Do you know your sports bars from your speakeasies or juice bars from your juke joints? Understanding the various types of bars and their unique offerings can unlock many opportunities in the hospitality industry. Our diverse drinking culture has paved the way for a veritable smorgasbord of bar types, each with its unique ambiance, clientele and product offerings.
So, whether you’re considering a new entrepreneurial venture in the bar industry or seeking to expand your current operation’s offerings, our comprehensive guide to the types of bars will quench your thirst for knowledge. We’ll mix, shake and stir our way through these unique establishments, ensuring you’re well-equipped to make informed decisions about your business’s future.
We will traverse the familiar terrain of classic cocktail bars, sports bars and pubs, venture into the trendy territory of wine bars, craft beer bars and juice bars, and explore the exotic landscapes of tiki bars, sake bars and gastropubs. We’ll even lift the lid on the secretive world of speakeasies and dance our way through honky-tonks and salsa bars. You may even learn how to start a nightclub with a fun theme.
Buckle up for a journey through a vibrant array of bar types, where the atmosphere is as vital as the drinks on the menu.
What Makes a Bar?
At its core, a bar is a licensed establishment where alcoholic beverages are sold and consumed. However, this fundamental definition only scratches the surface of what truly constitutes a bar. A bar also is a social hub, a place where patrons gather for relaxation, celebration, camaraderie or solitude.
Bars offer an ambiance that reflects its purpose, ranging from the raucous cheer of a sports bar to the calm sophistication of a wine bar. The drinks a bar serves are as diverse as the clientele it caters to, from craft beers and fine wines to cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages.
The design of a bar, too, plays an essential role. The layout, lighting, décor, and even the bar counter all create a specific atmosphere and experience. There’s the welcoming familiarity of traditional wooden pub interiors, the sleek sophistication of modern cocktail lounges or the tropical appeal of tiki bars, to name just a few.
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Despite these shared characteristics, bars are far from uniform. A vibrant spectrum of bar types exists, each boasting unique features, bar themes and atmospheres.
Dive bars, gastropubs, karaoke bars and rooftop bars all sit under the same broad umbrella, yet each offers a distinct experience. The beauty of such diversity is that there’s a type of bar for every occasion, every preference, and every taste.
A Closer Look at Different Types of Bars
Immersing ourselves in the vibrant world of bars, we uncover a myriad of styles, each catering to unique customer needs and preferences. There’s a bar for everyone, from sports enthusiasts and wine connoisseurs to lovers of live music and exotic cocktails.
Let’s explore the different types of bars and discover what makes each type unique.
|Bar Type||Features||Types of Drinks to Expect|
|Sports Bars||Characterized by lively atmosphere, large screen TVs, sports memorabilia, game-time specials||A variety of beers, cocktails, and non-alcoholic drinks|
|Hotel Bars||Sophisticated setting, serene environment, often luxurious||A wide range of cocktails, wines, beers, and soft drinks|
|Dive Bars||Unpretentious setting, affordable drinks, loyal patron base||Beers, simple mixed drinks, shots|
|Cocktail Bars||Sanctuaries of mixology, chic decor, quality ingredients||Classic and innovative cocktails|
|Rooftop Bars||Stunning views, open-air setting, stylish design||Premium cocktails, wines, and beers|
|Beach Bars||Laid-back, tropical atmosphere, often beachfront||Beers, tropical cocktails|
|Wine Bars||Extensive selection of wines, relaxed, sophisticated environment||Wines from various regions, some beer and cocktails|
|Brewpubs||Brew their own beer on-site, laid-back atmosphere||Wide variety of craft beers|
|Speakeasies||Hidden entrances, vintage atmosphere, exclusive feel||Prohibition-era cocktails, classic drinks|
|Karaoke Bars||Music-focused, interactive, lively crowds||Wide range of beers, cocktails, and non-alcoholic drinks|
|Nostalgia Bars||Vintage decor, retro music, classic cocktails||Classic cocktails, beers, and wines|
|Country Bars||Country music, rustic atmosphere, dance floor||Beers, whiskies, and Southern-style cocktails|
|Live Music Joints||Diverse music performances, vibrant atmosphere||Variety of beers, wines, and cocktails|
|Tiki Bars||Tropical decor, exotic cocktails, escapist atmosphere||Tropical, rum-based cocktails|
|Ice Bars||Decor and seating made of ice, unique ambiance||Vodka-based cocktails, served in ice glasses|
|Martini Bars||Specialize in martinis, extensive martini menu||Range of martini variations, other classic cocktails|
|Themed Bars||Concept or motif-based decor, immersive experience||Depending on the theme, a variety of drinks|
|Cigar Bars||Premium cigars, luxurious and comfortable setting||High-quality spirits, classic cocktails|
|Specialty Bars||Focus on a particular type of beverage||Specialized selection of a particular spirit|
|Irish Pubs||Lively atmosphere, traditional decor, live folk music||Beers, stouts, whiskies|
|LGBTQ+ Bars||Safe and inclusive environment, themed nights, drag shows||Wide variety of beers, cocktails, wines|
|Sake Bars||Specialize in serving sake, minimalist setting||Variety of sake, some Japanese beers and whiskies|
|Tapas Bars||Small, sharable dishes, social dining experience||Wines, beers, cocktails, soft drinks|
|Piano Bars||Live piano performances, intimate atmosphere||A range of cocktails, wines, and beers|
|Comedy Bars||Stand-up comedy performances, fun atmosphere||Wide selection of beers, wines, cocktails|
1. Sports Bars
Catering to the passionate sports fan, sports bars are characterized by their lively atmosphere, large-screen TVs, sports memorabilia and game-time specials. These establishments create an ambiance of camaraderie, making every sports event a thrilling communal experience.
2. Hotel Bars
Emanating an air of sophistication, hotel bars serve both guests and locals, providing a serene environment for casual discussions, business meetings or a relaxing drink. Their inviting ambiance and often luxurious setting make them a popular choice for a wide range of patrons.
3. Dive Bars
Beloved for their authenticity, dive bars offer an unpretentious setting, affordable drinks and a loyal patron base. Their raw charm and laid-back vibe provide a sense of community and a refreshing counterpoint to more polished establishments.
4. Cocktail Bars
These establishments are the sanctuaries of mixology, where skilled bartenders concoct a range of classic and innovative cocktails. With their chic decor and focus on quality ingredients, cocktail bars are a hit with patrons who appreciate the craft of cocktail making.
5. Rooftop Bars
Offering stunning views, rooftop bars have become increasingly popular. They provide patrons with a unique, open-air setting, often accompanied by stylish design, high-quality drinks, and bar food ideas. The allure of sipping a cocktail while overlooking a cityscape is a draw for locals and tourists alike.
6. Beach Bars
Synonymous with vacation and relaxation, beach bars provide a laid-back, tropical atmosphere. Serving anything from cold beers to tropical cocktails, they are a popular destination for beachgoers looking for refreshments and social interaction, often accompanied by a stunning view.
7. Wine Bars
Primarily catering to wine enthusiasts, wine bars offer an extensive selection of wines from various regions. These bars, sometimes paired with a cigar bar, often provide a relaxed, sophisticated environment, making them perfect for patrons looking to explore different vintages and grape varietals in a cozy setting.
Fueled by the craft beer revolution, brewpubs are popular among beer enthusiasts. They often brew their own beer on-site, providing patrons with an array of unique and fresh flavors. Their laid-back atmosphere makes them an ideal spot for casual socializing. You can even learn how to start a brewery to create your own beverages in-house.
Steeped in history and a sense of novelty, speakeasies are throwbacks to the Prohibition Era. Often hidden behind unassuming facades or secret entrances, they offer an air of exclusivity and an intimate, vintage atmosphere, making them a unique addition to the modern bar scene.
10. Karaoke Bars
Catering to music lovers and those looking for a fun, interactive experience, karaoke bars often bustles with lively crowds and enthusiastic performances. The opportunity to sing along to favorite tunes makes these bars a popular choice for group outings and parties.
11. Nostalgia Bars
This type of specialty bar plays to the yearning for a bygone era, be it through vintage decor, retro music or classic cocktails. Nostalgia bars provide a comforting escape into the past, appealing to patrons who appreciate a dose of history with their drink.
12. Country Bars
Featuring country music and often a dance floor for some two-step or line dancing, a country bar provides a taste of Southern charm. These establishments offer a warm, rustic atmosphere that resonates with country music and culture fans.
13. Live Music Joints
At these bars, music takes center stage. Ranging from jazz and blues to rock and pop, live music joints cater to diverse musical tastes. These venues offer patrons the chance to enjoy live performances while savoring their favorite drinks.
14. Tiki Bars
Inspired by Polynesian culture, tiki bars are known for their tropical decor and exotic cocktails, often served in unique, themed glassware. They offer a playful and escapist atmosphere, transporting patrons to a tropical paradise.
15. Ice Bars
A truly cool experience, ice bars are establishments where the decor, the seating, the bar and even the glasses are made of ice. The specialty bar offers a unique, chilly ambiance, making them a hit with those seeking a novel and adventurous drinking experience.
16. Martini Bars
Specializing in martinis, these bars attract cocktail lovers who appreciate this classic drink. A martini bar often boasts an extensive martini menu, from traditional recipes to creative variations, served in an elegant setting.
17. Themed Bars
A themed bar revolves around a particular concept or motif, which could be anything from a period in history, a book or movie or a particular style or culture. The unique decor and ambiance set themed bars apart, providing patrons with an immersive experience.
18. Cigar Bars
Cigar bars combine the pleasure of smoking premium cigars with the enjoyment of high-quality spirits. They often provide a luxurious and comfortable setting, catering to cigar aficionados and those who appreciate a slower, more contemplative drinking experience.
19. Specialty Bars
Specialty bars focus on a particular type of beverage, such as whiskey, gin or tequila. These bars aim to provide an educational experience alongside the enjoyment of high-quality drinks, making them a popular choice for spirits enthusiasts.
20. Irish Pubs
Synonymous with a warm welcome, Irish pubs are famed worldwide for their lively atmosphere, traditional decor and strong community spirit. Often featuring live folk music and serving a selection of beers, stouts and whiskies, these establishments offer a touch of Irish charm and hospitality that appeals to a broad range of patrons.
21. LGBTQ+ Bars
These bars provide a safe and inclusive environment for the LGBTQ+ community. Often hosting themed nights, drag shows and other events, these establishments are a vibrant part of the social scene, promoting diversity and inclusivity.
22. Sake Bars
Originating from Japan, sake bars specialize in serving sake, a traditional Japanese rice wine. They often provide a range of sake from different regions of Japan, catering to those interested in exploring this traditional beverage in a typically minimalist, tranquil setting.
23. Tapas Bars
Borrowing from Spanish culture, tapas bars offer a range of small, sharable dishes (tapas) alongside a diverse selection of beverages. They promote a social dining experience, often bustling with patrons enjoying drinks and bites in a lively, casual environment.
24. Piano Bars
Piano bars add a melodious twist to the bar experience. These establishments feature live piano performances, creating an intimate atmosphere that encourages singalongs and audience participation. With a range of musical styles from jazz and blues to pop and show tunes, piano bars appeal to music lovers seeking a side of entertainment with their cocktail.
25. Comedy Bars
Comedy bars provide patrons with entertainment in the form of stand-up comedy, improvisational performances and comedic sketches. The combination of laughter and libations makes these establishments popular for those seeking a fun, upbeat night out.
FAQs: Types of Bars
How do sports bars cater to sports enthusiasts?
Sports bars cater to sports enthusiasts by providing multiple large-screen TVs for game viewing, sports memorabilia decor, game-time specials and a lively atmosphere that recreates the thrill of being at the game itself.
Why are hotel bars an attractive option for travelers?
Hotel bars offer convenience, a relaxed environment and an array of drink options, making them an attractive option for travelers. They provide a comfortable space for unwinding after a long day of travel or sightseeing.
What’s the appeal of dive bars?
Dive bars are loved for their unpretentious and relaxed atmosphere. They typically offer affordable drinks, often have a loyal local clientele and provide an authentic, down-to-earth bar experience.
What unique drinks can one find in a cocktail bar?
Cocktail bars offer a range of unique drinks from traditional classics to innovative concoctions. Skilled bartenders often craft cocktails using high-quality spirits, fresh ingredients and unique twists, resulting in an extensive menu of distinctive drinks.
What factors should I consider when deciding on the type of bar for my business?
Choosing the right type of bar to start a business can be a daunting task, but a crucial one. Your decision can significantly impact your business’ profitability, success, and growth. There are several factors you should consider while making this choice:
- Target Demographic: Your target audience significantly influences the type of bar you should open. For instance, a wine bar may attract an older, more sophisticated clientele, while a sports bar may draw a younger, sports-enthusiast crowd.
- Location: The location of your bar plays a vital role in defining the type of bar you should start. An upscale lounge might not do well in a predominantly blue-collar neighborhood, just as a dive bar might not succeed in an area with a wealthier demographic.
- Competition: Analyzing your competition is crucial. If there are already several sports bars in your desired area, it may not be a wise choice to add another. On the other hand, if you notice a gap in the market, such as a lack of craft beer bars, it might be an excellent opportunity to fill that void.
- Personal Interests: It’s important to choose a type of bar that aligns with your personal interests. Running a bar involves long hours and a deep commitment; if you’re passionate about the theme and style of your bar, you’re more likely to put in the effort needed to make it succeed.
- Local Market Demand: Understanding your local market’s preferences and demand is key. If craft beers are trendy in your area, a craft beer bar might be a great idea. Conversely, if there’s a strong demand for cocktails, a cocktail bar might be a better choice.
- Business Goals: Your long-term business goals should also influence your choice. If you’re looking to build a local staple where regulars can unwind, a neighborhood pub might be ideal. If you’re more interested in high turnover and high volume, a nightclub or a popular sports bar might be a better fit.
- Franchise Opportunities: Consider if you want to start a bar from scratch or if a franchise would be a better fit. Franchising can provide you with a ready-made business model and brand recognition. However, it also requires adherence to corporate guidelines and might involve hefty franchising fees.
- Budget and Financial Capacity: The type of bar you choose will also depend on your financial capability. Some bar types, like high-end cocktail lounges, require a significant investment in interior decor, expensive liquor inventory, and skilled bartenders. Other types, like dive bars, might be less costly to start up.
- Regulatory Environment: Each type of bar will have different regulatory considerations, from the hours of operation to the types of alcohol you can serve. Be sure to understand the local laws and regulations that apply to your bar type.
- Potential for Growth and Expansion: Some types of bars may offer more opportunities for growth and expansion than others. For instance, a unique concept bar could potentially be replicated in other locations if it becomes successful.
Remember, selecting the type of bar to open is one of the most critical steps in your journey as a bar owner. It’s essential to do thorough research and planning before making your final decision.
What do you call a fancy bar?
Fancy bars are often referred to as cocktail lounges or upscale bars. These establishments focus on providing an elegant atmosphere, high-quality drinks and superior service.
What’s the difference between a wine bar and a cocktail lounge?
A wine bar specializes in serving a wide variety of wines and often offers a relaxed, sophisticated environment. Those looking into how to start a wine business may also sell products in a retail environment or host tasting events. A cocktail lounge, on the other hand, is known for its range of mixed drinks, elegant ambiance and the craft of cocktail making.
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