Lessons in Bar Hopping

Friends think I have the Coolest Job Ever because I get to hang out in bars and clubs. Well, the truth is….I do (although I don’t hang out as much as I would like; after all, there’s a lot of content to put out!). Hitting a few watering holes recently I came face to face with the good, the bad and the ugly in the bar world:

In Chicago The Bedford in Wicker Park is a newcomer sure to earn a slot on any serious Chicago cocktailian crawl; owner Pete Gugni hosted our NCB Cocktail Party to rave reviews. Downtown, the Hubbard Inn is an intimate (despite its generous size), eccentric tavern that beckoned me to stay longer and sip another English Daisies (tequila, lime juice, lavender elixir), but alas, I had a flight to catch.

Philadelphia showcased the good and the bad. The Fresh Rosemary Gimlet at the hip Continental Martini Bar was as tasty as our very well-versed server made it sound. Afterward, I joined Jon Taffer, who was filming an episode of Bar Rescue at nearby Swanky Bubbles. It was, indeed, a bar in need of rescue (see my “On Location” blog)!

Next, Denver offered up pre-game energy at The Tavern Downtown. Wall-to-wall Rockies fans packed the rooftop patio, downing beers, wings and burgers looking out at the famed Coors Field stadium.

Back at home, I hit Chop House in Smithtown, NY, and discovered a fantastic wine-by-the-glass deal: buy one, get the second for a dime. Seriously, a dime. So for $22 plus tip, my cohort and I enjoyed two glasses each – a comfortable price in a very classy and comfortable setting. Later that week, we wandered into newcomer Arthur Avenue to find a good crowd enjoying a good band. We intended to stay for one drink, but hung out for the entire set and beyond, running a healthy tab in the process.

Finally, the ugly: Broadway Bar in Amityville, NY. The owners shouldn’t be insulted to hear it’s ugly (they probably know that); it’s scruffy and dark, and every available wall space is riddled with graffiti and plastered with band posters. It’s true to its roots: a gritty bar for gritty, hard-driving bands. Not exactly my style, but kudos for authenticity.

Why share my recent adventures? An element of each bar is etched in my memory: inviting ambience, great drink, knowledgeable server, great deal, lively entertainment or simply being unapologetically raw. What are you known for? What stands out in peoples’ minds as they walk out your doors? If you’re not sure, find out. Ask them or check out reviews on FourSquare, Yelp and other sites. Is their memorable element good (great service) or not so good (stale beer smell)? Are you known for what you want to be known for or something you never expected?

This is powerful knowledge. If you don’t see your business the way your customer does, you don’t have a clear understanding of what’s working, and what’s not. So ask them and act on the information.

See you at the bar (maybe yours)!




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