PLANNING A BAR FOR BAR AREA AND PATRON CAPACITY

Cabaret Design Group

Are you planning a bar? Learn the relationship between bar area and IBC occupant load in commercial bar design. Discover how bar size and occupancy load correlate and how to size a commercial bar.

PLANNING A BAR DESIGN – WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BAR AREA AND PATRON CAPACITY?

Architectural drawing of restaurant/bar with an occupancy of 145
PLAN OF RESTAURANT/BAR WITH AN OCCUPANCY OF 125

If you are about to embark on planning a bar, these are the question you need to answer:

  • How large should the bar be?
  • What is the right size for a given patron capacity?


To clarify, when designing commercial bars, always remember that patron occupancy guidelines are defined by building codes. This is merely the starting point. In reality, occupancy is dictated by the local fire marshal. This article specifically addresses the intended spatial relationship between bar size and patron capacity. Let’s begin with this example: how large should a bar be for a restaurant/bar with an occupancy of 125 patrons (refer to the drawing at right)?

WHEN DESIGNING A BAR THINK IN TERMS OF BARTENDER STATIONS

 

When designing commercial bars, I think of bar size in terms of the number of bartender stations – not necessarily bar area.

There are many ways to make a bar fit within a given space. For a full bar, many venues staff their schedule for 75-100 covers per bartender, so a bar with a total occupancy of 125 translates into a 2-station bar. The primary constraint for many buildings is the physical space allocated for the bar. This is what dictates its shape. Efficient, well-designed bartender stations is the key to designing commercial bars.

 

THE TYPICAL BAR SHAPES TO CONSIDER

Architectural drawing of L-shaped bar with ADA accommodation
PLAN OF L-SHAPED BAR WITH ADA ACCOMMODATION
  1. 2-Station Shotgun Bar – this bar design is becoming less popular. One bartender is utilized during slow periods and an additional bartender works the other station on busy shifts. The bar shown in this example seats eight, is nearly 24’ L and requires 260 sq.ft. of floor space. This bar could easily become a 3-station bar with a return leg on one end.
  2. 2-Station L-Shaped Bar – shown at right, this bar is a popular bar design because it’s more engaging for patrons. This bar is more compact and therefore more flexible to buildings with limited space. This bar seats six, is about 18’ L and requires 180 sq.ft. of floor space.
  3. 3-4 Station Island Bar – this is the most popular bar design, as it enables patrons to interact with people on all sides. This bar is approx. 27’ x 18’ (485 sq.ft.) and will accommodate 28 seats at the bar.

Bars with wait staff are generally serviced by an additional (dedicated) bartender during peak shifts.

 

For those who are looking for space allocation numbers for facilities planning, here’s a chart that summarizes the above:

FACILITIES PLANNING CHART FOR BARS

BAR TYPE OCCUPANCY (patrons) BAR FOOTPRINT (sq.ft.) SQ.FT./PATRON
2-STATION SHOTGUN 100 260 2.60
2-STATION L-SHAPE 100 180 1.80
3-STATION L-SHAPE 150 260 1.73
3-STATION ISLAND 150 485 3.23
4-STATION ISLAND 200 485 2.43

BAR DESIGN TIP:

If a venue’s occupancy is greater than 250, service bars and back-of-the-house bars are an excellent approach to handling peak crowds while minimizing fixturing costs. In terms of seating efficiency, the shotgun bar and L-shaped bar require the largest area of at least 30 sq.ft. per patron, while the island bar requires only 17.

WHAT IS THE BEST BAR DESIGN?

Given all the above, from an overall perspective, the island bar is the most space-efficient design, the most engaging, most popular and therefore, the best overall design.

 

POPULAR DOWNLOADS:

UNIVERSAL_BAR_CLEARANCES_WITH_ADA

ADA GUIDE FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

BAR_AND_RESTAURANT_SEATING_GUIDELINES

 

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BAR DESIGN TIP

Many bar owners still request mug frosters. I find this surprising, given that most bars are selling a significant level of craft beer. Why do I say this? Consider the facts:

  • Craft beer needs to be served at 38F and frozen glassware distorts the beer’s characteristics.
  • According to the CDC, ice is classified as food; therefore, glass frosters require regular, tedious cleaning; most bar owners don’t have the qualified staff to perform this function.
  • Glass frosters start at $1,500 and consume at least 24″ of underbar space.

The better alternative to the mug froster is the Innoveco glass chiller. This unit delivers instant frosted mugs, operates with liquid CO2 and clamps to the edge of the bar top. You can purchase the Innoveco glass chiller on Amazon for around $400!

Need Help with your bar plans?

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