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What's new in bar and pub design?

  Casual comfort and unique themes can make “club pubs” the preferred destinations for less buttoned-up dining and social experiences.

By Diana Mirel, Club & Resort Business

As clubs test the dress-code waters while striving to stay relevant, they’re finding that more members and guests want to be able to don their favorite jeans and a collared shirt in lieu of a jacket and tie—and that creating a more casual pub or bar environment can be the most effective way to embrace this trend without compromising the quality or goals of the club as a whole.

When the Rio Verde (Ariz.) Country Club took this approach with its new Verde Pub, it was an instant success. By ditching the table linens, mounting flat-screen TVs on the walls and providing wheeled chairs that allow members to roll freely around the room, the informal space quickly took on a life of its own.

“The pub affords us more dining options and more dining space,” explains Robert Coleman, Director of Food and Beverage Operations. “While we’re doing a $200 wine-tasting dinner in the formal dining room, members who don’t want to dress up can still have an $11 hamburger at the Pub, without feeling excluded from the rest of the club.”

Combining casual comfort with superior service has proved to be a winning equation for Rio Verde CC and many other properties. To tap into the full potential of a bar space, clubs and resorts are focusing on designing efficient and comfortable areas that offer members something special and different from what they’d find at local watering holes.

Earning Back the Business

Properly positioned, in fact, bars and pubs can provide properties with a new competitive edge. When Kokomo (Ind.) Country Club was losing money on its formal dining operations, the club decided to transform the formal dining room into the Club Pub, a casual sports bar.

“Our members were quickly losing interest in dressing up to go to dinner, particularly on Friday nights,” says Jason Miller, Assistant Manager. “There are a lot of pubs and bars in town, and they were stealing our business. So our main goal was to be competitive.”

Three years later, the Club Pub has done just that. “It has gone over great with our members,” says Miller. “We now do about twice of what we used to do on Friday nights.”

Despite its sports bar theme, you won’t find any kitschy neon bar signs or gaudy beer posters on the walls in Kokomo’s new Club Pub. The marble-topped wood bar, glass shelving and hardwood flooring provide an elegant foundation. Comfort, meanwhile, comes courtesy of cushioned bar stools, wood high-boy chairs, and low-top tables with metal-framed, cushioned dining chairs. Adjustable recesed lighting keeps things simple and relaxed.

Floor-to-ceiling windows throughout the room offer panoramic views of the club grounds and draw in natural light, while the light woods further establish an airy, laid-back vibe. The bar also boasts three flat-screen televisions.

Keeping the décor simple doesn’t come cheap, however. “Once you figure in marble countertops and a few 60-inch flat screens, it adds up,” says Miller. But the bar’s immediate success allowed the club to break even on its investment just one year after the Club Pub opened.


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