ADA Design for Commercial Bars and Restaurants

Cabaret Design Group

Confused about the ADA design requirements for accessible bar design? In 5 minutes I’ll teach you the latest bar dimension standards for ADA compliance.


Why am I such a big proponent of designing commercial bars for ADA accommodations? The Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”), passed in 1990, is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. In other words, ADA is a federal law! Hence, we encourage all our bar design clients to comply with the most-current ADA design specifications. However, the ADA regulations are very confusing. It’s challenging for many design professionals to reference a single governing document on ADA compliant-code. Today I’m going to share these guidelines and some of my actual bar designs to help illustrate these ADA design ideas and solutions.


The general dimensional criteria we use when designing ADA-compliant design for seating at commercial bars is found in the following FAQ’s:


Yes. According to Hank Falstad, AIA, of Access Technologies Services, "The greater problem seems to be that many design professionals are only following IBC, which is vague (it doesn’t specifically address bar seating separately from other seating). However, ADA defines 5% (but not less than one) seating for bars, separately from the 5% for table seating."   

  • 30" of width for each accommodation.
  • 48" of depth, measured from the face of the finished bar front.
  • The bar top shall not be greater than 34" above the finished floor and shall provide 19" of leg clearance from the face of the finished bar front.
  • The cross aisle to the rear of the accommodation cannot infringe on the 48" envelope.

Architectural details of built-in ADA accommodations for bars 


What I just outlined is the easy part! The hard part of incorporating a pass-thru ADA design is adapting standard bar equipment to function within the 34″ height constraint. In commercial bar design we utilize every square inch of space. Therefore, we must develop a solution for modifying the equipment. Consider the following detail for a double ADA accommodation (refer to Figure 2, below):

  • In most instances we specify a 3 cm bar top and ¾” of plywood underlayment.
  • The resulting vertical clearance leaves is slightly greater than 32” for the respective under bar equipment.
  • Most commercial under bar equipment is 37” tall, but certain components can be modified.
  • No doubt the cost will increase for one or two pieces. However, efficient use of the entire under bar space justifies this cost.
  • Most commercial bar sinks, drainboards and ice bins can be modified. We normally specify that the backsplash and legs be reduced by 3” each. This will minimize back strain for the bartenders.
  • In order to beautify the ADA station, we recommend tall side panels from the same material as the bar tops.
  • For a customized appearance, the end panels need to be 4” taller than the adjacent bar tops. This creates a way of trimming the upper bar, while also creating a backsplash.
Architectural drawing for alternate method of installing a pass-thru built-in ADA seating accommodations for bars


Whether you’re remodeling your bar or embarking on a new construction project, you should strongly consider adhering to the current ADA design standards. It will be well worth your effort to meet the most restrictive design standards for ADA design for bars.


My favorite reference book for architectural standards:


DISCLAIMER: The above video and description contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small commission. This helps support the channel and allows us to continue to make videos like this. Thank you for the support!

Need Help with your bar plans?

Designing a bar can be time-consuming and frustrating. Contact us today for your free consultation!
Your Ad Could Be Here on Cabaret Design Group Website
Your Ad Could Be Here on Cabaret Design Group Website
Your Ad Could Be Here on Cabaret Design Group Website
Your Ad Could Be Here on Cabaret Design Group Website