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It has become a familiar scene: You walk into a bar, and at first glance the place seems empty. Nobody sitting on the bar stools, nobody standing at the rail. Then you check the walls and get a jolt: Lounging in sunken, retro, big-cushion sofas are a bunch of nose-ringed, baggy-panted puds, sipping their strawberry-blond microbrews and generally sulking. Even a perfectly fine beer joint like Madam’s Organ has succumbed to the trend, installing not only sofas but coffee tables in its once-stark upstairs poolrooms. The advent of couch bars represents the final insult of the theme-bar revolution, turning taverns and pubs into your parent’s and grandparent’s living rooms. Now ain’t that hip? Beyond the implicit “irony” of hanging out in exactly the same posture as you would at home, the kids love the new setup because it lets them really relax and get some rest after a long day of temping. Whether these amateurs like it or not, drinking in a public house is serious business even when it’s enjoyable, but this faux-frumpy furniture tries to make the ancient ritual into a supremely casual affair. It’s the final degradation of the mead halls of old into cozy family dens for Zima lovers. Leave it to our solipsistic youth to hit the town only to retreat to the comfy couch, that symbol of spectator society, that refuge for cowards. What’s next, water-bed bars? Doubly annoying is the simultaneous fad of hookah bars, in which these couch potatoes toke on designer tobacco and pretend they’re catching a buzz. Hey kids, to have an opium den, you’ve got to smoke opium. You dig? And if you can’t be stand-up about your drinking, why not just settle in at home with a 12-pack and a rerun of The Real World? —Eddie Dean