How to Design a Circular Island Bar and Back Bar

Cabaret Design Group

How do you design a circular island bar and back bar? Here’s how we redesigned a large existing circular island bar.

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Learn the tips for systematically measuring existing bars and developing ideas for re-designing a commercial bar and back bar.

HOW TO DESIGN A CIRCULAR COMMERCIAL ISLAND BAR AND BACK BAR

Photo of large island bar and back bar before resesign
LARGE ISLAND BAR & BACK BAR BEFORE REDESIGN

Shown at right is an “As-Built” plan I created in preparation of a redesign of an island bar and back bar. In other words, this is the shape of an existing bar. For redesigned bar projects I always recommend developing a record of the existing conditions. This bar had particular significance because the existing bar appeared to have a “matchbook” appearance. The lobes at each end were nearly identical in size and appeared to be symmetrical about the bar’s vertical centerline (ref. to the photo at right).

UTILITY RELOCATION CAN BE VERY COSTLY

Photo of electrical utilities in existing circular island bar
ELECTRICAL UTILITIES IN EXISTING CIRCULAR ISLAND BAR

As I mentioned, the existing bar was symmetrical, which suggested that a simple redesign solution might be attainable. However, I also realized early-on that the existing plumbing drains and electrical wiring could present complications in achieving that. As shown in these photos, attaining accurate field measurements of the sheer quantity of utilities posed a challenge. The construction of this particular building was slab-on-grade, so utility relocation would have been very costly.

HOW TO FIELD-MEASURE EXISTING UTILITIES OF CIRCULAR ISLAND BARS

Photo depicting the use of floor tile grids to measure circular bars
FOR CIRCULAR BARS MEASURE EXISTING CONDITIONS USING FLOOR TILE GRIDS

Because of the extreme cost of relocation, the new island bar design would be required to encapsulate the existing utilities. Most importantly, I needed to verify the exact location of all utilities before proceeding to the design process, and this particular bar posed a formidable hurdle: how does one locate utilities in a circular bar?

CREATING YOUR OWN MEASURING SYSTEM:

Unless you own a total station GPS system, you have to get creative. After measuring countless commercial buildings over the years, what I’ve developed is the next-best thing: create your own 2-axis measuring system! Nearly every commercial building has tile floors and this becomes built-in graph paper! In other words, because we know the distance from a known point to the floor drain, we can then set-up our own grid. In this manner we can verify the horizontal and vertical distance to each other point from this point – so, this is how to set-up your own 2-axis system.

BAR DESIGN TIP:

Verify all measurements through the existing flooring grid or snap chalk lines (ref. to the photo above, right). A word of caution: always measure twice!


HOW DO YOU DESIGN A COMMERCIAL ISLAND BAR?

Architectural plan of 2-axis measuring system for existing circular island bars
SKETCH OF 2-AXIS MEASURING SYSTEM FOR CIRCULAR ISLAND BAR DESIGN

As I mentioned earlier, my goal was to use the symmetry of the existing circular island bar to develop a symmetrical multi-sided bar.

  • Realizing that I had physical constraints at both ends of the bar, my first step was to develop a rough draft.
  • The aisle clearance of 52 ¼” at the right end is within the accepted range of 48” – 60”.
  • The bartender aisle clearances of 78” within each end station are a bit excessive, but the majority of the bartender’s movements have been designed to be primarily side-to-side.
  • If I had chosen to minimize these aisles we wouldn’t have adequate aisles around the island back bar.
  • Lastly, I designed each station to have 8’ of speed rails, which is an ideal quantity. Realizing that the center (connecting) section would likely be retained,

HOW TO ESTABLISH SYMMETRY IN CIRCULAR BAR DESIGN

I focused my effort on drawing a concept of the left end and then copied, flipped and pasted it to the other, to test my concept. After several iterations, you’ll notice that the right-end of the bar is very similar to the left end, as shown in the plan, below, left. Next, I created a first draft of the new bar by drawing the new bar tops and overlaying them over the existing. Although the bottom segments of each side aren’t exact, this imparts a distinctive appearance. This bar is, indeed, symmetrical about its vertical axis. A quick equipment layout of each side confirms that we’re on the right track. A gate was drawn on each side of the bar for convenient personnel access.

Also included is a preliminary concept for the island back bar that will house the expanded draft beer towers (the draft beer system expanded from eight brands to 24 brands).

Having trouble with your bar planning? Contact Us Today!

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