Gongol.com Archives: June 2023

Brian Gongol

June 22, 2023

Broadcasting A hot price on a place to get a cold one

Among the most foolhardy things an American can do is to go about criticizing the spending habits of others. Not only is it bad social form, it's often concern wildly misplaced. One person's frivolous extravagance is another person's means of income redistribution from the wealthy to those who are willing to supply luxuries. Let no one forget that the people most directly injured by the imposition of an excise tax on boats and private planes in the 1990s weren't the wealthy, but the people working in the industries making those goods. ■ So a measure of reserve is probably in order when considering the news that someone spent $675,000 (before taxes) to buy the bar from the set of "Cheers". Assuming the buyer is neither a bank robber nor a drug cartel kingpin, it's their cash with which to part, no matter how hard it is to rationalize writing a check for that amount. ■ Yet it does speak to something a little odd about perceptions of value to imagine spending that much money on a television prop when, for $239,000, one could purchase an entire operating bar. For the difference in price ($436,000), the buyer could turn the real tavern into a private club and keep a full-time bartender on staff. ■ "Cheers" still resonates with viewers because it offers a sort of psychological comfort food: It feels good to imagine that places exist where anyone can go without pretense or status merely to be peaceably in the company of others. And those places do exist, even if the set design is less impressive than at the Bull and Finch. (The piece looks nifty, after all, but surely a sturdier replica could be built for far less.) ■ The bar wouldn't be worth much more than its scrap value if it didn't say so much about our human sense of place -- a bit ironically, considering that people mainly congregated only among family in their own living rooms to watch the show. Yet if gathering can mean so much to us, even when only vicariously through actors on the television screen, that someone would spend several multiples of what it would cost to buy an actual operating bar just to enjoy the nostalgia of a mirage, then perhaps that ought to serve as a lesson to investors, entrepreneurs, urban planners, and others that places matter quite a lot.

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