How do you design a bar? Discover the tips for systematically measuring existing bars and developing ideas for re-designing a commercial bar and backbar.
THE IMPORTANCE OF MEASURING EXISTING CONDITIONS IN BAR DESIGN
Here again is the “As-Built” plan that I created in preparation of the bar re-design, which depicts the shape of the existing bar (which we reviewed in Pt. 1 of this series). I always recommend developing a record of existing conditions for every bar design and this one had particular significance. During my initial site visit I immediately noticed that the existing bar appeared to have a “matchbook” appearance. The lobes were nearly identical in size and appeared to be symmetrical about the bar’s vertical centerline (ref. to the photo at right). This suggested that a simple re-design solution might be attainable. However, I also realized early-on that the existing plumbing drains and electrical wiring could present complications in achieving that. As shown in these photos, the sheer quantity of utilities posed a challenge. The construction of this particular building was slab-on-grade, so utility relocation would have been very costly. Therefore, the new bar design would also be required to encapsulate the existing utilities. Most importantly, however, I needed to verify the exact location of all utilities before proceeding to the design process, and this particular bar posed a formidable hurdle: how does one locate utilities in a circular bar? Unless you own a total station GPS system, you have to get creative. After measuring countless commercial buildings over the years, what I’ve developed is the next-best thing: create your own 2-axis measuring system! Nearly every commercial building has ceramic tile floors and this becomes built-in graph paper! In other words, because we know the distance from a known point to this floor drain, we can then set-up our grid, so that we can get the horizontal and vertical distance to each other point from this point – so, this is how the 2-axis system is set-up – you either do it through flooring grid or snapping chalk lines (ref. to the photo at right). A word of caution: always measure twice!
HOW DO YOU DESIGN A COMMERCIAL BAR?
As I mentioned earlier, my goal was to use the symmetry of the existing bar to develop a symmetrical multi-sided bar. Realizing that I had physical constraints at both ends of the bar, my first step was to develop a rough draft. The aisle clearance of 52 ¼” at the right end is within the accepted range of 48” – 60”. The bartender aisle clearances of 78” within each end station are a bit excessive, but the majority of the bartender’s movements have been designed to be primarily side-to-side. Besides, if I had chosen to minimize these aisles we wouldn’t have adequate aisles around the island backbar. Lastly, I designed each station to have 8’ of speed rails, which is an ideal quantity. Realizing that the center (connecting) section would likely be retained, I focused my effort on drawing a concept of the left end and then copied, flipped and pasted it to the other, to test my hypothesis. After several iterations, you’ll notice that the right-end of the bar is very similar to the left end and both are reasonably within the envelope of the existing bar tops, as shown here. The objects shown in green are expendable, so these won’t necessarily be part of the final bar design. Next, I created a first draft of the new bar by drawing the new countertops and overlaying them over the existing. Although the bottom legs of each side aren’t exact, this is entirely acceptable to me. This bar is, indeed, symmetrical about its vertical axis. A quick equipment layout of each side confirms that we’re on the right track. A gate was drawn on each side of the bar for convenient personnel access.
Also included is a preliminary concept for the center back bar that will house the draft beer towers. Although this will likely require more space, given the flexibility to maneuver the center (connecting) section of the bar leads me to believe that this portion of the bar design should flow uneventfully. We'll address this issue in Part 3 of this series.