Lonely Planet Writer

Why a New York bar has banned customers from using the word “literally”

A New York City bar has taken a stand against the overuse of the word, “literally”, announcing that customers heard uttering the adverb will be asked to leave on the spot.

The sign was recently hung in the front window of Continental in New York City's East Village.
The sign was recently hung in the front window of Continental in New York City’s East Village. Image by Eden, Janine and Jim / CC BY 2.0

The unique rule was introduced at Continental, an East Village establishment that describes itself as a, “classy dive bar with the best Jukebox in NYC”. The bar recently hung a sign in the front window that reads, “Sorry but if you say the word ‘literally’ inside Continental you have 5 minutes to finish your drink and then you must leave.” The sign also states that if customers start a sentence with the word, they will be asked to leave immediately.

The sign has since gone viral, after some customers and passers-by shared pictures of it on social media, leading to widespread debate, amusement, and some upset. However, Continental’s owner Trigger Smith has since said that the sign was never serious. “It was always a joke. If I enforced it, we’d have to kick literally every one!” he told Lonely Planet Travel News.

The bar is situated in New York’s East Village. Image by Getty

The proprietor also said that while he thought the sign might trend a bit locally, he never expected it to go viral and be read all over the world. People disagreeing with the rule won’t have to put up with it for too long however, as recently Continental announced on its website that it would be closing its doors after 27 years at the end of June, with a developer set to take over the property.

Khloe Kardashian of the reality TV family, who have been accused of over use of the word.  Image by Starzfly/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Modern usage of the word “literally” has seen its meaning and implication shifting, with definitions even adapting as a result. When the adverb is searched on Google, an explanation reading, “In a literal manner or sense; exactly” is given, alongside an informal definition that states, “Used for emphasis while not being literally true”.

In recent times, other establishments and institutions have started to enforce unique rules for diners, customers, and visitors, such as the British Michelin-starred restaurant that banned Instagram and the Swiss town that requested that visitors don’t take photographs to stop other people getting jealous.