How to Design the Most Effective and Popular Bar

Cabaret Design Group

How do you design the most effective and popular bar? In this article we’ll discuss how basic bar design concepts are critical and essential to effective and popular bars.

With some careful planning, you can have the best bar you could ever imagine — an island bar. In this discussion about bar design, you’ll discover the elements that contribute to the ideal bar.

THE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT TO EFFECTIVE AND SUCCESSFUL BAR DESIGN 

The most important aspect to successful bar design is proper space planning. The island bar is the bestmost effective shape for bar owner profits. Island bars are commonly rectangular or curved. The rectangular island bar is the most economical shape and the curved is the least. However, if WOW-factor is your goal, nothing beats a curved bar (see Figure 1, below).

WHY ISLAND BARS ARE SO EFFICTIVE

Island bars are optimal for patron interaction and create an overall festive atmosphere that enables patrons to move about freely. After all, who wants to sit a bar and look at a wall? I cover bar shapes more thoroughly in another post.

BAR DESIGN TIP:

Island bars are best suited for hotel lobbies, theme restaurants and sports bars. They aren’t effective for fine dining restaurants.

Architectural plan of elliptical island bar
FIGURE 1. PLAN OF ELLIPTICAL ISLAND BAR

HOW MANY BARTENDERS DO I NEED?

The bar design process begins by determining the quantity of bartenders needed. This is defined by the occupant load:

  • For bars serving wine, beer and alcohol, factor one bartender for every 75 patrons.
  • Factor one bartender for every 100 patrons for bars serving wine and beer only.

STANDARD BAR DIMENSIONS

The key to all of this is understanding the standard bar clearances. The most effective bars are designed from the inside-out. First we must address the equipment and the required operating space. Figure 2 (below) sets forth the standard bar dimensions & specifications with ADA (metric in parentheses). Island bar design begins with understand the spatial relationship of the bar to the overall space (the internal aisles and equipment clearances are merely duplicated).

Standard bar dimensions & specifications w/ADA and metric dimensions
FIGURE 2. ISLAND BAR DESIGN MUST CONSIDER ALL CLEARANCE REQUIREMENTS

WHAT ARE THE CLEARANCE REQUIREMENTS FOR ISLAND BARS?

Given the standard bar clearance dimensions, one can then compare the feasibility of the desired island bar to the overall space. In Figure 3 (below) is a plan of a prospective island bar fitted to the overall room for which it’s intended. In this sketch we can see:

  • Customer activity zone, the space for bar stool operating clearance (30″)
  • Circulation activity zone, the primary operating aisles (36″)
  • Table activity zone, for perimeter tables (30″)
Architectural plan of island bar and restaurant seating clearances
FIGURE 3. PLAN OF ISLAND BAR SEATING CLEARANCES

I can hardly emphasize the importance of perimeter clearances. As you’ll notice, the perimeter aisles are nearly equal to the width of the bar itself. It’s easy to see why a cursory overview of the general space is the first order of business when considering an island bar.

HOW MUCH SPACE IS REQUIRED FOR ISLAND BARS?

Every bar design needs to make efficient use of the available space. In many instances the last few inches are critical. As mentioned earlier, bars are designed from the inside-out. Therefore, it’s imperative to first determine the minimal space required for the bar itself and then factor the perimeter aisles. To begin, the first thing one must address is the island back bar. The back bar is where the majority of storage is needed:

  • Back bar coolers / kegerators
  • Draft beer tower(s)
  • Glassware
  • Liquor

For hotel bars the back bar often needs to also store locked liquor. As a result, island back bar planning can be tricky for those attempting to economize on space. However, this can be challenging if you’re trying to check all the boxes. Guidelines for back bar shelving are shown in Figure 4, below.

Architectural drawing of standard universal bar clearances
FIGURE 4. STANDARD BACK BAR SHELVING LAYOUT

SIZING THE BACK BAR ISLAND

At the minimum:

  • The back bar island should be 30″ deep (76 cm) and at least 12′ (3,7 m) long.
  • Operationally, the bartenders need a 31″ – 36″ aisle (78 cm – 91 cm). This aisle should be equal on all four sides.
  • A typical bartender station will be anywhere from 10′ – 12′ (3,05 m – 3,66 m) and incorporates a
    • Waste receptacle
    • Glass storage drainboard
    • Ice bin
    • Tiered liquor step
    • POS station.

  • Allow for a 4′ (1,2 m) aisle from the back of the bar stools to adjacent table seating.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

All jurisdictions in the U.S. require at least one hand sink. Rectangular island bars are much easier for beginners. Curved bars are just as effective but require a much greater command of bar design skills. To create interactive seating, effective bar design utilizes 45 degree corners (refer to Figure 3, above). To complete the task of space planning, see the downloadable sketch below.

By now you may be able to tell, island bar design and planning is very complex and time-consuming. The above guidelines should provide a solid idea on the basics needed for planning your own island bar.

Bar Design Tip

The success of implementing any bar design is aisle space. 

My favorite reference book for architectural standards:
https://amzn.to/38q3piJ

RELATED POSTS:

HOW MUCH IS MY BAR DESIGN REALLY GOING TO COST?

DIRECT-DRAW vs. LONG-DRAW DRAFT BEER SYSTEM COST

Free Consultation

Contact Us Today for your free consultation!

POPULAR POSTS:

INTEGRATED BAR DESIGN IS ARCHITECTURAL BAR DESIGN

ERGONOMIC BAR DESIGN FOR MAXIMUM BARTENDER EFFICIENCY AND PROFITS

WHAT DOES IT COST TO BUILD A COMMERCIAL BAR?

HOW TO DESIGN AN AWARD-WINNING BAR WITH WILSONART PRODUCTS

GLYCOL COOLED vs KEGERATORS – WHICH DRAFT BEER SYSTEM TO BUY?

BEST VALUE LIGHTING PRODUCTS FOR BAR DESIGN

COMMERCIAL BAR DESIGN – A TOP 7 LIST OF BAR FINISHING IDEAS

BAR DESIGN IDEAS – HOW TO DESIGN & BUILD A BETTER DIY BAR

DOWNLOADS:

HOW MUCH IS MY BAR DESIGN REALLY GOING TO COST?

RICK UZUBELL

International Bar Designer