Fern bar is an American slang term for an upscale or preppy (or yuppie) bar or tavern catering to singles usually decorated with ferns or other "fussy" plants, as well as such decor as fake Tiffany lamps. The phrase came into common use in the late 1970s or early 1980s.
An early establishment that many consider the world's first fern bar, not to mention the birthplace of the lemon drop martini, was Henry Africa's in San Francisco, California. The bar was started in 1970 at Broadway and Polk Streets by out-of-work veteran Norman Hobday, who by his own account "took the opium-den atmosphere out of the saloons" in favor of "antique lamps and Grandma's living-room furniture." By some accounts Hobday copied the concept from another restaurant, Perry's, which opened several months earlier and was made famous as a singles "meet market" by Armistead Maupin's novel, Tales of the City.
Typical drinks served included wine spritzers, Lemon drop martinis, frozen daiquirís, Harvey Wallbangers, and piña coladas. Franchises sometimes labeled "fern bars" include T.G.I. Friday's, Bennigan's, and Houlihan's.
Fern bars were a gathering place for well-dressed "upscale" young men and women, initially during the sexual revolution of the 1970s and later the yuppie era of the 1980s. Frequenters were pejoratively felt to be more interested in seeing each other and being seen than in simply drinking and talking, as might be expected in a more typical dive bar.
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