- Question: [Thursday, 21st Adar 2, 5782]
Am I allowed to enter a bar and order a beverage that does not have a Kashrus concern [not wine or wine flavored etc, and does not contain other Kashrus concerns] in order to drink in the bar? Does it make any difference if it’s an alcoholic beverage [i.e. beer, whisky, vodka, etc] or not [i.e. seltzer, soda, coffee]? Is there any difference between a Jewish owned bar versus a Gentile bar and what is the status of a hotel bar which serves beverages in the lobby?
The custom of Ashkenazim is to permit ordering a drink, including an alcoholic beverage, from a bar, so long as the drink does not have any Kashrus concern, and the environment of the bar is not one contrary to Jewish values, and the values of Halacha and modesty. Thus, one may order a beverage, including an alcoholic beverage, from a bar that is found in a Hotel lobby. Likewise, one may order an alcoholic beverage from a bar that does not have partying going on inside, and the people inside are dressed and act appropriately, and in this regard it is no different than a coffee shop. However, if there is a Gentile party going on inside then it is intrinsically forbidden to eat or drink with them even if one brings his own food. Furthermore, it is forbidden for one to even be present in a bar that contains inappropriate activity for a Jew [such as Gentile music, dancing, immodest dress and the like]. This applies even if one does not order a drink at all. In this regard, it makes no difference whether the bar is owned by a Jew or a Gentile.
The above only applies for Ashkenazi Jewry, however, Sephardic Jewry are accustomed to be stringent and prohibit to sit down and drink beer [or any other alcoholic beverages] in a Gentile owned store/bar, and they may not be lenient in this matter. However, they may be lenient to order a nonalcoholic beverage, such as tea or coffee, and therefore they too may drink in a Gentile owned coffee shop, or order a nonalcoholic beverage in a hotel lobby, and appropriate bar.
Explanation: The Talmud states that the Sages [in the times of the Amoraim] prohibited the drinking of beer of a Gentile in the home of a gentile, due to fear that it can lead to intermarriage. This prohibition applies to all types of beer, whether made from wheat, barley, dates or honey. This prohibition contains various exceptions, such as that it only applies when drinking alcoholic beverages in the area of the Gentile where it was purchased, and also only applies when one drinks it in a set fashion and not simply on the run due to thirst. It is thus permitted to buy alcoholic beverages from a Gentile store and drink it at home. All this is recorded in the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch. Based on the above, it would seem that it is forbidden to order an alcoholic beverage, in a Gentile owned bar to drink it in the bar. Nonetheless, the Ashkenazi custom, as writes the Rama based on many Ashkenazi Rishonim, is to be lenient in this matter and permit drinking alcoholic beer of any type in a Gentile owned bar. The reason for this is because they claim that the beer that used to be drunk in previous times is not similar to the beer of today, as the original decree was only against beer that was made from dates and not from beer made from other sources. The difference between the beverages is that the date beer made in previous times would cause a lot greater of a closeness with a Gentile seller then would regular beer drunk today. The Achronim extend this leniency and allowance to also other alcoholic beverages and not just to beer [i.e. vodka, whisky, etc], even though there are some of today’s Poskim who are stringent in this regarding other alcoholic beverages. [The reason behind the allowance of other alcoholic beverages is not because they are not considered of importance enough to cause closeness with a Gentile but, on the contrary because they are so expensive they are considered rare enough to not need to be under a decree of the sages. It is against this point that some of today’s Poskim contend and rule the today since whiskey and the like are very common and cheap, therefore once again the decree should apply.] The Sephardi Poskim, however, negate this entire leniecny and rule that one may not rely on this custom and allowance, and that in truth it is forbidden to drink any type of beer inside of a Gentile owned store.
All the above leniencies only apply when drinking it in a bar the does not have a party of Gentiles, as to participate in the party of a Gentile contains an intrinsic prohibition, and hence certainly bars which contain dancing parties and the like contain an intrinsic prohibition for one to drink in them even non alcoholic beverages, aside for the general inappropriateness of being present in such an environment.
Sources: See Higyonei Haparsha [wasserman] Parshas Balak; See regarding the prohibition to drink beer/alcohol of gentile in gentile bar: Michaber Y.D. 114:1; Rambam Machalos Assuros 17:10; Rav Yitzchak and Rav Acha in Avoda Zara 31b; Tosafus ibid that this decree is not found in the Mishneh; See Aruch Hashulchan 114:9 regarding if this is a prohibition or custom; See regarding the Ashkenazi custom to be lenient in this by todays beer: Rama Y.D. 114:1; Darkei Moshe 114:1; Mordechi Avoda Zara Remez 819, brought in Beis Yosef 114; Agudah Avoda Zarah 21 in name of Ravayah [Avi Haezri 1060-Elef Vesamech] in name of Sefer Hayashar; Issur Viheter 43:17; Semak 224; Semag Lavin 148; Sefer Hateruma 157; Levush Y.D. 114:1; Kitzur Shu”a 38:12; Aruch Hashulchan 114:10-11; Hakashrus Behalacha [Edri] 53:4 See that this leniency likewise applies to rum, cognac, and other alcoholic beverages: Aruch Hashulchan 114:11; Daas Torah 114; See, however, Poskim who argue: Shevet Halevi 2:43 who rules to be stringent today that the alcoholic drinks are common and affordable; Chevel Nachalaso 9:27 [also prohibits due to the above reason and bishul akum]; Vetzaruch Iyun, as the cheap alcoholic beverages should be no different than beer, and the expensive ones should still retain the allowance of rarity; See Poskim who negate Rama’s leniency: Peri Chadash 114:6 [They should be protested against]; Biur Hagr”a 114:8; Lechem Hapanim 114:4; Beis Lechem Yehuda 114:2; Shulchan Gavoa 114:9; Chochmas Adam 66:14 writes a Baal Nefesh is to be stringent; Kaf Hachaim 114:10-11; See Bach 114 who seems to understand that even the Rama and Ashkenazim should be stringent, and it is a mere Limud Zechus See regarding the Sephardic custom to be stringent to prohibit this: Shulchan Gavoa 114:9; Zivcheiy Tzedek 114:8;-9 Kaf Hachaim 114:11-12; Hakashrus Behalacha [Edri] 53:4; See regarding the prohibition to drink by the party of a gentile: Michaber Y.D. 151:1; Avoda Zara 8; Taz Y.D. 152:1 rules the prohibition is due to intermarriage; Chesed Leavraham Y.D. 26 in understanding of Taz ibid; Chaim Beyad 29; Darkei Teshuvah 152:1-5; Other opinions: Some Poskim rule the prohibition only applies to joining a party of gentiles with religious affiliation to idolatry, and only if it will not cause enmity. [implication of Derisha 152 who questions to permit due to Eiva; Shach 152:1 and in Nekudos Hakesef ibid; See Chesed Leavraham ibid