The focal point of any bar is the bar itself. The bar is the place where customers gather to sit comfortably, stand around to socialize, and make a goal of squeezing into on a busy night. The bar is where they drink, where they eat, watch the game, make friends with the staff, find out about drink specials and future events, where they lay their money down in good times and bad.
Building a great bar business often starts with building a great bar. This is where most of your money will be made, so you want it to be visually appealing as well as comfortable enough to spend long hours, not to mention functional for your working staff so that the business behind the bar goes as smoothly as possible.
Wallace and Hinz, in Blue Lake, California, is known as “The Great American Bar Company” and has been making fine, hand-crafted bars for over thirty years. Originally founded by a furniture maker and a glass blower, the company now provides everything an owner needs to complete his or her main bar area – the design, consultation and installation of the bar itself, benches and seating, as well as back bar coolers and other equipment (via their partnership with Perlick).
“We try to find out the customer’s level of experience so we know where to start,” says Tom Tellez, owner. “Commercial owners usually have a lot of experience and know exactly what they want and where they want to start. For those that need guidance, we ask them a lot of questions and try to understand their personality, the essence of what they want their bar to be.
“There are so many details in a bar and it can be really overwhelming,” he continues. “Sometimes the bar managers know more about the functionality of a bar, and for others it’s a side investment. We have a “BYOB”—or Build Your Own Bar—on our Web site. We ask owners to answer a series of questions to tell us how tall the ceilings are, how long of a bar they want, is it an L-shaped bar, a straight bar or a sports bar? It asks questions about their staff, as well.”
Wallace and Hinz has extensive experience crafting and installing their handiwork in different types of venues – from the typical local pub establishment, to lounges and hotel bars, all customized to the customer’s needs and desires for their bar. But their expertise doesn’t end there.
The Wallace and Hinz staff of millworkers often produces the smaller elements of décor that a bar needs to create cohesion between the bar itself and the remainder of the interior. Coffered ceilings, entryways, arches, moldings and trims, as well as customized wall panels can all be hand carved and installed throughout your bar to create a complete entity. Partitions and booths can also be made to spec according to the vision of the owner.
“We come up with the best bar design we can every time,” says Tellez. “We make our recommendations based on the type of business it is, but owners have good reasons for wanting things a certain way and so we let them design it.
“If there is going to be a lot of food served at the bar, we don’t recommend a typical saloon rail because your customers will have to lean far forward to get to their plate,” Tellez goes on. “With traditional saloon rails, the shape of the arm rail is made for the forearm. Traditionally old bars were shallow so you could just stand there, and the foot rail took pressure off of the lower back. Those old styles are not friendly to modern day bar stools or eating at the bar.”
Choosing seating for your bar area can be difficult, although at first it may seem as though any old stools will do. You’ll want to choose a seating option that fits well with the interior theme of your bar, while at the same is comfortable to sit on for long periods of time.
Opting for bar height chairs or stools with heavier bases is wise – you wouldn’t want your patrons wobbling to-and-fro, or worse, right to the floor. At the same time, you wouldn’t want them to be so heavy that people cannot shift them over when trying to get the bartender’s attention. Another consideration is durability – do you want to invest in fabric-upholstered chairs that absorb brown spirits and wing sauce but can’t be cleaned well? Or do you want ones that are upholstered in an easy-to-clean fabric that will withstand spilled drinks?
Modern Line Furniture, Rahway, New Jersey, manufactures and supplies a line of bar stools and seating styles for different types of bars and nightclubs. The company provides various affordable, and easily replaceable seating options for your bar that are both comfortable and durable.
If your bar is meant to be one where clients will sit for hours on end, sipping cocktails and chatting the night away with friends, Modern Line’s wenge and leather bar chairs are padded for comfort, and available in either white or black. For a more casual environment where patrons are doing more standing than sitting, or where the look of your bar calls for seating without too much decoration, the company’s solid wenge veneered, low-back stool is available in both bar height and bar table height, allowing owners to match their bar seating with that of their side tables. This model also features a footrest, in case you opted not to install one on your bar.
If an owner is looking for something in between casual and elegant, or wants seating that is simple but still sleek and modern, Modern Line’s high-backed cushioned bar stool is perfect for different interior themes, and coordinates with most bar settings, as it is available in neutral colors – beige and brown.
Owners looking for a great way to highlight the main bar area in a cost effective, energy-efficient way can look to Light Tape® Systems from Electro-LuminX Lighting Corporation, in Chester, Virginia. Light Tape is an electroluminescence that comes in widths from ¼ inch to 24 inch wide panels, and generates light similar to the way plasma televisions are backlit.
Light Tape is available is a variety of colors and can be applied in numerous ways around your bar, whether as accent lighting under the bar, or to highlight back bar premium liquor shelves.
“It’s super-easy to install on your own,” says Lauren Venable, Marketing Manager for Light Tape. “Our Light Tape Extreme Series has a lifetime of 30,000 to 40,000 hours, and is very energy efficient. For a one-inch strip of Light Tape it’s 40% more energy efficient than LEDs, and the half-inch is 80% more efficient than LEDs. It’s only about $100 per year for operating costs.”
Weighing less than a quarter-pound per square foot, Light Tape requires virtually no maintenance over the course of its lifetime, and its applications vary. The system’s panel option can be installed on your bar top as a visual draw, or you can backlight a nearby wine or glass rack with the panel options. And, just as Wallace and Hinz can extend the decorative accents of your bar throughout the interior, Light Tape is customized to order. It can be used to highlight door frames and exit signs, VIP areas, or stairs throughout your entire venue to create a comprehensive, visually appealing interior décor.
When building your bar, owners still need to keep the project relative to the cost of the venue as a whole. Choosing with vendors that are used to working with various sized budgets and can help you produce a bar that is cost-effective but still beautiful is key. “I have yet to see a bar that ends up being within the bar’s budget,” says Tellez. “Whether it’s the equipment or the city planner putting a hurt on their layout, people tend to be plan way under budget. Preparing for unforeseen costs will take off a lot of the stress in the long run.”
With the extensive planning and innumerable details that go into the design and installation of your bar or club, keeping the focus on the bar itself is crucial. While you don’t want to forfeit attention to maintaining a consistent theme and to keeping your original vision alive, it’s important to always keep in mind that majority of your revenue is coming from one particular place—the bar.