Can a cafe also be a bar?


Senior Member
I recently read Ernest Hemingway’s short novel “A clean, well-lighted place“, and found that an old man ordered brandy in the cafe. The novel was written in the 1930s, and I wonder whether a cafe back then sold both cafe and alcohol and functioned just like a bar. Do cafes today sell alcohol? Starbucks do not, but I don’t know about smaller, privately-owned cafes. Other kinds of bars like bodegas were mentioned in the novel, and Hemingway seemed to stress the bright light and the cleanness of the cafe in comparison with the bodega which was noisy and “unpolished”. Given that we don’t say “well-lighted” any more, but “well-lit“, I wonder whether the meaning and functions of the cafe also changes over time.
  • Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    A cafe, despite its name, does not only sell coffee. It is basically a small, informal restaurant. It sells all sorts of food. Depending on the laws and practices in a particular areal, it may also sell alcohol.

    Starbucks would usually be described as a coffee shop, not a cafe - though they also sell a limited range of food, many drinks besides coffee, and (in some locations) wine and beer.


    Senior Member
    USA English
    You need to specify the location of the place you are asking about.
    The setting for the Hemingway novel is Spain.
    In my visits to Spain, including last year, it seemed as though every place sold alcohol.


    Senior Member
    English (UK)
    I think the story is set in Spain, or certainly in a Spanish speaking country. In Spain, even the smallest "cafés" seem to sell alcohol, coffee and food.
    In the UK, it is very different. There are strict laws about which premises can sell alcohol. "Cafés" or "cafeterias" do not generally sell alcohol. Places which do sell alcohol would normally be called "pubs", "bars" or "(licensed) restaurants". A licence must be obtained before alcohol can be sold from a business premises.
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