3 Steps to Hosting a Bar-Packing Theme Night:
Part 2 of Our 3-Part Guest Blogger Series
By Guest Blogger Rochelle Carlotti, Bar Manager
Last month, we introduced our three-part blog on how to host a bar-packing theme night and discussed how to pick a theme.
Once you’ve decided on your theme, the next step is to plan.
Step 2: Plan Around the Theme
The devil is in the details. The key to any successful theme night is to come up with ways to make the theme prevalent throughout the bar. Here are some of the key things I focus on and include to make my events a success:
I. Music: The focal point of many of my events is the music. For some events, the music choice is obvious. On 90’s Night we exclusively played the most popular 90’s songs. For Disney night, we played Disney theme songs and had local singer songwriters perform their favorite Disney songs.
For some events, the music choice is not as apparent, but is just as important to creating a full experience. For example, on Pajama Jam Night, we played fun music that you may hear in a sleepover montage of your favorite teen film. Think: Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Want To Have Fun. Beach Party Night was set to a playlist packed full of The Beach Boys, Sugar Ray, The Eagles and of course Wipe Out!
II. Decorations: Decorating the bar for your event is no small task, but it is truly the key to creating the full experience of any theme. This includes everything from wall decorations to photo props. This aspect can be as subtle or as overt as you choose. Here’s what I always include:
- Photo Stations
At every event I set up some kind of photo station. For example, Emo Night included a “Myspace profile” board with a cutout in the center where people could pose. I created cut out masks of recognizable singers from famous emo bands for people to pose with. Beach Party Night included a back-drop of a giant wave and a cardboard surfboard for people to pose with riding the wave.Having a photo station gives people a unique way to remember and capture the event and encourages lots of social media social media sharing, making others aware of the event and the inevitable good time they are missing, hopefully causing them to attend the next event, or even rush to our bar to get in on the fun.
- Theme-Centric Ephemera
Beach party night also included an inflatable pool on our patio, tiki torches, beach balls, and sand toys placed around the bar. Decorations for 90’s Night included posters of boy bands on the walls, tube TVs with VCRs set up on each table with a selection of VHS tapes to be played such as Saved By The Bell and She’s All That (these are plentiful at any thrift store), as well as popular 90’s games such as Dream Phone and Mall Madness placed on tables. Pajama Jam included a cereal buffet for everyone to indulge in. Emo Night included an Eyeliner Application Station, a Xanga Wall and a Crying Corner. The decorating possibilities are endless with a little bit of creativity and create a really fun and immersive experience for your patrons.
III. Cocktails: Creating a specialty drink for the occasion is a great touch and a good way to increase your drink sales. Most people will want to try at least one. This is a great way to get bartenders to flex their creative muscles and creates a profit-boosting upcharge opportunity. For 90’s Night, we incorporated popular candies of the time period. We gave patrons the option to add a warhead to any beer, making it sour and served up a pop rocks lemonade, which was just a basic electric lemonade cocktail rimmed with pop rocks.
Squirt gun shots proved to be a success on Beach Party Night: dollar start squirt guns filled with beach-themed shots were a blast to use.
Some breweries craft beer specifically for certain bands or TV shows, for example, Ommegang Brewery makes a special Game Of Thrones beer for every season of the show. Your specialty drink could be as simple as ordering that in on tap.
IV. Attire: Encourage patrons to dress up for any theme night you plan. This is a fun way to get everyone involved in the event. Incentivize themed attired by awarding prizes to the best dressed customers.
V. Giveaways and Party Favors: Everyone loves free stuff! Award prizes to people for throughout the night. Gift Cards are always a great giveaway, people love them and they guarantee that patron will return to your establishment. We’ve raffled off a rare bottle of beer or a T-Shirt from your bar. Don’t be afraid to incorporate your theme into the prizes as well.
Make sure to have some cheap party favors for all of your guests to enjoy. Small items placed on the bar or tables for your patrons to use during the event or take home always adds to the fun. For example, during our Pajama Jam night, we placed sleeping masks and face cream on the tables for attendees to use and take home with them at the end of the night.