How Color and Light Affect Interactions

Nightclub & Bar

Editor's Note: The following is the seventh in a series of blogs provided by the experts who have worked incredibly hard to make Bar Rescue InsiderSpike TV's "Bar Rescue" reality program, starring Nightclub & Bar Media Group President Jon Taffer, such a success. The Bar Rescue Insider blog series will deliver tried-and-true tips and tricks to help bar owners, operators and managers solve common problems and increase their bottom line. Tune in to every Wednesday for the next edition of Bar Rescue Insider!

Too often, bar owners select colors, then design and light their spaces with no thought to the atmosphere they are creating. The colors you choose for your business will drive the mood in your space; the way you light the space can accent or detract from the color palette. If you choose dark colors and add intense spots of light, your patrons will be visually blasted by strong contrast, which in turn creates energy and excitement. Warm colors with subdued lighting create comfort and a cozy feeling for better intimacy. Cool colors with subdued lighting create calm and soothing energy.

Identify what mood you wish to create in your space. If you offer a dance and/or live music venue, allow for energetic light and color but keep some space for your patrons to take breaks from the energy so they can cycle between the dance floor and your bar and, in turn, stay longer. If you have a local hangout, choose colors and lighting that support easy eye-to-eye contact between patrons. Light your spaces with an eye toward inviting longer conversation and more time — meaning more money — spent in your bar. For instance, avoid green lighting over the seating areas; green does not flatter human complexions. Promote positive, confident interactions so customers feel good when they are in your business; it is extremely important to develop a “feel” for your customers.

On Season 1 of Spike TV’s reality show “Bar Rescue,” show star and Nightclub & Bar Media Group President Jon Taffer and I renovated a bar in Framingham, Mass., called The Chicken Bone. The lighting and colors looked as though they were pulled from an amusement park. The industrial tile floor was a rainbow hodgepodge, and the overhead intelligent lighting — which could be set to any color at all — predominantly was dialed to green. It hurt my eyes to walk into the space, and I couldn’t imagine being able to relax and enjoy a drink and meal there. I imagined most patrons stayed tucked in at the bar to avoid the chaotic visual roller coaster. The fixes were simple and easily achievable: We installed a dark neutral floor, removed the hyperactive mural, painted the walls and reprogrammed the light systems to eliminate the harshness of the green. As easily as that, the mood was corrected. 

Another “Bar Rescue” Season 1 bar was plagued by a classic problem: It simply could not attract female clientele. From the moment I stepped into Angels Sports Bar (renamed Racks Bourbon and Billiards) in Corona, Calif., I could tell why. The entire space was dark; the whole place was painted in black, brown or dark grey, with very low lighting. What color there was came from cheap paper wraps of major beer companies. I spoke with every woman I could find on the crew, and they all felt the same way I did. I felt very uneasy in this dungeon. To make matters worse, the space was adjacent to a gentlemen’s club, so the dark colors elevated the seediness to a catastrophic level. We ripped out all of the dark colors and added a warm medium tone to the walls. With more accent lighting, we created communities throughout the bar. We kept dim lighting in the transition areas to channel people to tables, but pendants and canned lighting with flattering warm bulbs were added to congregation areas. The space automatically lost its cheap appearance, and while it remained casual, patrons would not feel out of place if they stopped in after a dressy evening out.

Sometimes, a simple fix can make all the difference. Painting walls and changing light bulbs can be inexpensive adjustments to your business and easily can create the environment you and your patrons are looking for. Even painting one accent wall and adding a lamp can transform a space. Most importantly, it is the sort of renovation anyone can try! It just takes a little courage, hard work and science.

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