Bars are social spaces where people from all walks of life can sit down and enjoy drinks together. This core principle of the bar reaches all the way back to ancient times, where Greeks and Romans established taverns as places for people to congregate, drink alcohol, and socialize. Over the centuries, bars have evolved in appearance and the specific types of amenities they offer, but the idea at the heart of the bar remains the same: a place where people can kick back, socialize, and enjoy themselves.
Along with the usual activities of drinking and socializing, games are another way for people enjoy themselves in a bar. One game that you’ll likely encounter often is the game of darts. It’s a common sight to see a group of tipsy people tossing darts at a board with no semblance of accuracy – though they’re certainly enjoying themselves. With its combination of simplicity and enduring popularity, you may have wondered about the origin of this classic bar game. This blog will give a brief rundown of the evolution of darts, and its implementation in bars worldwide.
Slow and Steady Growth
One appeal of darts lies in its ease of access: anyone can pick a dart up and throw it at a board. Of course, the amount of technique and skill required to throw darts accurately is what separates a novice from a skilled player, but for a group of people looking for a bar game to play, darts are a great way to relax and have a good laugh.
The game of darts is a firmly British one, though its origins are most likely placed during the Dark Ages. As such, there aren’t many solid recordings of the development of the game of darts during this time. Most historians agree that darts originated among British soldiers, as both a pastime and a way to practice their aim. Legends dictate that the earliest darts players, who were soldiers, would throw spearheads at various targets, including alcohol containers and tree trunks. The game would grow steadily in popularity until the 19th century, during which it was played by everyone from English nobles to commoners.
Darts and Bars: a Match Made in Heaven?
In 1896, a standardized ruleset for darts was finally established by Brian Gamlin, a carpenter. Finally, people could agree on the game and darts could be widely enjoyed by bar goers – in theory, at least. In practice, that’s not what happened.
Instead of being embraced with open arms by bars, taverns, and pubs across the United Kingdom, darts were a controversial topic. Forms of gambling were outlawed at the time, and darts, termed a “game of chance” due to its high skill gap and enjoyment in bars, fell under this category.
In 1908, a bar owner was taken to court for hosting darts games in his bar. The case was dismissed, setting a precedent for allowing darts in bars and taverns. By the 1930s, darts were played in bars, taverns, and pubs worldwide, finally earning its place among bar goers from all walks of life.
To this day, darts enjoy widespread popularity at both the amateur and professional levels, played by anyone from bar goers to professional darts players, and being hosted in bars and official darts tournaments. Next time you stop by your local Johnny’s Bar & Grill, play a game of darts and participate in this historic game,which makes beauty out of simplicity!