How to Save a Working Class Bar
Do you own, or frequent a ‘pacifying joint’ where people understand you? That has word of mouth steet cred? A charming dive — but it could be doing better? Here is some unsolicited advice on to keep your little sanctuary thriving. Note — I am not in the industry. I am not a bar musician. I frequent a dive bar with nice people and good music. Where prince and pauper, young and old, rub elbows and sip a cold one.
Unless your bar is doing so well, and you don’t need the traffic - clearly communicate what nights you will be open, what’s happening and what time it starts.
Charge a cover charge for the bands — even if it’s just a couple bucks. Once people have paid to get in, they will feel committed to hanging out and will settle in for a few drinks. Also, it keeps the purse thieves out. Don’t raise drink prices when there is a band. It makes people drink less.
Have mid shelf spirits as a choice. Price accordingly. Many people would like a quality liquor drink but don’t need
to pay for top shelf.
Be sure that drinks prices are in accordance with similar bars. If the prices are not right, people will bring their flask.
Red wine is not refrigerated unless you are Italian and know what the hell you are doing. Open bottles of wine do not keep. Go with box wine.
Fix the damn air conditioner!
Put the damn Saints (insert your team) on the TV and let everyone know that you are open. Anytime you don’t have live music… but any damn game on the TV and announce it. Maybe a couple hundred crazy Brazilians will show up at your bar and drink the cupboard dry.
Can we get a latch for the bathroom door, please?
Cross pollinate. Do you know how many music-nerd hipsters have crates of old 45s that they would love to spin on a slow evening in any joint- especially one with street cred like yours?
Don’t drive the older timers out of your bar. Keep the drink prices real.
Don’t play shitty music.
No cider and cheese pairing parties — ever.
A big dusty jar of pickled eggs, and/or pickled pig feet perpetuates hours of bar stool conversations, if not nutrition.
If you don’t know how — or don’t have the proper fixings for a bloody marry, don’t make them!
Make your customers feel like they are getting a good deal — such as a bucket of beer. Or 1/2 pints of liquor.
Get an ATM. Don’t let one slow credit card transaction cock block everyone else from getting a damn beer. If you need to enlist your brother to sell cans of beer for exact change out of a shoebox, do it.
Less fluorescent lighting, please.
Get rid of the beer ads on the wall unless you are getting a sweet deal from a distributor. Put up old show posters and photos that show the legacy of your bar and community.
Remember what your customers drink and put it in their hand the moment they walk in the door.
Get a big jar of ear plugs and set it next to the pickles. Keep the music volume at a reasonable level so everyone is comfortable and the music sounds great. No jarring audio transitions to kill my buzz, please.
Clearly mark your exits and conform with fire laws. Nobody wants to die in your bar.
Sell merchandise — t-shirts, posters, etc.
Visit bars that are doing well. Observe what they are doing. Steel their best practices and ideas.
Leave your problems at home. Customers come have left their problems behind to come to your joint because it is a pacifying joint with nice people. They don’t want to see a squabble. Staff should take their problems to another bar.
Don’t encourage people to get wasted, but don’t cut them off. Give them their last drink and a little wink.
Hire a ventriloquist act.
Get a piano.
Do not get drunk in your own bar.