Like the restaurant trade, the bar business can be highly competitive since customers usually have a variety of places they can patronize on any given night -- especially in higher density locales like cities and large towns. To stand out and win over new customers, along with retaining existing customers, it's crucial to boost your bar business in ways that make you different from your competition.
Offer live music. Depending on your county's noise ordinances you may need to apply for a permit to feature live music, but the payoff would make it worth it. People seem to like live music; it gives strangers a common interest to chat about and eases the atmosphere in bars so strangers are more willing to socialize with one another. It also gives customers an opportunity to dance and be entertained while they buy drinks. Live music could either be featured every night of the week, only on weekends or just one night a week.
Offer games in your bar to ensure that your customers are having fun. They will stay longer if they are engaged in a game. This will translate to more drinks being sold and better word-of-mouth if your customers have a good time. Bar games could include setting up a television with a group video games like Rock Band or Guitar Hero ready to be played by a crowd. Beer Pong is also an easy game to offer, since you will only need to set up a long table and distribute red cups along with selling the alcohol needed to play. Karaoke competitions, pool or pinball are other bar game ideas.
Build a sense of community at your bar by featuring a theme night, which might make customers return with their friends. Theme nights could be centered on a holiday, such as Halloween, St. Patrick's Day or the Fourth of July, but can also be based on the observations of your clientele as a bar owner. For example, if you notice that most of your customers are single men and women, use the opportunity to market a "Singles" theme night where your patrons are encouraged to mingle over themed drinks you might offer at a discount.
Choose upcoming sporting events, such as the World Series or a NCAA Final Four or NBA championship basketball game, as a way to entice social sports enthusiasts to your bar. Many people seem to enjoy going to bars to watch a sports game on television; it gives customers a chance to bond over a common theme and make new friends while enjoying drinks you serve them. This would also be a good opportunity to market a particular special, for example, half-priced chicken wings or $1 beers, to attract new customers.