Enough with the televisions

I live in the West End and the proliferation of TVs in restaurants is officially out of hand. What started out as a sports bar thing years ago and ostensibly a choice, is now an in-your-face fixture that is growing increasingly difficult to avoid. In cafes, diners, takeout joints, and even your finer dining establishments, there it blazes, the unblinking idiot-box eye—an intrusion and distraction that I never asked for. Did anybody? Was there some kind of soft revolution that I missed out on whereupon the masses demanded television with their restaurant fare? And the larger and more plentiful the screens, the better?

Among the grim assaults to the senses, I've been submitted to ultimate fighting with Indian, suicide bomber aftermath with a burger, American Idol with Italian, and of course hockey with everything, as if there can be no possibility of the existence in this town of anyone who doesn't give a shit about Our Most Glorious Sport.

What if I don't want to watch TV? Even if you are not technically watching, it's still intrusive; trying not to watch becomes as irritating as watching. Requests to shut the box off have taught me that the best I can hope for is a channel change or a dip in the volume, with a change of seats sometimes reluctantly granted if the screen is looming over your head like an interrogation lamp.

Out of the five places in the West End that I would call regular haunts, the saturation is now complete, some with the TV presence now so obnoxious that they've lost my business. And that's the only choice left: put up with it or forget the once not unreasonable expectation of the relaxed, pleasant experience of going out to eat. Do we have to shrug and mutter, "Well, I guess you can't do anything about it—it's here to stay" about everything?



Chris Slater

Mar 15, 2010 at 10:15am

If enough people stop going and also write a comment card or just a note to let management know the reason they will not be receiving their money, then maybe the restaurants will wise-up and pull the screens.

I'm guessing a lot of these places put them up because of the Olympics. I bet we'll start seeing them come down now, though probably at a much slower rate if we don't vote with our feet (and money).

Ron van der Eerden

Mar 15, 2010 at 10:24am

I agree and I've let the staff of these places know why I won't be back. Write letters to the owners too. It's a good excuse to find new places. And let them know why you've come to check their place out. Vote with your dollars.


Mar 15, 2010 at 11:26am

The beautiful thing about living in a free-market society is that you have another option: quit whining, put your money where your mouth is and open up your own restaurant or bar without TVs. That is, IF you believe there are enough people who share your preferences about what should/shouldn't be in a bar to make it worth your while.

The point is that there are TVs everywhere because the demand is there. Case in point: The Alibi Room in Gastown. They were dead set against TVs, so much so that the owner said several times that you would NEVER see a TV in his bar. That is, of course, until the opening weekend of the Olympics when all of a sudden his very popular establishment was virtually deserted. By Tuesday he had TVs.

Sorry, Rod, but you're in the minority here, and unfortunately the minority doesn't pay the bills. It's a very competitive industry and the reality is that TVs = $$$. For every one of you that won't go into a place with TVs there are 5 or 6 people that WON'T go into an establishment unless they're showing the Canucks.


Mar 15, 2010 at 12:18pm

Brilliantly stated! Couldn't agree more.


Mar 15, 2010 at 2:48pm

There are now TV's at dentist & doctor offices and business news in banks. DVD players are in cars and vans for that long trip to the grocery store. Hey, maybe we need them in shopping carts too!

It is a sign of the times. The human need for constant stimulation. No point in quietly waiting in line with one's own thoughts. Pop a pill, have a drink, play some slots, and watch TV. No need for conversation.


Mar 15, 2010 at 3:20pm

Thanks, Jim - good advice. I'm working on opening that restaurant right now. Also, I'm starting work on a film, because I wasn't all that knocked out by the last couple I saw - so I should go make my own. I just hope I like the new novel I bought, because I'm not sure if I'm going to have time to write a book what with the all the restaurant and movie stuff going on.


Mar 15, 2010 at 4:02pm

Seems like you missed my point completely, RF. I was being somewhat facetious with my first paragraph. The point was that the reason so many bars and restaurants install TVs is to meet demand. If people who wanted TV free dining truly did outnumber those that wanted to "stare at idiot boxes" then that would be reflected in what you see in the marketplace. If you think all of the restaurant owners in town invest the time and money into installing TVs simply because they like pissing off the hipsters without seeing $$$ returns, then your imagination may well be wacky enough to actually write a decent novel or screenplay!

The reality is that demand drives the marketplace. Period. Restaurants and bars are installing TVs because that's what the majority dictates! Like I said, go talk to the owner of Alibi to get a concrete example of this principle in action.

I know people don't like being told that their views and opinions are in the minority, and I'm not trying to be a jerk about this, but take a look around and think about it critically for a sec. TVs cost money. Restaurants don't have a lot of money to throw around as their margins are quite small. If they are taking money and investing in TVs it's because they are SURE that is what a majority of their customer base wants and they believe they will make more money with the TVs than without. If you are so completely convinced that they are wrong, then my original comment of "open your own restaurant" stands. Prove them all wrong.

Please note that in neither post did I state whether I'm pro- or anti-TV.


Mar 15, 2010 at 6:02pm

I understand what you're saying, Jim, and I understand that most of these restaurants think it's what people want, but I really do doubt that there is a literal demand. Are there really that many people who want to watch ultimate fighting, American Idol - what have you - while out for dinner?Who asked for televisions in the banks?

It's a plague brought on by the convenience of flatscreen technology and conformity. Maybe they think a bunch of TVs make the place seem lively. I don't mind being in the minority at all, if indeed I am, because the kind of zombie who likes watching a screen every waking moment belongs to a club I'm fine with forgoing a membership in.

Because if you're right, somehow that's even worse.


Mar 15, 2010 at 11:26pm

Well, I believe the market will dictate what it wants. If over the next couple of years the TVs start to disappear then you can rest easy as there is no pending zombie invasion. If not, then Rule 1: Cardio :)