Celebrate the Date

In February, the red carpet was rolled out at Distill Bar and spotlights from the parking lot lit up the night sky.

The reason for holding the event was two-fold. It’s always nice to celebrate and do something a bit different, says general manager Jeffery Rathjen, but he also wanted to say thank you. “We really appreciate our local guests who come in and support us every month. We’re telling them thank you for a full year’s worth of support,” he says.

Along with the red carpet and the spotlights, Rathjen created a paparazzi wall on Distill’s second level. There, a photographer took photographs of guests—who dressed up for the event—and gave them to them to afterwards (a few days after, when they’d been printed) featuring the logo for Distill and the other three bars brands its operators own.

There was also a free appetizer buffet at the event, and specialty cocktails such as the Slippery When Wet, the Distill Margarita, and the Mad Mule.

Raffle tickets were given out at the door and prizes (gift baskets that included bottles of liquor and show tickets for local theaters) were announced every hour. And of course the entire venue was decorated—streamers and gold stars were throughout, and each table featured a floral centerpiece.

Around 200 people attended the event, which compares favorably to a regular Saturday night. Distill marketed the party through social media, flyers in the bar and in check presenters, and verbally through servers.

“The word of mouth from our team has had guests excited about this event for the past couple of weeks,” says Rathjen. “We did start decorating the week before and guests were inquisitive about what they were for. Once they were told they were happy and committed to coming out for the event.”

Brix at the Shore in Long Beach, Calif., also wanted to thank its customers with its one-year anniversary party, which was held last October.

“If my customers let me survive every year I have to pay it back,” says owner Rick Reich. “Every single one of my customers I try to build relationships with and I require my servers to do that. Having the anniversary parties allow long-time customers to gather with brand new guests, which builds more of a repeat customer base. I can do advertising left and right but my best sales people are my customers; they are my rooting section. So I pay them back however I can.”

Reich has been holding anniversary parties for the past 10 years at his first location, Brix Sunset Beach, a little further south than Long Beach.

At the events there’s live music and free food, which Reich describes as New York deli with a twist, which is often new dishes the venue wants to try out such as egg roll pastrami. Brix also runs happy hour drink specials for wine ($5) and beer ($4.50 for craft brews), which allows him to use up wines he’s moved off the menu and needs to remove from his inventory.

Brix at the Shore drew around 100 people to its first anniversary party, which was held between 6 and 8:30 p.m. on October 21. At the Sunset Beach location the event is held on a Sunday between 2 and 5 p.m., and a band continues after 5 p.m., into the night “which keeps people in the party mood,” says Reich. “That usually ends up being one of our best days for sales.”

Reich markets events such as this through Constant Contact, email blasts and press releases.

Skipjack, a restaurant in Newark, Del., held its first anniversary party last June. It featured a calypso band, and swag donated from liquor distributors, which meant everyone got a memento to take home

There were also four or five drink specials, served at happy hour prices ($4 or $5) and especially designed to use up liquors that hadn’t sold well, says owner Molly Merrill. Other drinks cost $2 to $4 for draft beer and $3.50 to $5 for mixed drinks). The happy hour itself ran for an extra couple of hours that night.

The cost of the event was around $200 for the band, says Merrill, “but we more than made that back through extra business.” A normal Friday night draws 150 to 200 guests; this event attracted closer to 350, she says. And sales were 60% higher, which was especially surprising since the summer is the bar’s slow season.

She also wanted to thank her customers. “I’m a believer that 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers. It was a party for them, to thank them.”

To market the event, she hung banners inside and outside the restaurant for a month, which also helped attract new customers who were driving by, she said. She also used social media and sent out email blasts.

For this year’s event, for the bar’s second anniversary, Merrill hopes to capitalize on the number 2, and all numbers related to the number of years she’s been open going forward. She’ll serve $2 drinks and add two hours onto the happy hour.

Foley’s NY Pub & Restaurant, a sports bar (especially for baseball fans) in New York City, celebrates its anniversary each year with celebrity guest bartenders and a charity benefit.

This year, on February 4, beginning at 5 p.m., MLB network host Matt Vasgersian poured beers on behalf of Welcome Back Veterans, a non-profit organization that provides PTSD treatment to military veterans and their families. In previous years the guests have included Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman (who poured for a prostate cancer fundraiser), Tommy John (whose event was suicide prevention), Sean Casey, Joe McEwing and David Cone.

Owner Shaun Clancy uses his anniversary as the chance to throw a party with a purpose. It’s a giveback that is popular with the customers, the celebrities, the charities, and new friends of Foley’s.

“We appreciate the sacrifices that our armed forces make every day to assure freedom in America,” says Clancy. “I thought it was appropriate to give back to the veterans and their families who are struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder from their service.”

Since 2004, Foley’s has raised more than $300,000 to benefit charities such as George Martin's A Journey for 9/11, David Robertson's High Socks for Hope, the David Wright Foundation, Defending The Blue Line, Ed Randall's Fans for the Cure, MSG's Garden of Dreams, The Jimmy Fund, Tug McGraw Foundation, Umps Care, USO, Wounded Warriors, and Hurricane Sandy relief.


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