The Open-Bar Effect Is All Too Real

People drink more — and differently — when drinks are free, a survey suggests.

Cold Moscow Mules - Ginger Beer, lime and Vodka on bar

Cold Moscow Mules - Ginger Beer, lime and Vodka

Cold Moscow Mules - Ginger Beer, lime and Vodka on bar

Photo by: Lukas Gojda ©Kesu

Lukas Gojda, Kesu

Two words that can make the difference between a fun party and a really fun party: open bar.

But do people really drink more when they can sidle up to the bartender and order whatever beverage pops into their heads, and then sidle away, albeit less soberly, without paying for it out of their own pockets?

The conventional wisdom – and our own eyes at any party, wedding or event with an open bar we have ever been to in our lives – would say, emphatically, yes. But now there is a study that adds statistical evidence to support this truism.

More than half of partygoers (53.4 percent) say they drink more at an event with an open bar than they would at one with a regular cash bar, a survey of more than 1,000 people conducted by Niznik Behavioral Health, a national rehabilitative treatment organization, determined.

How much more? On average alcohol consumption increases about 47 percent at an open-bar event, the study revealed. Both men and women tend to drink about two more drinks at an open bar than they would at a cash bar event.

“At a regular bar, men averaged just under four drinks, while women averaged around three. At an open bar, though, both genders tacked on nearly two additional drinks, with 5.6 drinks for men and 4.6 drinks for women,” the team conducting the survey noted.

People also adjust their drinks of choice at a party with an open bar, saying they are 99 percent less likely to drink beer when drinks at an event are on the house and 52 percent more likely to drink liquor.

“Perhaps those who visit an open bar feel beer doesn’t make sense if they have free liquor and better-tasting cocktails at hand,” the survey suggested. (Ya think? Bring on the free fancy cocktails!)

In the end, though, the joy of an open bar definitely depends on your perspective. About 91 percent of guests say they enjoy themselves at open bars – but only 44 percent of hosts say they do.

Clearly, ordering all the craft cocktails you care to drink is more fun if you’re not the one who’s paying.

Photo: iStock

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