Small Bar Design Ideas and Tips

How to design small bars

What is the trick for small bar design? In this article we’ll discuss ideas and tips and the minimum equipment requirements. 

WHO NEEDS THEM?

Not everyone has the ideal amount of space for a three-station bar. These are the likely candidates:

  • Fine dining restaurants, because their mission is maximizing the number of tables.
  • Private clubs.
  • Smaller venues.

Casual dining restaurants promote larger bars that often allow patrons to eat at the bar.

SMALL BAR DESIGN FOR FINE DINING RESTAURANT

SPACE REQUIREMENTS FOR SMALL BAR DESIGN

Any bar that occupies about 100 square feet falls into this category. As I’ve written, the L shaped bar is the best bar shape for restaurants. Wait staff orders are designated for the return-side of the bar, thereby maximizing the seating. This allows for a second bartender during peak periods. The bar shown in the sketch below is roughly 13′ 5″ x 8′ 4″, which is 112 square feet.

Architectural plan of L shaped bar equipment design

Here are the two most critical space requirements:

  • The bartender aisle should be 30″ – 36”. A 36″  aisle provides enough room for a bar back.
  • If the room is narrow, leave 48″ of clearance from the bar edge (where patrons rest their elbows) to the line of permanent obstructions.

BAR DESIGN NEEDS TO BE PRACTICAL

In the real world, we sometimes stretch the rules to achieve a better overall solution. I used a 38 1/4″ bartender aisle because it enabled me to maximize the ice bin on the return side (refer to above photo and plan). The bartender space is of the utmost importance. For limited-use rooms you can use the following design criteria:

  • The bartender aisle needs to be 30”. This does not support a bar back.
  • For groups of 25 – 50, the bartender aisle can be as small as 24”, but only for bars less than 10 feet in length.

BAR EQUIPMENT FOR SMALL BAR DESIGN

For those designing bars for narrow rooms, the back bar should be reduced by 12″. Eliminate the back bar cooler and use a slide-top cooler in the front bar. In this instance, dedicate the back bar to bottle display and cabinetry. For the back bar, use a 12” deep cabinet with a countertop set to match the bar top height (42″ – 45”).

Here’s an example of the equipment you should implement, along with downloadable specification sheets:

Be sure to check-out my post on the cost of bar equipment. Pricing is frequently updated.

THE BEST LOCATION FOR A POS STATION

With these bars, there is virtually no space available on the back bar for a POS station. Many of today’s POS companies feature iPad terminals. The compact design of the iPad enables us to place a POS station in the front bar without interrupting the bar top.

BAR DESIGN TIP

Hands-down, the best location for a POS station is the front bar because it reduces bartender movement.

Photo of Custom POS Station
CUSTOM POS STATION

HOW TO IMPLEMENT SODA LINES TO A REMOTE BAR

Soda lines have to be brought to your ice bin cold plate to have mixers for your drinks. The problem it seems, is your BIB is on the other side of the building. This actually isn’t a problem at all. Soda lines are routinely run hundreds of feet in casino bars. Typically, local syrup and CO2 vendors are very helpful in accommodating this type of request. Your current bag-in-the-box location will be modified to simultaneously service a remote bar. The good news is syrup vendors normally provide this service – along with soda guns – free-of-charge!

Need Help with your bar plans?

Designing a bar can be time-consuming and frustrating. Contact us today for your free consultation!