Bars and pubs are making themselves pandemic-proof, as they re-adjust their layouts to accommodate capacity restrictions and safe service practices.
Back in the day, safe barkeeping meant enforcing last call and flagging the overserved. But since the onset of COVID-19, management responsibilities for pubs and bars have broadened to include sanitizing countertops and adjusting the space between bar stools and tables.
As the pandemic has ushered in a new set of rules and regulations, club and resort properties have needed to retool their dining establishments to provide a safer atmosphere for both guests and employees. By updating their indoor and outdoor settings, these facilities have successfully adjusted their layouts to conform to the necessary protocols, while still providing members and guests with safe and appealing gathering spots.
Casual Year-Round Comfort
Determining what type of dining best suits members and guests can sometimes be a test of trial and error. That was the case at Cumberland Trail Golf Club in Pataskala, Ohio, where a full-service restaurant that formerly housed a snack bar and pro shop had run its course. “Our members were not huge fans of fine dining, and it often felt out of place,” explains Head Golf Professional Luke Radabaugh. This past January, the space was transformed into a pub-style, family-oriented spot, and more aptly rebranded as the Cumberland Trail Bar and Grill.
Easing the transition from upscale to casual called for a more modern design. Dimmer lighting now creates a lounge-like feel, as does recessed lighting in the ceiling. A black, painted drop ceiling enhances the bar mentality, balanced out by colored walls with a sportier, casual flair.
To create a cohesive design between inside and outdoors, an area that had been covered now opens up into a patio with high-top tables that are easily accessible from the main dining room. “We also added big windows to allow diners to enjoy the same views of our beautiful 18th hole that the guests on the open-air patio do,” Radabaugh says. (An extended patio at the club’s halfway bar affords even more space to use the lounge furniture and gaslit fireplace.)
To minimize noise levels on a busy night, a removable wall encloses a portion of the dining room for private parties and meetings. A typical afternoon in prime season finds this area busy, with members imbibing cold beverages after a day outdoors and patrons indulging in nightly specials. “Our chef has brought the area affordable meals with a gourmet touch,” notes Radabaugh. “We are quickly becoming known for our upscale bar-style food and drinks, and that will hopefully carry the business through the winter, when we cannot thrive on the everyday golf crowd.”
The bar only seats seven customers, helping the club adhere to safety regulations. “We were frustrated during the early transition, as we felt we needed to be able to seat more guests around the bar,” says Radabaugh. “But it has worked out for the better so far, limiting the guests who would remain in close contact with others and our staff for extended periods of time.”
Since the bar and grill’s re-opening, the club has seen tremendous growth, helping to fill a void for foodservice in the neighboring community. “It’s been important that we can now market to everyday guests—not just our members and other golfers,” notes Radabaugh.
All Decked Out
At the Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa in Galena, Ill., golfers can indulge in a post-game cocktail or gather with friends for a bite—something that wasn’t previously possible.
“[Our] General golf course has always been recognized as a premier course,” says General Manager Thomas Ruhs. “However, it was missing a premier restaurant and lounge, as well as a clubhouse, to go along with it.” Now under new ownership, the resort opened the doors to the Highlands Restaurant, as well as the Lounge 289 bar and an adjoining clubhouse, this past July 4th weekend, all to wide acclaim.
While there is a seamless flow between the restaurant and lounge, the areas are separated via sliding barn doors, which feature prairie-style grasses embedded in the vision panels.
“The patio room to the left is a window box to the natural vistas outside,” notes Marty Johnson of Straka Johnson Architects, which managed the redesign. Room dividers also help to manage the noise volume and crowd control, particularly between the main dining area and a smaller room that is used for private parties.
At Lounge 289, a limestone bar is accented by an antique floating wood-beam soffit overhead, while copper and cherry-wood treatments make up the back bar. The main bar overlooks the vaulted ceiling of the pro shop entryway and dining area. Four glass garage doors provide access to the lounge’s lower level from the deck.
“The exterior deck was designed to take advantage of one of the best views of golf in the surrounding hillsides that you’ll find in the Midwest,” says Johnson. “Oversized limestone columns support the cantilevered deck, which reaches out into the air and creates dynamic silhouettes.”
With the lounge and deck areas being used for outdoor dining, they provide a natural segue from the indoor restaurant. The deck overlooks the 18th green and 10th fairway—“the perfect way to end your game and watch your friends come in,” says Ruhs—and serves as an outdoor venue for wedding ceremonies and receptions. Cocktail parties can handle the overflow in the adjoining restaurant and lounge, which are also used for corporate dinners and private dining.
To accommodate proper social distancing, the resort has adjusted its seating requirements from 225 to 100 patrons in the restaurant and lounge. Tables have been distanced and the largest party is capped at ten guests, while seating at the bar is limited to every six feet. Guests are required to wear masks until seated, and all servers are equipped with masks and gloves.
Even with those parameters in place, diners have not been deterred by the pandemic. “The local residents, resort guest first-timers and repeat guests absolutely love the redesign,” says Ruhs. “Typically, there is a 30- to 45-minute wait for our outdoor seating. Our views are second to none in the area.”
Gathering in Many Spots
To revitalize its club facilities and multiple sporting amenities, Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, Mo. has re-envisioned its dining scene for an active membership. “When thinking of the various bar areas specifically, it was our goal to create better gathering spaces that would promote increased usage throughout the year,” explains General Manager and Chief Operating Officer Michael A. Chase, Jr., CCM.
With four options, Bellerive’s members now have their pick of watering holes. The Normandy Lounge boasts dark-wood flooring, offset by antique glass panels at the back of the dark-wood bar (see photo, pg. 26). Oil-rubbed bronze decorative pendants, fixtures and picture lighting balance out soft ceiling lighting. Seating is a mixture of high-tops, bar stools, soft seats and standard tables. Two sets of double doors lead directly to the Terrace Bar and fireplace area.
“The adjacent bar spaces are designed to create a lively indoor-outdoor atmosphere, with a variety of gathering options for all seasons,” notes Chase. This four-sided, island-style bar is designed with white paneling and a dark gray stone top. Black bar stools with black-and-white striped cushions blend in with high-top and soft-seating alternatives. Overhead heaters built into the ceiling provide some added warmth in the offseason, while the lighting matches that of the Normandy Lounge.
Other outdoor drinking options at Bellerive now include the Pool Bar, which has seating on three sides and a partial roof covering. A white panel and dark gray countertop mirrors the Terrace Bar, and the back bar features built-in liquor risers and a slate-colored tile. Shaded by canopies of large oaks, this spot serves as “a refreshing space to relax with surround-sound from the pool area, creating a resort-style environment,” says Chase.
The new Field House bar is now Bellerive’s most progressive spot, Chase says, boasting eight beer taps on the back bar and a glass backdrop that looks into an open-kitchen area. A large single-pane window lifts to the ceiling via hydraulics, so drinks can be served to guests at the outside bar, and a raw bar integrated into the west end keeps oyster shucking in plain sight. Barstool styles depend on their placement: deep wood and blue leather for the interior seats, and walnut outdoor wicker and black-and-white spotted cushions for the outside.
To minimize noise levels at Bellerive’s new gathering places, the Normandy Lounge has been outfitted with decorative sound-grabbing panels in its coffered ceilings. Similarly, the Field House dormers contain sound-grabbing materials disguised as tongue-and-groove paneling.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the club has remastered its seating plans. All bar stools have been removed and congregating in the bar area is prohibited. “Initially, spaced stools or spacing of grouped stools was tested,” says Chase. “But given the bar setups we ultimately removed the stools, in an effort to provide the safest environment for both members and staff.”
Even with these restrictions in place, Bellerive has seen a surge in member usage of its food-and-beverage offerings.. “Sales have bettered budget each month open thus far,” Chase reports.
A Shore Thing
When members and their guests visit The Shore Club in Cape May Court House, N.J., they can enjoy the best of both the indoor and outdoor dining worlds. Following on the heels of a successful renovation and rebranding over the last three years, the Jersey Shore facility has maximized its seaside setting with expanded outdoor dining, complete with cocktail patio tables, lounge furniture and a firepit.
“For most of our members, we are their second club,” notes Amanda Ruhl, Membership and Marketing Director. “They come here to escape the hustle and bustle of their day-to-day lives. We want them to feel as if they are on vacation when they step through our doors.”
That island vibe is apparent throughout the club’s coastal casual design. Standard laminate tables have been swapped out in favor of custom, dark-wood booths and light-wood tables. Wood chairs at the booths are softened by a light blue custom fabric, and silver-plated sconces take the place of outdated plastic candlestick wall fixtures. A white marble granite bar top works well with a white-washed shiplap bar front that provides an “elegant driftwood likeness,” Ruhl notes.
To establish a seamless flow between its indoor and outdoor facilities, the club installed two garage doors for easy access. “We removed the restaurant doors for an open concept and added pocket doors and barn doors to the fine-dining area, to make spaces warm and intimate when needed,” says General Manager Kelley Nigra. Acoustic tiles in the ceiling, fabric drapery and upholstered chairs and booths all help to absorb the noise level, especially during the club’s schedule of live weekend entertainment.
With guests eager to get outdoors and enjoyable the balmy breezes, The Shore Club has reconfigured its outdoor patio to allow greater social distancing. Eighteen tables can be spaced safely on the 110’ x 25’ patio footprint, along with pub tables and lounge seating. And even with the onset of the pandemic, the club has seen a 25-percent increase in member dining, due in large part to a new chef and expanded menu.
“Members have yet to enjoy some of the indoor improvements we completed in the offseason,” notes Ruhl. But until the restaurant can resume safe operations, The Shore Club’s outdoor amenities will remain the place to be.
Summing It Up
> Blurring the lines between indoor and outdoor dining with a flexible layout and easy pass-throughs promotes safe socializing.
> Offering well-designed dining amenities attracts potential customers outside the golfing community.
> Finding innovative ways to reduce seating capacity while maintaining space provides proper social distancing.