How to Design a Commercial Bar

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Designing a bar requires strategic planning.
Designing a bar requires strategic planning. (Image: Bar stool image by TekinT from Fotolia.com)

Designing a commercial bar is exciting but can be stressful if you don’t have to right tools or knowledge. Inspiration is everywhere and important to making the bar design exactly how you envision it. Practical planning is also necessary to ensure all the equipment will fit and flow properly. Professional designers and planners can offer expert advice and tips. Knowing applicable building codes is also crucial. Preparation is key to making a successful design.

Things You'll Need

  • Magazines/trade publications
  • Folder/binder
  • Copy of local/state building codes
  • Graph paper
  • Pencil
  • Scale
  • Drafting triangle

Designing

Gather ideas that interest you or your client. Read commercial or trade magazines and online websites. Take notes on what is good about each design, as well as what is unappealing. Visit local establishments to gain knowledge of how a bar works. Bartenders and patrons are full of helpful advice. They know what works and what doesn’t. Research industry standards for bar sizes, heights, and seating capacities. Keep design ideas, details, and notes in a folder or binder.

Talk with a restaurant planner or bar equipment salesperson. Their experience is invaluable, and they can guide you through the process and talk about specific equipment. Planners lay out floor plans and provide specifications for each piece of equipment. The specs will contain all the information needed to plan for and run the equipment.

Get a copy of all local and state building codes. A commercial bar will need to be inspected and approved before it can be used by the public. Each state, city, and county will have its own codes. Call local building or planning offices to obtain a copy of the codes or determine which standard they use. Download a copy online or purchase a hard copy of state codes to keep nearby at all times. The codes can be very detailed; make sure you read them all thoroughly.

Create a bubble diagram. These don’t have to be fancy or to a particular scale. Draw a few sketches of possible floor plans using bubbles to define each section. Each bubble should represent a different part of the bar area. Bubbles might represent an ice machine area, soda machine, glass storage, beer area, or sink area. Keep bubbles in a logical sequence. The ice machine needs to be near the glasses, but the soda machine isn’t as important because the glasses would first be filled with ice and then soda. Draw at least three floor plans and choose the one that fits all the pieces in the most logical order.

Use graph paper, a pencil, scale, and triangle to lay out floor plans and elevations. Draw the wall first, indicating all windows, doors, columns, and anything else that protrudes from the floor or wall. Use the scale to mark the exact dimensions of the area. Smaller areas can be drawn using 1/2 inch = 1 foot, while larger areas can use 1/4 inch = 1 foot. Draw straight lines using the triangle. Place all the equipment on the floor plan and label it. If necessary, create a legend for the equipment by labeling each piece with a number or letter. Draw the vertical lines for the wall and the horizontal lines for the ceiling to create a 2-dimensional elevation. Use the scale to measure the correct size of all walls, equipment, and anything else that will be against the wall.

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