calculus will be the same, but maybe I'm not the only person who worried more than I needed to about "but what if someone is mad that I'm not coffee-shopping right."

(Apart from that it just sometimes is so strange to read hundreds of people saying "man it's too bad every single public place is gone, probably forever" when it's like...definitely not the case. "I personally, me, InternetPoster, won't ever go back to a public food place" is not the same statement as "well, public spaces are done." This might just be me really hating a particular style of Internet Speak.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 2:11 PM on April 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

My couple of airport experiences (and on-aircraft experiences) involved a lot of me taking down the mask to take a bite or drink and putting it on again right afterward.

This was not the behavior of most in the airport (can't speak to the airplane -- limited view), and really all I can do is watch county COVID numbers to get to my own personal metrics.

I wish I could go places without worrying. But it's all still masks and dashing in-and-out for me even now.
posted by hippybear at 2:17 PM on April 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

My local pub has a lovely beer garden I'd happily eat unmasked in, but since covid they have moved to (and so far, have stayed with) QR code ordering. You can't order at the bar; instead you find a table, scan the QR code taped to the table, order and pay through a third-party web site (paying a surcharge to the third-party), and eventually someone brings your order. This is such a good thing to do for covid safety - way fewer people getting up, moving around, spending a long time indoors in line at the bar - and I've got friends who love it because they don't want to interact with bar staff. But I'm an unpartnered person living alone, working from home, with no pets, and after a couple of years of long lockdowns, part of what I'm looking for now when I go out are those small interactions with people, where I'm acknowledged as a human, and I get external confirmation that I still exist in society. I find it much less appealing to go out for a meal alone when all it involves is more interaction with my phone and someone dropping a plate on my table.

I appreciate your comments wintersweet and Blast Hardcheese, both resonate.
posted by happyfrog at 2:20 PM on April 6, 2022 [4 favorites]

What a great post.

I ran a bar inside of a restaurant which was:
1. third place for many a local
2. touristy, esp. during tourist season (duh)
3. "quasi" third place for some of the tourists and out-of-towners

On 3, for example, we were located close to a cruise terminal. Many people/groups cruise annually from the port they are most familiar with and thus have a drink at the same bar on the way in/out. Quite a few of them were surprised I remembered them when they came through every year. A sizable minority I remembered because I wanted to get them out as quickly as possible.

Out-of-towners were people you would see about once every three months. Maybe taking a mental health day and wanted to see the beach. Maybe retired and wanted to get out of the house. Whatever. They largely came for the food and drink, but they were always impressed (and more importantly, felt welcomed and treated like a regular) when food/drink order was remembered from last several visits.

I forgot to mention event goers. People who show up annually for a marathon/half-marathon/whatever. They basically fit the quasi-regular status.

Taking care of group one was easy in the off-season and only marginally harder during tourist season. Over (15?) years of doing it, you have an internal timer for how long it takes for them to finish their drink.

Group 2 was fine/great, as well. They were just like any other crowd at any other bar/restaurant one may work at.

Getting all three groups to play nice was absolutely a skill and it absolutelymade me a ton more in tips.

Running a third place can be as fun or comforting as being in the third place. Despite all the BS, and long days, I have fond memories.


Living in/near a tourist town for the last couple of decades, I have had (and still have) multiple third places I can go to. Even though I have been out of the foodservice/bar scene for well over half a decade and (pre-CoVid) was down to visiting once a week/(post CoVid) once every 6-8 weeks, I am still considered a regular (or, maybe more accurately a local) at these places more because they see me as "retired from our team" than "a non mouse".

I also seem to have a damn fine nose to sniff out a local bar/dive bar without even trying. Seems like, after 30 minutes or so, when the regulars are done eyeing me and wondering why I am there, they warm up with very little conversation. Partner and I stayed at a hotel just outside of NOLA (twice, years apart) and their was the most gaudiest '70s decorated bar ACROSS THE PARKING LOT! Before we paid our tab the first day, everyone loved us. We had a dinner planned in... Shreveport, I think? on vacation once... same thing. We didn't even move the car. A Hobbit based bar. Then, one which was about an hour from our house, but we had already driven six hours and I needed a break. It wasn't after I finished my first cigarette (when I still smoked) and they were laughing and joking with us.


Long live third places. Hope those who find them beneficial get back to them as much as possible. Those who are more introverted (like me, honestly) or just... don't. Hope the best for y'all as well!

Thank you, Violet Blue for such a wonderful post and ALL COMMENTERS for some awesome stories!
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 5:28 PM on April 6, 2022 [4 favorites]

The gym was my third place. We'd nod at each other as we approached our workouts. I encountered a gym member on a jog; we just slapped hands and ran on. I really don't get a dive bar as a happy place, but I have issues with alcohol, so maybe you'll have better luck.
posted by SPrintF at 6:12 PM on April 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

Ctrl + F "barnes and noble"
0 results

Hmm, has a different MetaFilter post lied to me?
posted by Monochrome at 6:27 PM on April 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

I was gonna say something about late stage capitalism killing my favorite 3rd spaces. In this town covid was just the finishing touch on what heavy capitalism has done to this once vibrant city. Now it's a great place to live if you don't have to ask the cost of anything.
I do have a 3rd space though, it's a local coffee shop (Fluid, Denver) they know my name and like me. Who would have thought that. I'm not everyone's cup of tea, surprisingly. Of course now I'm mostly in and out. Also I work in a library and that's some other peoples 3rd space. My local AA club house would probably be a 3rd space for me but I still mostly do zoom recovery.
posted by evilDoug at 9:29 PM on April 6, 2022

Ctrl + F "barnes and noble"
0 results

I worked at one a billion years ago. In fact, I was part of the opening crew and it was an absolutely huge deal for B&N to be moving in to town. I think it was the second B&N in the state and thus the second place you could get Starbucks in the state at the time. (I told you... a billion years ago.)

The place always did great business and the overstuffed chairs were always full, but it seemed like they were always full with different people. No regulars. The only "regulars" (at that particular store) were from my stint in the cafe. We had one guy who would brazenly walk in with an old Starbucks cup from another trip for a "refill" for the discounted price. Once, he literally walked in 5 minutes after we opened. The other one was someone who was trying multiple methods to deal with his balding.

There was also a couple that came in regularly, but I knew them outside of work, so I may be remembering them more because of that.

My nearest B&N is now farther than my closest local bookstore (used/new shop which is MASSIVE) and in the opposite direction of my daily travels. When I first moved here, it was worth it to head up to them, but.... Amazon. There's still the overstuffed chairs... the whole experience is different, though. Definitely not nearly as focused on books and really trying to be an "all things for everyone store".

So, yeah, it would seem almost obvious that B&N would be a third place... I just haven't seen it that much.

Now, when I was working there, the closing crew would park at the back of the parking lot, since it butted up to the 24 hour diner where we would sit and drink coffee (and, alas, smoke) for at least 3 hours. Shorter walk back to your car in the dead of night.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 4:53 PM on April 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

My fav third place is a punk show my band is playing, ideally in a Chicago backyard and basement. Was absent during the pandemic and is only now starting to show stirrings. Hope this summer my third place comes back strong.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:57 AM on April 8, 2022

I'm shocked -- shocked -- that the parents haven't chimed in yet.
The neighborhood park. The playground. Picnic pavilions and barbeque grills. The local swimming pool or state park swimming hole. Basketball courts. Areas for kite flying and frisbees. Walking trails for dogs and strollers and kids creeping along on their first bikes and skates.
And then there are play dates for daycare, preschool, Parent/Teacher Association, academic clubs, band practice, religious affiliations, cultural programs, scouting, sports, etc., etc., etc.
There are a lot of frazzled, blurry-eyed adults giving a nod to each other across the lawn as their precious offspring zoom around the swing sets and slides.

Then some of us graduate to volunteering in these spaces, or feeding the ducks at the pond, or supporting our town's sports teams. Community outreach is another name for a third place (second after retirement).
posted by TrishaU at 3:43 PM on April 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

Montreal is doing it with Ruelles Vertes - free admission.
posted by anthill at 8:39 PM on April 8, 2022

for introverts there is something to be said for being in a public place alone. you get the social benefits of not being isolated but without the responsibility of actually talking to/entertaining someone. that's what's best about a local bar. read your phone. listen to the local band. have a beer. speak to no one. go home with your social quota fulfilled. everyone wins.
posted by wibari at 10:21 PM on April 9, 2022 [5 favorites]

« Older Board Game Documentaries   |   Good to see you again, Captain! Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments