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Kohai

Bar Layout, Setup, and Design

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Not sure yet. Soft opening was last night, and we're hoping that was the last we'll see of similarly soft ice. I've got about 50 pounds in a deep freeze hardening up in hopes that it will produce something less than the 50% dilution we were seeing last night (and I've got four Tavolo trays worth of cubes sitting in my day-job freezer for rocks drinks). There will be no barbacks, so the question is how one of us can get that ice from the far recesses of the basement, through the prep kitchen, up the stairs, through the kitchen and pass, and into the bar, how much of the wet ice we can expect to use for water, that sort of thing. I think winging it is going to be the only option for a while.

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Not sure yet. Soft opening was last night, and we're hoping that was the last we'll see of similarly soft ice. I've got about 50 pounds in a deep freeze hardening up in hopes that it will produce something less than the 50% dilution we were seeing last night (and I've got four Tavolo trays worth of cubes sitting in my day-job freezer for rocks drinks). There will be no barbacks, so the question is how one of us can get that ice from the far recesses of the basement, through the prep kitchen, up the stairs, through the kitchen and pass, and into the bar, how much of the wet ice we can expect to use for water, that sort of thing. I think winging it is going to be the only option for a while.

use "18 quart carlisle containers" and you can stick a few of them next to each other in the well. sometimes four. two regular ice, one crushed, one shaved for your various bottles like lemon juice or wine. get the white versions and not the clear because they handle the freezer better without cracking the plastic.

sometimes places use compartment sinks instead of proper ice bins because they are far cheaper, come in better shapes, and if you don't have soda on the gun, you don't need a cold plate.

i also keep a zero dollar button in the computer so the chef or food runner can bring ice in a pinch.

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Thanks, Steven. Those are on the wishlist. For now we're using a mishmash of containers that are doing the job pretty well.

Boy, did I spend a lot of time last week thinking about these issues. The bar at Cook & Brown is very long and straight; you can get a sense of it on bar manager Michael Dietsch's blog. The week prompts the following thoughts; please feel free to make suggestions or just vent.

Even if the majority of the entire pass is relatively wide, having one spot that is narrow enough to prevent two people from passing each other is a nightmare. The one at C&B is 12" wide, and it affects everything.

There are two refrigerators at about the 1/3 and 2/3 points of the bar; one has sliding doors (good) and the other swinging doors (bad). Figuring out how to organize those two fridges with beer, white wine, juices, batched cocktails, and so on has been a challenge to say the least. In addition, beer glasses, coupes and champagne glasses are in the fridge taking up a ton of room.

When the three sinks are set up for sanitation, there's only one other sink at the bar, and that has a water filtration system connected to it, so it's the go-to tap water sink and often has a pitcher in it. That is to say: there's no reliable sink for hand-washing, a quick water rinse, etc. In addition, we've had to set up a bin near the sanitation sinks for dumping dirty ice, as it cools the first sanitation basin too much -- and with Southsides on the menu, it also becomes a disgusting pool of old mint in a hurry.

We finally got the POS system in a better place -- it had been at the narrow 12" pass at first -- but it has a huge footprint on the back bar and servers are constantly in and out to deal with various problems that can't be solved at the server station POS. I'm hoping that will be fixed soon, as it's a traffic jam far too often back there.

There is no speed rail, nor is there any ability to put one in. That means that the spirits that form the base of the cocktail menu have to be arranged on the shelves within easy reach, a fairly simple design issue that should be resolved once the liquor supply issue is addressed. (I did mention that we still are lacking a liquor license, right?)

There are two systems for cleaning bar glassware, neither of which has appropriate space. One involves using the sanitizing sink, which leaves the cleaned, cool, but unpolished glassware 2/3s of the way down the bar. The other involves the main dishwasher, which leaves the glassware hot and unpolished. I try to stay ahead of the glassware stock issue as best I can with the sanitizing sink, but eventually we have to stick warm wine and beer glasses into the back row and hope they cool off in time when we're in the weeds.

The twelve seats at the bar have been consistently filled each night with diners, which adds still more stuff -- setups, bread bowls and plates, bins for dirty dishes -- to the mix.

Oh, and the best part: the bar dumps out at the server station (coffee, server POS, butter fridge...) AND at the doorway to/from the kitchen. That's also the end of the bar that faces the dining room, so it's where servers pick up their table orders. That is to say, the bar ends at a 3'x3' area that is the highest traffic area on the floor.

Right now there are still a few chunks of relatively empty space below the bar top and back bar. There is a lot of shelving at the far, closed end of the bar, and three spaces on either side as you move toward the open end of the bar. I can dream about appliances -- a freezer would be first on the list for glasses, rocks ice, etc. -- but I think that for now cheap short-term ideas would be welcomed.

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Sounds a bit rough. This may be a silly request but I'd love to see any blueprints/schematics/diagrams of what you're describing. Who planned the bar layout? Is it your perception that those challenges could have avoided with different (or, better) bar design?

I only went to Whistler in Chicago once, but I remember that they were doing a good job of cranking out good drinks in volume with a non-ideal bar layout, to say the least. Which is to say, solutions can be found.

It sounds like you might have already thought about this, but what about building upwards? Racks of glassware (wine glasses or anything footed that needn't be chilled) hanging over the bartop, etc?

Another thought: is it better for servers to pick up their drinks at the service station, rather than at the kitchen door on the other side of the bar?

What do you guys do for your juice? Squeeze it preshift?

ETA: OK, I'm looking over the pictures on the blog. Looks like quite a challenge!


Edited by Kohai (log)

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Thanks, Steven. Those are on the wishlist. For now we're using a mishmash of containers that are doing the job pretty well.

Boy, did I spend a lot of time last week thinking about these issues. The bar at Cook & Brown is very long and straight; you can get a sense of it on bar manager Michael Dietsch's blog. The week prompts the following thoughts; please feel free to make suggestions or just vent.

Even if the majority of the entire pass is relatively wide, having one spot that is narrow enough to prevent two people from passing each other is a nightmare. The one at C&B is 12" wide, and it affects everything.

There are two refrigerators at about the 1/3 and 2/3 points of the bar; one has sliding doors (good) and the other swinging doors (bad). Figuring out how to organize those two fridges with beer, white wine, juices, batched cocktails, and so on has been a challenge to say the least. In addition, beer glasses, coupes and champagne glasses are in the fridge taking up a ton of room.

When the three sinks are set up for sanitation, there's only one other sink at the bar, and that has a water filtration system connected to it, so it's the go-to tap water sink and often has a pitcher in it. That is to say: there's no reliable sink for hand-washing, a quick water rinse, etc. In addition, we've had to set up a bin near the sanitation sinks for dumping dirty ice, as it cools the first sanitation basin too much -- and with Southsides on the menu, it also becomes a disgusting pool of old mint in a hurry.

We finally got the POS system in a better place -- it had been at the narrow 12" pass at first -- but it has a huge footprint on the back bar and servers are constantly in and out to deal with various problems that can't be solved at the server station POS. I'm hoping that will be fixed soon, as it's a traffic jam far too often back there.

There is no speed rail, nor is there any ability to put one in. That means that the spirits that form the base of the cocktail menu have to be arranged on the shelves within easy reach, a fairly simple design issue that should be resolved once the liquor supply issue is addressed. (I did mention that we still are lacking a liquor license, right?)

There are two systems for cleaning bar glassware, neither of which has appropriate space. One involves using the sanitizing sink, which leaves the cleaned, cool, but unpolished glassware 2/3s of the way down the bar. The other involves the main dishwasher, which leaves the glassware hot and unpolished. I try to stay ahead of the glassware stock issue as best I can with the sanitizing sink, but eventually we have to stick warm wine and beer glasses into the back row and hope they cool off in time when we're in the weeds.

The twelve seats at the bar have been consistently filled each night with diners, which adds still more stuff -- setups, bread bowls and plates, bins for dirty dishes -- to the mix.

Oh, and the best part: the bar dumps out at the server station (coffee, server POS, butter fridge...) AND at the doorway to/from the kitchen. That's also the end of the bar that faces the dining room, so it's where servers pick up their table orders. That is to say, the bar ends at a 3'x3' area that is the highest traffic area on the floor.

Right now there are still a few chunks of relatively empty space below the bar top and back bar. There is a lot of shelving at the far, closed end of the bar, and three spaces on either side as you move toward the open end of the bar. I can dream about appliances -- a freezer would be first on the list for glasses, rocks ice, etc. -- but I think that for now cheap short-term ideas would be welcomed.

the pictures make the space look pretty cool (besides the lack of shelving on the back).

what equipment creates the 12 inch narrowing of the pass behind the bar? i've worked spaces like that and we just became really good at communicating and passing stuff to each other.

i worked a less than ideal two man bar where we serve tons of food and all drinks came off one station. one person stuck to the drinks station and the other was the waiter, dishwasher, and conversationalist. you just ordered all your mixed drinks from the other guy. we were able to do 4k in sales on 16 seats with $20 entrees and $7 cocktails. we could have every seat eating dinner from 20 minutes after opening to the kitchen closing at 1:30 a.m. that space only had one single door fridge for the four whites by the glass and the back bar was only 10 inches deep. definitely no chilled glassware.

i don't like sliding door fridges. the swinging door is your friend as long as it can be opened all the way, you just learn to reach over it in different ways. think, "what would jackie chan do?" at my previous bar, we were selling more beer in the summer than our fridges could hold. and you could never restock in a shift because the bar walk-in was a maze of hallways and floors away in the hotel. bottles just weren't taking advantage of the square footage of the fridge so i switched quite a few beers to cans, stacked them three high and solved the problem. you can get good quality cans these days. we were doing pork slap, dales pale ale, tecate, brooklyn lager, and i wanted to do the sea hag i.p.a.

i would never put glasses in the fridge, for starters its really unsanitary. i'd rather have a stainless steel or copper box with a drain that i could fill with shaved ice to chill glasses. an awesome ice shaver is $300. a fridge or freezer is a few thousand.

when it come to mint drinks, many bartenders i know just toss them ice and all in to the trash. often times it just better than clogging up the sink.

to free up that hand washing sink you may want to think of installing a "t & s brand glass filler" on the counter. they are really easy to plumb. you just split off the cold water supply from under your sink and run a plastic hose.

with some better shelves on the back, that space looks workable. the photos look great.

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Kohai, I don't think that there are any schematics. The place was a bakery, then a restaurant, then another restaurant, then another.... Eventually we make it to 2010 and what we have here: skinny bar, awkward sink placement, service station at end of bar at kitchen door. Accident, not intention, is the designer here.

It sounds like you might have already thought about this, but what about building upwards? Racks of glassware (wine glasses or anything footed that needn't be chilled) hanging over the bartop, etc?

Yeah, I think we'll be building upward and downward both. More racks below and shelves above, including a bunch of new shelves for glass racks as they are filled and come out of the dishwasher. We're also trying to do as many as possible by hand until the crush starts.

What do you guys do for your juice? Squeeze it preshift?

We're now doing lemon and lime immediately before shift and freezing leftovers for lemonade each night.

what equipment creates the 12 inch narrowing of the pass behind the bar? i've worked spaces like that and we just became really good at communicating and passing stuff to each other.

That's what's been happening here. We pushed the POS far enough down and prohibit all extra staff from coming back there, which is helping a lot.

i worked a less than ideal two man bar where we serve tons of food and all drinks came off one station. one person stuck to the drinks station and the other was the waiter, dishwasher, and conversationalist. you just ordered all your mixed drinks from the other guy.

When we've had two folks on shift, that's what we've been doing -- though the outer bartender has also been handling basic rocks drinks.

A few new items. We've now got a two-sink sanitation system with a mesh strainer over the first sink for ice, straws, etc. That's also the hand-washing sink now. Phew.

Got the liquor license, and the first, massive order has arrived. I've now been struggling to figure out best placement for the booze: by type? grouped for menu cocktails?

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I like anything for menu cocktails within arm's reach. After that the bottles that guests are going to ask for more frequently are placed where most accessible for busy service, but I like to try to find space to display bottles that many people may have not yet tried to encourage conversation and education. Placing Anchor Junipero in front of Bombay Sapphire, or Bernheim wheat whiskey alongside Makers Mark; even something as simple as Green Chartreuse being in the front and center of the bar encourages people to pause and consider trying something new.

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Boy, have I appreciated the adjustable shelves on this bar design over the last month and a half.

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I am working on my bar layout right now... what are your feelings on Krowne MultiStations? I've got a lead on some used ones - the type with the ice bin, small area for prep and a double speed rail. i am going to try to fit four in, so my front bar will look like:

glass rack

multi station

hand wash sink

multi station

glass rack

quad sink

glass rack

multi station

hand wash sink

multi station

glass rack

my back bar will have two three door coolers, and two small reach in freezers. ice machine is going in the basement.

my bar is long and skinny, so i am thinking this will work. dunno. thoughts? comments?

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sorry for my horribly delayed response... i just bot a bar in Detroit that has been closed for 50+ years. good news is it's a beautiful space. bad news is it needs a ton of work. working on blue prints / permits / financing, but been thinking about layout quite a bit... here's where i am at.

overall inside bar length is about 26'. i've got a 6' long 3 bin sink right in the middle of the bar, so that leaves 5' per cocktail station, since i want to fit 4 back there. i've got to use 18" deep equipment under the bar for building codes. knowing that, i am planning on each station having a 24" ice bin w/ cold plate, double speed rail & bins for garnishes, 12" sink w/ speed rail for shakers / tins / tools, 18" x 18" glass rack (adjustable intermetro type so i'll get at least 4 levels or around 80 glasses per unit) and a 6" x 18" trash can... we'll make the drinks on the drink rail itself, which isn't much of a reach since the equipment is only 18" deep.

in the back bar, i'm hoping to fit two small reach in freezers and two four door coolers. my bar is going all the way up the ceiling (approx. 10' over the bar) so a ladder will have to be involved for the very top shelf action, which sucks, but the common bottles will be on the lower few levels.

so, i'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter... how would you lay out your own 5' workstation?

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I have much to say about this topic since I returned from Kazuo Uyeda's Bar Tender in Tokyo, which he designed himself. More to follow, but one basic point was abundantly clear: the bar itself is far wider than most US bars, creating three distinct zones: a working zone for the bartender; a "transit zone" where drinks are presented and then moved to the guest; and the guest's zone, where the drinks and snacks reside. When the guest is finished, he pushes the plate or glass into the transit zone, where it is quickly whisked away.

If you put your head down the bar from one end -- as I did several times, to the entertainment of Uyeda and his staff -- you can see the three zones demarcated clearly, all because of the care of the bartending staff. Amazing.

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General commentary on Tender and Uyeda would also be greatly appreciated (especially so since my planned trip to Japan and Tender got unfortunately cancelled).

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Random question about ice machines:

What is a good rule of thumb about how many pounds per day will be needed when choosing an ice machine? I've got my eye on something on Craigslist but I'm not sure if it will crank out enough. And speaking of Craigslist, I've been strongly cautioned (by ice machine vendors) not to buy a used ice machine due to unreliability. Does anyone disagree/agree with this?

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I don't know if anyone is still watching this thread, but I'd love to hear some feedback on Top loading bottle coolers VS front loaders (sliding glass or hinged doors). The top loaders hold a LOT more beer and are easier on the back. Also simple to load, although you do have to rotate the stock occasionally.) Mahalo (Thanks).

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This is more about how I need to design the "bar" space at our cabin. This will be our retirement place and we hope to be there permanently in the next year or so. I don't have a perfect spot in the cabin for a real bar so it will be built in cabinets along a wall in the great room. As it is a log cabin, cutting into walls and such to add plumbing may be be structurally unwise and beyond reasonable for the budget considering how many other projects need to be done. 

So here is my question for those of you who are experienced, either professionally or not, with setting up and serving cocktails when you don't have a sink right there. How do you rinse jiggers, spoons, mixing stuff when you don't have a sink and don't want to traipse through the space to do so? I started thinking about catered parties I've been to where there is a bar set up out by a pool or something. Obviously there isn't a sink but I have been to these events where they offer cocktails. Do they have a bucket with water to dunk stuff in? Most of the time it will be just my husband and myself but we do host 4-5 gatherings a year. I'm trying to decide if blowing the budget to have the sink is just silly or do people have good solutions for those events. 

If it matters, in my current home I don't have a good bar space but I do have a big kitchen with a second prep sink. So I tend to pick a cocktail or two for the evening and batch mix ahead of time. Then all I have to do is set up a little self serve station and can use the prep sink nearby to rinse if I need and not get in the way of food prep. 

Here is the layout of new cabin. 

First pic shows bar space against stairwall in relation to kitchen, pic bar with sink, pic 3 bar no sink. 

You_Doodle_2017-01-09T18_00_10Z.jpg

IMG_2530.PNG

IMG_2544.PNG

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For small events, you try to limit the types of drinks so that you don't need so much equipment. If you offer, say, Manhattans you simply designate one shaker as the Manhattan one and keep using it. (it will always be clean inside if handled properly) This theory allows one to more efficiently use the alcohol as well. There's no need to get gin, rum, rye, bourbon, vodka, tequila, cognac, etc. if you focus the event on just a few key drinks (Manhattan, Martini, Martinez, for example) you can get away with buying a 1.75L of 2-3 types.

 

Then, you figure out how to batch certain ingredients, alone or in groups, to prevent having to hand make every drink. For example, showing up with a carafe of lime juice means no one has to squeeze limes. If you make a pitcher-full of blackcurrant Daisies (or a pitcher each of those Manhattans, Martinis, Martinezes) and keep it sitting in an ice-bucket, you won't have to shake anything. Some drinks can be assembled up to the point of the float, which can be added as each glass is poured.

 

I would like to remind you that punch, real punch, is a wonderful category of drink and is designed to serve at this sort of event. Wondrich wrote a great book about it.

 

Having some bottles of beer and a couple big bottles of wine helps take pressure off the mixed drinks, as will offering a simple highball or two (gin&tonic, rum&tonic, rum&cola, etc.)

 

The most important thing is having a bartender who can control the crowd with good cheer. Letting some people pour their own drinks can be disaster.

 

Generally, we would hide bus tubs under the bar table and toss all the dirty barware in them, and take it all back to home base to be washed.

 

The other trick is to set up a non-alcoholic drink station as far away from the bar as possible. Even if it's just a bucket of ice filled with water bottles and a few sodas, the traffic for non-alcoholic drinks won't slow the bar down. (If no one will really be using the stairs at your place, I'd set up some buckets of water and sodas on the stairs. -Not completely block them, just use a few halfway.)

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Omg Lisa. You are brilliant. I didn't even think of using the space at the bottom of the stairs. No one would need to go up there at all during a party so that's perfect!

I actually inherited a beautiful mid century punch set so I will look into the book you mentioned. I have some great cocktail books so would love to add to the collection. 

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7 hours ago, Annette Marron Holbrook said:

I actually inherited a beautiful mid century punch set so I will look into the book you mentioned. I have some great cocktail books so would love to add to the collection. 

 

I have a copy and recommend it.  For your party pay particular attention to the engraving on the cover.

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I forgot to mention trashcans. Put some out, people will use them -and inebriated people might need help finding them, so make them obvious. I'd put a little one on the stairs, a big one on the porch (to catch people leaving and people going out for air), one near the door to the powder room area, one inside the master bedroom (it might get used to store coats, or people wanting to have a serious conversation may go in there), and a big one in the kitchen.

 

I'd also make sure that some cleaning supplies are handy for when accidents happen. Bar mop towels, paper towels, extra trash bags, a broom and dustpan, and a mop should all be fairly handy. Looking at your layout, I would avoid having these in the laundry room, as they would be inaccessible if someone is using the powder room. Maybe set up a discrete supplies station on the side porch or at the top of the stairs.

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We always make Sanghria for our annual pig roast.  Nice on a hot day.

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I can understand not trying to put in water lines on an outside wall in a cabin but since your bar is on an interior wall, and a stairway at that, is their no way to bring a water line to it from beneath the stairway? I presume your water line is underneath the cabin already?

 

If that isn't an option it looks like you have space at the end of the bar before the end of the stairway. Could you put a water cooler type stand there with the big bottle you invert on type of it? Or even a countertop model perhaps. Some provide both cold and hot water. Not very glamorous perhaps but then you would have water accessible and you could have a portable basin of some sort on the bar type to rinse stuff in and a pitcher to get the water from the cooler. Might be a pretty pricey option though!

 

When I set up my little pop up cocktail bar outside (and I am by no means a professional. This is just a casual set up for friends so appearance is largely unimportant) I get the rectangular 2.5 gallon water bottle with a spout from the grocery store and put a bucket underneath to catch the water. Then I have fresh water to use or to rinse and clean with. But might be a little messy for indoor use.

 

Although it doesn't seem like your pass thru to the kitchen is that far away. Less convenient but at least you could pass stuff relatively easily form kitchen to the bar area if need be although I know you said you didn't want to traipse through the space.

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Tanstaafl2, I have had three different plumbers in to quote running a water line to the bar. It can be done but the cheapest I was quoted was $900. Just not sure that it is a wise use of funds. 

I do have one of those water coolers you mentioned, so when I have a party it would be simple to move it in there. Great idea. Which got me thinking, I also have one of those drink dispensers people use for lemonade, so could just put that on the counter with water and put a small tub under, I can use it for multiple purposes. 

IMG_2559.PNG


Edited by Annette Marron Holbrook (log)
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Adding the water line unfortunately does seem rather spendy. Can buy a lot of good booze with $900!

 

The lemonade/water dispenser pictured sounds like a great alternative for what you need. If you find you need more counter space for drink prep the water cooler can always be the back up plan.

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