Disappointed? Wisconsin's “bar per capita” champion is not Eau Claire
by Mike Paulus
I’m sure you’ve heard it quoted by friends, and you’ve probably quoted it yourself – the unverified fun fact that Eau Claire has more bars and taverns per capita than any city in Wisconsin. Many variations on this concept have popped up over time, sometimes focusing only on Water Street, claiming that particular stretch of road all by itself has the most bars per capita or by square feet or what have you in the entire state or even nation. Most people quoting that “fact” do so with a sense of pride.
Well, Eau Claire ain’t got nothing on Egg Harbor.
According to the researchin’ reporters over at the Green Bay Press-Gazette, the little, unassuming, somewhat dorky sounding community of Egg Harbor holds more liquor licenses per capita than any other place in Wisconsin. The liquor licenses cover everything from taverns and restaurants to golf courses and gas stations. Located in Door County, this berg has one liquor outlet for every nine residents.
But to keep it in perspective, we’re talking about 21 licenses and 201 residents for a community located in one of the state’s tourism meccas. So, perhaps little ol’ Egg Harbor’s hooch love isn’t quite so impressive.
At any rate, I’m curious as to the origins of Eau Claire’s claim to having the most bars. Has some iteration of that ever been proven? See Volume One answer man Frank Smoot's response below!
According to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Wisconsin boosts 17,000 licensed liquor establishments, with a population of 5.7 million.
On Eau Claire's "bars per capita" status ...
At one time or another, both Advertising Age and Rand McNally ("Places Rated") said that Eau Claire is the Wisconsin winner in taverns per capita. For a long time (maybe since the Fifties), Merrill has argued that it's the winner and in fact has twice as many per cap as Eau Claire. (I'm definitely on Merrill's side of this argument.)
La Crosse has claimed that it has more taverns per capita than any other U.S. city "of its size." (Which seems like a direct challenge to Eau Claire.) Milwaukee supposedly has the most taverns per capita of any "metro area" in the U.S.
It's all very hard to sort out. I’ve not seen any city/tavern data myself.
There's no doubt, however, that on the county level (I have seen this data myself), Iron County has the most taverns per capita, about 10 TIMES as many taverns per capita as EC County.
Photo by elviskennedy