From perfecting your drinks menu to creating a winning Friday-night ambiance, there are plenty of tried-and-tested ways to design the ultimate bar. If you want to become the kind of haunt that attracts a roster of regulars, it pays to come up with an imaginative concept — one that’s true to your creativity and vision. Here are eight ideas to get you started.
1. The rooftop bar
Blame it on every TV show featuring characters that drink on Brooklyn rooftops — cocktails taste better with a glittering city view. That’s why bars perched atop skyscrapers or that unfold on a top-level terrace rarely go out of style. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to decor — oversized beach umbrellas or a layer of AstroTurf create the holiday vibe that’s the natural counterpart to alfresco drinking.
2. The secret speakeasy
Have you ever discovered a candlelit bar tucked at the end of a laneway? Chances are your ideal customers are searching for one too. Over the last few years, there are few bar concepts that have captured the hearts of cocktail enthusiasts quite like hidden bars, especially those that take cues from the 1920s Prohibition.
3. The craft brewery
Sometimes, there’s no better Sunday afternoon activity than a cold beer with good friends, particularly if it’s locally brewed. That’s why laid-back breweries that pour everything from crisp, fruity ales to dark-bitter pilsners have become a weekend classic, especially for inner-city dwellers. The quality of your beer is paramount — but add a relaxed, all-day vibe by making your brewery pet friendly with a selection of food trucks.
4. The urban winery
There’s a reason why Australian wine regions draw Shiraz enthusiasts from around the world. However, if the current wave of urban wineries is anything to go by, it’s possible to replicate all the charm of a regional vineyard in the inner city. For best results, think contemporary rather than country — sleek, minimalist interiors and an array of hard-to-find cheeses by overseas and local producers will set your winery apart.
5. The dedicated whiskey bar
Single malt. Double malt. Triple-distilled. A good whiskey bar can be a trend-defying hospitality concept, as long as you do it well. Pick a location that’s welcoming but intimate, combine home-grown whiskeys with hard-to-find labels from Japan and Scotland, and host regular tastings to educate your client base and keep them coming back.
6. The dive bar
Few bar concepts are as foolproof as the dive bar — particularly one that plays vinyl, hosts live music and pours strong, fuss-free drinks. When it comes to dive bars, glamour is less important than friendly service, great music and a freewheeling atmosphere. For bonus points, install a neon sign and add a jukebox in the corner.
7. The gastropub
Is there a better hangout than a pub that also serves seriously good food? Gastropubs, which were born in London during the ‘90s as a culinary-focused alternative to the traditional English drinking house, are an ideal bar format if you believe that an exemplary menu is as important as a good range of drinks. If you’re serving pub staples, remember to focus on great produce and unusual techniques.
8. The vegan-friendly cocktail bar
As customers embrace ethical consumption, hospitality operators are following suit. An emphasis on natural wines and a range of vegetable-based cocktails — drawing on ingredients like beetroot or mushroom — can cater for an ethically conscious clientele while maintaining that all-important element of surprise.
From breezy craft breweries to pubs that serve exceptional food, there’s no shortage of cool bar concepts making a splash in the market. But remember, authenticity goes a long way.