Avoiding Common Mistakes When Building or Redesigning a Bar

Tobin Ellis of Barmagic presented several fantastic bits of advice regarding venue design during his invaluable workshop at the 2014 Nightclub & Bar Show.  He focused on the many, many common mistakes made during the planning, construction and redesign phases of your bar that ultimately lead to large overrun costs.

Ellis shared a number of specific strategies and practices to employ that have proven highly effective and profitable. Possibly the best of his advice was the simple, “Figure out what makes the most sense to maximize revenue.” 

Bar Design

Photo Courtesy of Michigan on Main Bar and Grill

In terms of redesigning an existing structure and “inheriting” equipment, don’t take anyone’s word for functionality; if you’re considering using the existing security system, test it out!  For those operating a multi-floor venue, Tobin endorses redundancy.  The expert bartender coming out of Ellis, he pointed out that ice is the most important ingredient going into a cocktail and that ice machines, even the best in the world, break and backups will be necessary. 

One of the best pieces of advice Ellis offered up was bringing inspectors into the mix early on.  This is not an attempt to grease the wheels but a strategy meant to keep things running smoothly.  Inspectors know the codes and in order to avoid surprises that can cost you time and money or shut you down, open a dialogue as soon as possible with inspectors.  Additionally, don’t be fooled into thinking that all architects know the codes with which a business must comply: Building Codes, City Codes, Fire Codes (Egress), the Health Department and ADA Laws.

“A great architect is invaluable,” said Ellis, “A bad architect will sink your whole project.”

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