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LONG POST: Friends' bar in trouble - any ideas?


mstreck

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Here's some backstory...

 

We've been playing at a nice local riverside deck bar named Marina's (est. capacity of 300) since last year but have known the owners much longer. They booked us when we were just starting out and that is where we were able built up a pretty decent local fan base - so much that we consistently pack the place when we play there.

 

In the spring, two more music venues opened up in town. The one (est. capacity of 500) was only booking hard rock bands at first and wasn't much of an attraction. The other was primarily a restaurant (est. capacity of 700), but had a large music hall (w/stage) attached where bands would play - but it was so big that no one local could really fill the place up.

 

Well, both of the new venues smartened up - the hard rock bar started booking a wider variety of bands and the other moved the bands into the portion of the restaurant that also houses the bar, bringing them much closer to the audience. We've played both places and they were both enjoyable.

 

Now Marina's is in trouble. When the weather is warmer, they have a lot of people hanging out on the deck and seem to do a steady business. But now that the weather is getting colder, people aren't as willing to spend time there. Amy and I went to visit last night and there were maybe 10 people in the place, even though they had a very popular (expensive) DJ spinning video tunes. I've never seen the place so empty.

 

The owners were asking Amy and I if we had any ideas on how they could bring people into the place. Honestly, we have no idea. We're the only band that plays there that consistently packs the place. We also play the other two venues, and have been well received by both, but the original venue is still the place that we consider "home".

 

So.... do any members of the Harmony Central community think-tank have any ideas how these guys can stay afloat over the winter months? You've all seen a variety of ideas and business models. How can these guys get asses in the door? Any legitimate ideas that I can pass along?

 

Thanks!

 

Mike

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Here's some backstory...


We've been playing at a nice local riverside deck bar named Marina's (est. capacity of 300) since last year but have known the owners much longer. They booked us when we were just starting out and that is where we were able built up a pretty decent local fan base - so much that we consistently pack the place when we play there.


In the spring, two more music venues opened up in town. The one (est. capacity of 500) was only booking hard rock bands at first and wasn't much of an attraction. The other was primarily a restaurant (est. capacity of 700), but had a large music hall (w/stage) attached where bands would play - but it was so big that no one local could really fill the place up.


Well, both of the new venues smartened up - the hard rock bar started booking a wider variety of bands and the other moved the bands into the portion of the restaurant that also houses the bar, bringing them much closer to the audience. We've played both places and they were both enjoyable.


Now Marina's is in trouble. When the weather is warmer, they have a lot of people hanging out on the deck and seem to do a steady business. But now that the weather is getting colder, people aren't as willing to spend time there. Amy and I went to visit last night and there were maybe 10 people in the place, even though they had a very popular (expensive) DJ spinning video tunes. I've never seen the place so empty.


The owners were asking Amy and I if we had any ideas on how they could bring people into the place. Honestly, we have no idea. We're the only band that plays there that consistently packs the place. We also play the other two venues, and have been well received by both, but the original venue is still the place that we consider "home".


So.... do any members of the Harmony Central community think-tank have any ideas how these guys can stay afloat over the winter months? You've all seen a variety of ideas and business models. How can these guys get asses in the door? Any legitimate ideas that I can pass along?


Thanks!


Mike

 

 

 

 

What do they have for inside capacity ,,, whats the layout for the outside capacity? How cold does it get in the winter? The only solution is move stuff inside or take their outside space and somehow make it livable in the winter. we have lots of outside places down here that have boat style canvas where they close them in when it gets cold , but 45 degrees and rain is as cold as it gets typically and they run lots of portable propane heaters.

 

Its a tough deal. the goal is to either fill the place or shut off the overhead and hunker down.

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IDK my local dive bar has tried anything and everything...

 

Drink specials, food specials, DJ+drinking games to get the younger/college kids, karaoke, one-man band playing to backing tracks, DJ + team trivia night.

 

Who knows, so much depends on the local demographics.

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Since they started you off when you first got together, you could give them a freebie now and again when you're not playing elsewhere.

 

 

We had considered that. Amy and I are really the only ones who were around in the beginning, so I'm not sure how the other guys would feel about it.

 

Still... they need something else. A short-term fix isn't going to keep them afloat.

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We had considered that. Amy and I are really the only ones who were around in the beginning, so I'm not sure how the other guys would feel about it.


Still... they need something else. A short-term fix isn't going to keep them afloat.

 

 

whats there food like? down here every one has dinnner specials. At our home base , mon and wed is steak night,, thurs is cajun night. Live music 7 nights a week. There is always a big party on every holiday with a huge feed. its a very social atmosphere that kind of revolves around the bars , the food and the entertainment. i have never seen anything like it anyplace else. Yea they can pack a bar for thankgiving dinner.. and the same people will show up on christmas and newyears. Lots of empty nesters down here.

 

Major holiday ,, put on your best flip flops and head for the bar.

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well what's their deal?

 

what are they into?

 

open mic nites?

 

bands play there how often?

 

Tvs/sports?

 

Food?

 

Good food?

 

pretty girls?

 

age group?

 

 

so far we have a bar that is competing with 2 others that relies on outdoor space for capacity/entertainment and it is getting cold, you like this place, play it, they like you. Need more of teh infos please.

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whats there food like? down here every one has dinnner specials. At our home base , mon and wed is steak night,, thurs is cajun night. Live music 7 nights a week. There is always a big party on every holiday with a huge feed. its a very social atmosphere that kind of revolves around the bars , the food and the entertainment. i have never seen anything like it anyplace else. Yea they can pack a bar for thankgiving dinner.. and the same people will show up on christmas and newyears. Lots of empty nesters down here.


Major holiday ,, put on your best flip flops and head for the bar.

 

 

This is Seaford, DE - very rural - and the bar-going crowd is mostly 25 - 35 and very "party-minded".

 

The food used to be very good - I'm not sure what it will be like once they get changed over to the ribs place. I'm hoping they will still serve the downstairs food at the upstairs bar - not sure if that is going to happen.

 

I recommended installing a fryer upstairs if they have the room. I used to co-own a pizza restaurant so I know there is a high profit margin in fried foods when compared to other things (like sandwiches and pizza).

 

Still they need to do something to stay in the front of people's minds so they come there to eat/drink.

 

One thing I pointed out last night - they have 1025 followers on facebook but stopped doing updates a couple of weeks ago, so no one knew what was going on there last night. More "locals" will see the advertising on facebook than hear it on the radio, so why not take advantage of that?

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In NY waterfront and seasonal venues get hit pretty hard in the winter months. Some close for 4 months (keeping operating expenses to a minimum) and others drag along, operating at a loss until the nice weather starts to pull people back. Without a roster of decent bands to fill a calendar people will not likely consider the place a destination. If they want live entertainment they will have to spend alot on advertising. Use social networking sites, but additionally, radio and local papers. Even in the age of the internet people still check our local paper on Friday to plan their weekend bar hop.

 

We live near a river with lots of waterfront destinations. In the summer, venues 10-30 miles from the water suffer as nice weather pulls everyone outdoors to patio bars and waterfront nightclubs. In contrast, come Labor Day, the waterfront closes shop and all of those dormant venues begin filling back up. It's the same cycle every year. Your friends may have to decide how to limit operations if they can't spend money marketing the venue. As Rhat said, if the place is known for great food then maybe a lunch and dinner crowd can keep them afloat if the bar is empty past 11pm.

 

BTW...is the place really a 300 person capacity? That's quite a large place. We play a few rooms that are 200-400 person rooms and the open area is close to 5000 sq ft. Think about that... that's a small mansion. Even the videos I post where people are packed shoulder to shoulder are really smaller places... we fit much more than the fire code, but the reality is they are really 125-200 person rooms. If this place is really a 300 person capacity place then he has alot of overhead I imagine.

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Responded in quote. :D

 

well what's their deal?


what are they into? -
typical relaxed atmosphere, flat screens for sports, no theme to speak of, but they are right next to a marina (Nanticoke River).


open mic nites? -
they used to do that, but stopped


bands play there how often? -
usually on fri and sat nights, with the exception of a DJ once in a while


Tvs/sports? -
yep (see above)


Food? -
not much selection- they used to have full dinners. Shrunk the menu to burgers, fries, pulled pork, pizza, some seafood
.


Good food? -
used to be. Haven't eaten anything but pizza and wings there recently


pretty girls? -
depends. most of them are now at the restaurant bar that I mentioned in the OP.


age group? -
21 - 35 dominate
s



so far we have a bar that is competing with 2 others that relies on outdoor space for capacity/entertainment and it is getting cold, you like this place, play it, they like you. Need more of teh infos please.


One thing I should clarify. People "drinking on the deck" seems to be a major attraction from what I can tell. However, the inside holds about 300 people. Deck is not covered. Bands play inside. TVs are inside. Bar is inside.

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DJ with corresponding ladies night

 

improve food (quality or price, wing specials during football games/queit night events)

 

facebook the hell out of their page, avoid private messaging fans...keep invites to a minimum, advertise specials, free drawings for something or the other

 

consider an open mic nite maybe even a kareoke night:facepalm:

 

bring in some shows of road bands/known artists whether it be solo acoustic or bands

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BTW...is the place really a 300 person capacity? That's quite a large place. We play a few rooms that are 200-400 person rooms and the open area is close to 5000 sq ft. Think about that... that's a small mansion. Even the videos I post where people are packed shoulder to shoulder are really smaller places... we fit much more than the fire code, but the reality is they are really 125-200 person rooms. If this place is really a 300 person capacity place then he has alot of overhead I imagine.

 

 

Just got word - official fire code is 250. We've had 100+ people there before and still a lot of wiggle room.

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There are a bunch of reasons why a business isn't working..but these days, I can almost guarantee that most bars are just that 'bars'....they have a scummy atmosphere, where the prices are too high...with people only going in because there is something to see, like a cool band, or hot chicks....

 

DUI laws will kill the bar biz, mark my words....

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I see strip club made it which is what most of the clubs I played in the 80's eventually turned into.

 

I am watching a local thing going on where individual promoters are single handedly bringing back to life some local hangouts with weekly theme nights that are bringing in 200 plus people. A combination of ridiculously over spamming social networking sites and the guarantee of a couple of dozen nice women leading the pack seems to make it all happen. Of course those promoters are making more than the musicians in the bands they hire but we are getting steady work lately from them.

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I see strip club made it which is what most of the clubs I played in the 80's eventually turned into.


I am watching a local thing going on where individual promoters are single handedly bringing back to life some local hangouts with weekly theme nights that are bringing in 200 plus people. A combination of ridiculously over spamming social networking sites and the guarantee of a couple of dozen nice women leading the pack seems to make it all happen. Of course those promoters are making more than the musicians in the bands they hire but we are getting steady work lately from them.

 

:thu:

 

The bar biz is the same it ever was. People go to "meet" the opposite sex. Find a way to attract young pretty women and you'll attract young horny guys. It's that straight ahead.

 

Ladies Night is tired, but it's roots are still viable. Find out how to attract the young women and it'll all fall into place. One of the most successful campaigns I ever saw in the live music/bar biz was...

 

First 100 people get a free drink.

 

That had to be changed because the wording basically said "free booze". And that's illegal. But that concept filled the room each Tuesday night for a couple years. Tuesday night! It pulled everyone in town interested in going out for a particular night. You knew that was where the party was that night of the week.

 

Check the local laws and get as close to FREE BOOZE as you can in concept. And let everybody know!

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nickel drafts penny drafts.


at college, nicklel night was huge, 8-10 draft beer .05 after that returns to full price. I believe it was a thursday.

 

 

Nickel and penny nights were huge back in the day, but they seem to have been wiped out by the stricter DUI laws and such. Even if you limit it from 8-10 you'd have way too many people getting completely wasted with it being the bar owner's potential liability. A college gig can drink a LOT of nickel drafts in a 2 hour period.

 

I think a good approach might be to sell 2 drink tickets for a quarter at the door and then every other drink is full price. I wonder if any one has tried such an approach?

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nickel drafts penny drafts.


at college, nicklel night was huge, 8-10 draft beer .05 after that returns to full price. I believe it was a thursday.

 

 

We had $.25 drafts in college (which state laws now prevent bar owners from marketing discounted beer in NY btw). Keep in mind that they switch kegs when they return to full price. ;)

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If you are loyal to Marina's and you arent playing music for a living/professionally, then one of the first things you should do is not play at the other two bars ..............

 

 

I think they'd be better off making smarter choices to get people in the door the rest of the time - the "teach a man to fish" scenario. I'm compiling what you guys are giving me and will present it all to them this weekend. What they do with it is ultimately up to them.

 

FWIW, we already play there for the door - something that we don't/won't do anywhere else. In essence, they are getting a band with a decent local draw for no out-of-pocket expense. It's the other 29 days of the month that are the problem. Better bands won't play there because (a) lots of steps and (b) the venue can't pay what the other places can. The place itself doesn't have a draw - which is what we are trying to rectify.

 

Thanks, guys!

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FWIW, we already play there for the door - something that we don't/won't do anywhere else. In essence, they are getting a band with a decent local draw for no out-of-pocket expense. It's the other 29 days of the month that are the problem. Better bands won't play there because (a) lots of steps and (b) the venue can't pay what the other places can. The place itself doesn't have a draw - which is what we are trying to rectify.


Thanks, guys!

 

 

Well there's your(or their) problem. Spend the money for the better bands.

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