Liquor License describes and analyzes the public drinking place, one type of conventional social setting. In American society, the specific name for such a place varies from one geographical area to another and often from one group to another. They may be called bars, taverns, cocktail lounges, night clubs, roadhouses, saloons, cabarets, beer gardens, and occasionally, gin mills, bistros, or pubs. But in many respects, regardless of the particular term that designates them, the category of such settings is characterized by a typical configuration of time, space, and objects associated with public behavior. Cavan brilliantly describes this unique setting, in this widely reviewed classic, now available in paperback.
The persons present in the public drinking place customarily include many who are oriented toward the setting as something other than a place of work—the patrons, for whom the setting is expected to be "unserious." It is the patrons’ expectancy of unseriousness, and how this expectancy can modify the proprieties governing public conduct, that are of primary concern.
Specifically, the sociological questions include: What are the courses of action that have the character of taking place and being expected to take place in such settings as a matter of course, without question? What kinds of assumptions would be required to generate these courses of action as regular and recurrent phenomena? Stated quite simply: What do such settings look like; and how is it that they could look like that in the first place? This is a unique piece of ethnography that has lost little of its luster in the age of computer dating.