Discovering Bar Design Ideas for Your Bar or Nightclub Space

At first, the number of bar design ideas that you can choose from seem quite overwhelming. Should you have a sports bar or an Irish pub? Would a nightclub with a dance theme attract more people in the financial district of your city, or would you be better off with a 1950’s style Martini lounge? How about a gastropub? Would that work better than a wine bar?

In the beginning, every idea seems brilliant and probably any one of them could work if applied by the right person, in the right place, and in the right way. However, you will not have every bar or pub design. You cannot use all of your bar design ideas. You will need to narrow yourself down to only those bar design ideas that match your one, specific bar or nightclub. So what factors should you use to winnow your bar or nightclub design ideas down to those that are most likely to bring you success?

Begin with the Bar or Nightclub Operator (That’s YOU!)

The first factor in determining what kind of bar or nightclub design would be best should be to consult the person who will be trying to implement that idea. In other words, you should think about how comfortable you are actually trying to run the type of bar or nightclub you are thinking of creating. If you hate most sports and have only the slightest of interests in the local team, a sports bar, even one right next to the local stadium, might not work for you. Similarly, if you don’t like spending a lot of time in a space that is filled with pounding techno, a dance club is probably not going to be your cup of tea.

Photo Courtesy of Vgenecr

Your bar design should be a reflection of YOU. Like any small organization, the founder has the greatest amount of effect on the organization’s success and gives that organization his or her own personal imprint. So, when thinking about bar design ideas you should not only throw out ideas that don’t quite match your interests, but also, look to create the kind of bar you would want to spend time in. Remember, that in order to drive a bar or nightclub design to success, you are going to have to spend night and day there for a good long while. As some bar owners will tell you, their bars are not only the places where they work, but the places they spend their days in, and the places that even creep into their dreams at night. If you are only lukewarm about the type of bar you are opening, the whole thing can quickly become a nightmare.

Finding Your Customers

Once you have narrowed the kind of bar design you want down to one or two bar or nightclub design ideas you are enthusiastic about, you then need to find the customers for your proposed venue. A hipster bar in the middle of the financial district is probably going to work just as well as an expensive wine bar by a college known for its keg parties, which is probably not very well. So you need to figure out what the ideal customers for your bar or pub design will be and then figure where you might find these customers.

What should you look for in an area?

Demographics: Does you bar design call for young college age kids, 18-30? Or, are you looking for an older professional crowd? Finding out about the demographics of an area can help you to figure out what kind of people live in the area. A good site to find out about just about any neighborhood in the United States is:

It offers fairly detailed, objective information about individual neighborhoods so that you can get a sense of everything from average age, marital status, race, income, rents, and crime.

Many local newspapers also have online data and reviews that can give you an even more in-depth feel for an area. Here is one of the best, from the LA Times:

Certain other websites will also give you a more subjective look at neighborhoods and even streets in a particular area. Here is one I especially like:

Geographical features and draws: Of course, the customers for your bar design ideas may not just be those who live in the area, but also those who come into it from the outside for work or play. If you are in the financial district of a city, for example, the city data may indicate that the average resident is relatively poor with an income of only $30K. But as anyone knows, investment bankers don’t live where they work, but they do have a lot more financial capital than those who do. Similarly, though the average income around a college may seem low, many college students have disposable income from their parents. For this reason, you want to look at what is in the area that may be drawing people and place your bar or nightclub location accordingly.

Go Bar Hopping

Once you have found what you think might be the right neighborhood for your bar design ideas, its time to dust off the beer goggles and hit the local watering holes. Find the establishments that most closely match your own bar or nightclub design ideas and hang out there for a while. Go on a few different days of the week preferably over an extended period.

What is the venue like on the week days? Does the after work crowd on Tuesday night skew differently than the Friday night crowd? Does the venue change from a pub design during the week to a nightclub design during the weekend? Do they attract more customers with special themed nights like a “trivia night” or a “girl’s night out”?

Where can you find out about local bars and club?

Google Maps is a good way of seeing what is in an area. From an aerial view you can see what restaurants and bars are on a particular street and even get a good view of the storefronts.

Yelp is a good starting point to see what locals say about a particular place and to get a feel for how much traffic a particular nightclub or bar design gets. You can set the filters on Yelp to give you only “bars” in one “neighborhood” so that you get a good feel for things.

Finally, I would also recommend websites that are specifically devoted to reviews of nightclubs and bars and hotspots. There are a few different sites but I would recommend this one as an excellent resource with a clear well-designed platform:

Borrowing Some Bar Design Ideas from Your Neighbors

Visiting these sites—both physically and digitally–can help you get even more bar design ideas. Here are some other things you should consider.

How do other bars like yours use their space? Look carefully and how the bars in your area take advantage of their spaces to create the overall aesthetic and feel of their establishments. Do they do things to divide up the space? Do they use mirrors to create a sense of greater depth? Do they intentionally create a sense of exclusivity by having a picky door? All of these things can give you bar and pub design ideas for your place.

Photo Courtesy of Beyond My Ken

How does location effect business? Here is something that might give you some insight into what drives traffic into a place. Stake out the entrance to an establishment. Watch not only where people come from but where they go when they leave. Does the watering hole benefit from being near a subway entrance on a busy street? Are client’s stopping off before heading to the theater district nearby? Is this the spot where sports fans park to hike up to the stadium of their favorite sports team? These are huge questions because when you find your own location you should stake it out in the same way to determine whether you are likely to get the free advertising of foot traffic.

With these things in mind you are now ready to find the actual location of your pub or nightclub—the actual location will open up a whole new set of questions about your bar design ideas and their applications, but that will have to wait for another time.

An Incomplete List of Themed Bar Design Ideas

Still would like some more bar or nightclub design ideas? Here are some more ideas that help get your creative juices going. You already know about sportsbars, Irish Pubs and your basic dance clubs so here are a handful of others you either may not have heard of or have forgotten about:

Dive Bar: Having a down-and-out sort of a feel makes decorating easy—just make it dingy, and some what harsh. Used furniture and out of place decorations often just add to the mystique. Make sure your bartenders don’t know how to handle a Gillette either, and you are good to go.

Gastropub: Coming from the word “gastronomy,” Gastropubs are technically supposed to offer higher quality pub foods (if that is possible). In practice, however, most Gastropubs actually focus their gourmet palates on having extensive hand-crafted and exotic beers. A great type of a restaurant for an area between a college and a commercial or financial area as these attract denizens of both.

German Biergarten: Like other ethnically themed watering holes, the German Biergarten comes with its own expectations in terms of pub design. You will need to have an outdoor area, usually with benches (space heaters for cooler summer nights) and an indoor, often cellar look. If you don’t look good in lederhosen and funny Bavarian caps, consider getting flirty waitresses who do and lots of pilsner and authentic beer mugs. (To cater to a hipster crowd try to go over the top and make it as kitschy as possible—the scruffy hair and vintage shirt set loves that kind of an aesthetic.)

Hipster Bar: These come in lots of varieties but one element that is fairly common to them is that they tend to involve some kind of kitschy element where some theme is taken too far. It also helps to set up shop in one of the hot hipster areas. For example, in LA the Echo Park and Silverlake areas are currently hipster havens.

Photo Courtesy of Pil56

Karaoke Bar: You may have thought this bar design idea went out with the 80’s, but you would be wrong. There is little people love more than getting drunk and butchering rock standards.

Martini Lounge: First of all, to be a lounge you must either have couches, banquettes or at the very least booths. Given the current popularity of Mad Men, Martini Lounges in the classy, straightforward vein are making a big comeback. You can also go for the kitschy side of this however, and get a hipster crowd in to watch your lounge lizard perform.

Tiki Bar: A Polynesian Themed drinking establishment. These places are often postage stamp sized holes in the wall, with bamboo walls, hula girl figurines in various states of of undress, bartenders in Hawaiian print shirts, and, of course, the tiki face masks or statues (like on the famous Brady Bunch episodes). Drinks tend to be strong with unusual concoctions with names like “Kamikaze” or “Tomorrow’s Hangover” being a staple. Lot’s of fun and great mix for dive bar design themes.

Wine Bar: Fairly self-explanatory I think. Make sure you are a wine fanatic—your ideal clients will be.

Okay, hopefully that was enough to get your creative juices flowing.

Filed Under: Bar / Nightclub BusinessBar / Nightclub DesignBar BusinessNightclub BusinessStarting a BarStarting a NightclubStarting Your Bar/Nightclub BusinessUncategorized


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