Yes, in some cases today there really is pie in the sky…and drinks and food to go with it. It is becoming a trend, usually in multi-story urban hotels, to put a bar up on the roof and thus provide the owner with another revenue source. You do not HAVE to own a high rise to do this, however. We have seen some restaurants that have done a nice job on their roof that is just one floor up. These types of facilities have been especially popular in areas where there are great city views in the afternoon and evening hours, when these places are most likely to be popular. The millennial generation has become especially fond of these bars and love to take “selfies” with a cityscape in the background. These then get posted on their site or texted to other friends so as to say… see where I am. Sending these pictures to all their friends gives that bar tons of free publicity. We have, on several occasions, seen long lines of people waiting patiently to get in to these roof bars. Especially if it is the current place to be…it is where they want to be.
Some Things to Consider …
There are a few things that need to be considered when planning a roof top bar. First, do you have the view that will entice people there and then make them want to stay? People want to experience something that they do not have at home. They may not live in a high rise with a killer view from the balcony but this bar lets them have that experience, if only for a little while.
Next issue is codes. Will your location allow a bar on the roof and can you handle the exiting (stairs) requirements, based on the anticipated population? Then there is the issue of elevator access…how will the people get there? Presuming you have cleared those hurdles and there is no other existing obstruction on the roof, you need to talk to your structural engineer to determine if the building roof can accommodate the weight of the crowd of people that are expected. Can the building structure handle the anticipated weight of people and everything else needed to justify the cost versus the expected revenue? If not, what will it cost to upgrade it so it can? This is especially important in older buildings since most of them were not built with the anticipation that there could be a hundred or more people hanging out and partying on the roof.
Now the Actual Design…
If all of the above is feasible, next you need to consider the actual design and how much you want to spend for this facility. In addition to the mechanical and electrical and plumbing for the bar itself, it will need rest room facilities for the guests, sized for the anticipated population. (code requirements again) It will also need pantry space for storage for ice and backup beer and liquor. Then there is trash. It is a certainty that you will have it and you will need to hold it someplace until it can be brought down to the main trash holding area. If you are planning on serving food, the trash will become more of an issue since leftover food scraps will start to smell after a while when the weather is warm and those odors can turn off people you want to be at your roof top bar. The food menu, either simple snacks or more elaborate, is up to you, the operator, depending on the available space and your market. It is a good idea to offer food of some sort as it further conveys the image of “class” and helps justify the cost you are charging for the drinks. This food should be served on china and glassware, again to reinforce the image and let millennials know that you are doing your part to be “green.” Those dishes and glasses will need to be washed, however, and that means more space in the pantry area.
Then There Are the Aesthetics and Function….
Finally, you should consider whether the bar needs a roof over part or all of it. This has much to do with the location and shade available, your climate and if the sun beating down will be too much for people on hot summer days. Should all or part of the bar be able to be enclosed so that it can be used when the weather cools off or it starts to rain? Depending on the cost, a roof of some sort may be a good idea so that you can get more use of the space when weather would otherwise not permit. What, if any, kind of landscaping will you have there and will the landscape and the seating areas need to accommodate high winds? While natural greenery and trees do enhance a space, they need to be watered and sometimes more frequently due to the wind, so do you want an irrigation system to ensure that it gets done? If that landscaping is intended to be semi-permanent, what will it weigh as it gets larger? Has the building structure planned for that increased load in that spot?
OK…You Built It
Now that you have taken care of all of the above and your bar has been built, the staff has been hired and the permits are in place, let the public know about your new bar. Then get ready to welcome the guests and let the partying begin!
By: Armand Iaia
Regional Manager | Chicago