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Entering a bar

Rabbi David SperlingKislev 17, 5772
582
Question
I certainly understand that it is not okay, and many times forebiden, to enter a dance club, where there are inappropritaly clad woman, and it is a gathering for immorality. My question is: is it okay to sit down in a nice quiet bar, where there aren’t too many people, and there certainly isn’t anty dancing? I find it a very enjoyable to sit down in a bar with a friend and talk over a glass of goldstar(not to get drunk,obviously). Could there be a problem with such a harmless outlet?
Answer
Shalom, I will share with you that I personally have not frequented bars, and know little of their ambiance. This being so, please realize that my answer will reflect my ignorance, and should be followed up with a Rabbi who knows both you and the exact type of bar you are referring to. But I am willing to answer you with some broad comments and concerns about this issue. Firstly there may be a problem with entering an establishment that is not kosher. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l wrote that one is not allowed to enter an unkosher restaurant, even if he is careful only to eat kosher food there, unless there are extenuating factors. The problem is one of marit ayin, that those outside will see you entering the restaurant and assume you are eating non-kosher food. On the other hand, one could argue that in the case of a bar whose major item is beer that is kosher, this concern does not exist. Why should people think you are going in to order unkosher wine or food if the majority of clients order kosher beer? The ruling on this question will change depending on what is the norm in each bar. Secondly, there may be a problem of "moshav laytzim" - sitting with a group of scoffers. If the atmosphere in the bar is one of "emptiness" (even if it is not sinful) this could well come under this category of sin. For example, in a sports bar, if there was loud and focused attention on a sporting event, with people gathered together for the purpose of jointly cheering on a sports team. Or if people gathered in the bar just to play cards or darts, and this was the focus of attention. Of course, again, each bar probably has a different atmosphere, with some being more akin to a normal restaurant, which would be permitted. Thirdly, there may be a problem of chillul Hashem - desecrating Hashem's name. If the community you live in (Jews and non-Jews alike) would view this as an inappropriate place for a "good Jewish boy" to be in, then you may be bringing disrepute to Hashem by being there. On the other hand, if it is really a "nice quiet bar" with a clean character then this may not be a problem. Even then, if you are the Chief Rabbi of your city you will probably get into trouble sitting in even the best of bars. (In other words, this law also varies according to the status of the person in question). So, my advice is, as I said, to ask your local Rabbi, who knows you and the bar. Blessings, D. Sperling.
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