A Bar for the People by the People

How to Open a Successful Bar

A month or so ago, a bar opened up in Jersey City, NJ called Pet Shop. It was popular immediately, everyone was talking about it. To be fair, there’s quite a commotion anytime a new spot opens up in sweet, little Jersey City…. Still, there was a strategy to the creation that has helped it make a splash upon opening. Here are the top 10 reasons I think it’s succeeding and going to continue to do so.

  1. Great location. The group of people involved in this project had the funding to grab up a great spot. It’s a couple blocks from the really HOT area of Grove Street, but not too close, as to not get lost in the sea of bars. Pet Shop stands out and holds its own. It’s also on a corner where no one can miss it. You immediately see its black exterior and contrasting string lights. unnamed
  2. Smart design. Speaking of the exterior, this is a great example of less is more. Black is seemingly simple, but it automatically leaves one curious. This look could be a dive bar or a high-end lounge. You have no way of knowing what’s inside, but you know you really want to take a peek in. Everyone wants to look inside the black abyss. Once you’re inside, you can enjoy the interior design!
  3. Welcoming atmosphere. This where they excel, as well. The place is not intimidating, but it’s not dirty. There are stickers on the “jukebox” bragging for local vandals, but they don’t have graffiti everywhere giving the place the feel of a drug den. You have the option to sit at the bar with some friendly tenders, in the sit-down area with tables and a couch, or outside on the benches. This means any number of people can be comfortable, whether you’re on a first date, a business meeting, or bringing the kids for a meal.
  4. Outdoor space. Not everyone has the privilege of finding a space with a backyard, of course. Keep in mind, though, that this is something to aim towards. A yard space, even a tiny one, has become more and more common. People really love it. It means they can get some fresh air but still be part of the event. Or the entire event can be outdoors on a nice day. This one is nicely surrounded by brick walls, so noise to the outside is kept to a minimum. unnamed-6
  5. More than a bar. A jukebox is a cool touch for that vintage, nostalgic vibe. It also brings in a few bucks and allows patrons to choose their favourite tunes. However, stepping it up is always good. For example, Pet Shop also offers a pinball table and a functioning photo booth. You take your photo and get the print out in moments with the bar’s name on it. Marketing and fun all combined into one! If there’s room for even more, even better. As long as everything is looked after and keeps working.
  6. Not your average food menu. What really excited and intrigued people about the opening of Pet Shop was that it was to be vegetarian/vegan-friendly bar. This was a unique and uncertain twist. Would the people want a healthy, veggie snack after drinking? The good news is, it doesn’t have to be healthy, but it can be. With options like Bombay fries and “Pulled Pork” sandwiches, most people don’t really miss their fried chicken and beef ramen. Those are just a couple of options from the Summer menu, anyway. We all anxiously await the Fall and Winter menu!unnamed-2

    The Tres Pates. 3 bean-based spread on toast. 
  7. Interesting drink options. Getting rid of the old, reliable drinks is not an option, always have those handy. However, also throwing in something new that everyone wants to try is a must. Not Your Father’s Root Beer or Hell or High Watermelon are the drinks people are looking to try without committing to an entire 6-pack. Why not be the bar that offers those super hip drinks alongside an easy choice like Corona Light?unnamed-3
  8. No more sports bars. I like sports bars. I like the energy and excitement it creates. When people get together to eat nachos and scream at the television. However, we’ve got those. So, so many of those. What about a bar where people can sit and just look at each other and chat? Although, I do kind of like the idea of having one television in the corner for the lone drinkers, bored drinkers, and the drinkers who need somewhere to look during a bathroom break or pause in the conversation. Nothing wrong with a television, just use it in a unique way. Pet Shop always plays movies on their screen. No captions, no sound, just something to peek at now and then and maybe stir up a fun conversation.
  9. Know your audience. Jersey City is where the young professionals go after work in Manhattan. They’re trying to escape the high prices and the extremeness of everything. Being that escape is hard business, but it will pay off. If you’re looking to attract the classier or older crowd, know if that’s in your best interest, then know how you can do that. Maybe electronic music and sticky bar tops aren’t the way to go. On the other hand, if you’re looking to pull in the college kids, free chips and a dance space are probably good attributes, as long as local laws will allow dancing at your establishment. Yeah, there are laws about that.
  10. Research, network, and research some more. Laws and permits and ordinances are just the tip of the iceberg. If we’re talking about general attractiveness and desirability of your bar in order to maintain interest and keep people talking, you need to know what everyone else is doing right… or wrong. Get to know other bar owners; they’re better as allies than enemies. Support them and let them help support you. They’ll send people your way and do you good, as long as you return the deed. Speak kindly and generously of them. Get to know local companies, also. Get involved in the community, be willing (and excited) to go to fairs and give out merchandise and give out business cards. Have special deals, events, and themed nights. Have fun so your customers can have fun, and just maybe things will be a lot easier than you expect!
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