Clubs that make the investment to create inviting bars and pubs are reaping the benefits of increased business and longer visits.
In the downtown of any city, you’re bound to find a bar or two, whether it’s a local hole in the wall, a trendy gastropub, or an upscale wine bar, making the task of finding a place to grab a drink with friends a simple one.
To entice members to stay on the property rather than bar-hop elsewhere, clubs must offer more than just a basic watering hole with a cocktail list. As club food-and-beverage operations grow, often including events that pair entrees with complementary alcoholic beverages, so do club bars, creating camaraderie among members in a welcoming atmosphere.
|Summing It Up
• Taking advantage of a club’s setting allows guests to appreciate the beauty of the surroundings from a comfortable, indoor vantage point year-round.
• Repurposing building materials pays tribute to a club’s rich history in ways that enliven the space and serve as conversation pieces.
• Offering a range of seating options around tables, bars and even in clusters accommodates social groups of all sizes.
A Pub for All Seasons
At the Muskegon (Mich.) Country Club, a complete overhaul to its existing dining facility was practically inevitable. “For years, the dated appearance of our Donald Ross Room and low dining numbers were slowing the club down,” explains Stephany Pawlowski, Director of Golf and Marketing. “We had a great room with a beautiful view that was not getting the usage it deserved or generating any revenue for the club.”
When the club’s ownership changed hands last November, the first order of business was a renovation of the Ross Room, which underwent construction in January and opened its doors under its new moniker, the Se4sons Gastropub, this past July. “Just walking into the restaurant gives you the feeling of being outside, from the views all the way to the color selections,” says Pawlowski in explaining the pub’s new name.
In fact, the venue’s panoramic view was a significant factor that drove its overall design. “The entire dining area juts out over the drive, with views of the golf course on three sides,” describes designer Holly Marie Peterson. Rolling hills and large trees surround the bucolic property, while the club’s recently upgraded reception halls and balcony overlook a lake. “This setting naturally brings out earthy and cool tones, with the natural lines of the exterior balanced against the angular lines of the bar,” Peterson notes.
The careful marriage of classic styling with contemporary elements creates a unique setting for the Se4sons Gastropub. “The walnut bar, woven-wood panels and painted-glass back bar visually define the room without adding walls,” notes Peterson. The existing stone pillars of the original space were designed into this new area, with additional stone used to highlight the structure.
As patrons enter the bar space, they are greeted by taller seating and a standing-room area. The extended bar area now boasts more than 24 feet of seating space, outlined by a banquet that has bar-height seating on one side and table-height seating on the dining room side. “We needed to offer our customers a variety of seating options, to seat the post-round golfer as well as an anniversary dinner,” notes Pawlowski.
The back wall of the bar features a woven-wood canopy over banquet seating, creating an intimate setting. Beer taps highlighting Michigan’s local breweries help to define the restaurant’s new identity as a gastropub, while glassware is mostly classic with a few rustic twists (for example, a signature Bloody Mary is served in a Mason jar).
The bar’s lighting differs from the main dining room. “Instead of flooding it with artificial lighting, we intended for the bar to have a cozier feel,” says Peterson. Large drum lamps in the higher, center ceiling make it easier to change the layout of the table-height chairs while keeping the line of sight on the golf course. The walnut of the bar is carried over to the chairs’ darker tones, which contrast with the lighter woven-wood screens that divide these two spaces.
When it comes to watering holes, how does a club differentiate a bar from a pub, a tavern, or the newly minted gastropub? Knowing what defines each place can help club managers know how to design (and market) these spaces accordingly:
“The color palette, rich wood choice, and earthy design fit well into the space and the feel of the club,” notes Pawlowski. “The design is definitely more modern than the original space, and it fits nicely with the recently renovated ballroom and pre-function area.”
Other noteworthy design elements include signage depicting elegant food photography, clean lines and classic metals, along with easy-listening music that is wired throughout the restaurant. Local, live music is on the agenda beginning this winter. The end result is a pub atmosphere that has been completely transformed from its original design.
“There is truly nothing like it in Muskegon, and we are excited to share it with our community,” enthuses Pawlowski.
Room to Roam
Described as a blend of traditional with modern and fun upgrades, the Fox & Turtle pub represents the best of both worlds at the Itasca (Ill.) Country Club. After the club was acquired in September 2014, the new owners invested in a $1.5 million renovation, which included a new restaurant. The original space was closed over the winter and re-opened under its new name this past April. “Fox and turtles are known to roam the course,” General Manager Leeann Repta notes.
In these new digs, a blend of open space with high ceilings, mixed with cozy nooks peppered throughout the pub, appeal to both the public and club members. “The space certainly has a rustic feel, as we utilized reclaimed wood for all of the tables and barn wood for a number of the walls,” Repta notes.
A straight bar, which was already configured from the previous design, remains intact. “It works well for our golfers,” says Repta. Slate flooring, which was uncovered during the construction stage, has also been maintained.
The bar itself features a granite counter with a corrugated metal front framed by barn wood, while the back-bar design includes mirrors and shelves made from barn wood—“to show off our beverage offerings,” Repta says, referring to the pub’s 30 tapper handles. “It’s our goal to be a destination for beer lovers,” she adds. (The club recently finalized a partnership with the Itasca Brewing Company, whose brewmasters began brewing at the pub’s entrance and serving beer beginning in November.)
Seating includes a hodgepodge of stools and chairs that are described as comfortable and functional, but play second fiddle to the beautifully reclaimed wood tables. Made up of a mix of circular and rectangular tables, they can also be reconfigured to accommodate larger parties—one of the Fox & Turtle’s specialties.
Also helping to set the scene is a combination of modern and traditional lighting that ties the upper and lower levels of the club together. Upbeat music and signage that “inspires a pub atmosphere” also contribute to “a fun, neighborhood feel,” Repta says. “We feel that the pub we’ve created is welcoming to our members and the community,” she adds.
Versatile and Inviting
With plenty of seating options and an atmosphere designed for socializing, the Junction Bar and Grille, nestled inside the Capital City Club in Montgomery, Ala., is more than just a place to grab a quick drink. Touted as one of the first businesses that helped to revitalize the downtown Montgomery area, the club’s re-invention project was completed in July 2014 and features an eye-catching redesign that attracts guests at first glance.
“When you first step into the club, a grand statement is made, with the cascading chandelier reflecting multi-directional light off of C-shaped crystals,” explains General Manager Patrick Skelton. “Upon walking around the club and visiting the different rooms, light fixtures provide not only ambient lighting, but an element of sophistication. A rustic charm is barely evident in the small fixtures, but enhances the more modern features.”
This level of elegance extends over into the bar area, where a contemporary and sleek design achieves the desired effect. “We chose to take the best of both worlds and have a horseshoe-shaped bar in our Junction Bar,” says Skelton. “This continues the inspiration of the junction: a place where business and social connect and meet.”
With a light wood base, the U-shaped bar runs alongside windows that overlook the city below. Peacock-green labradorite granite counters have an ogee and full bullnose, dual-beveled edge, along with blue and green flecks throughout the design. This color scheme is reflected underneath the modern-rustic hanging light fixtures, and also plays a part in the back-bar design.
Along with a view of the city, floating glass shelves display top-shelf selections, while coolers atop the green granite counters display craft beers and fine wines. A chrome, four-post beer tap is centered atop the U-shaped bar, with colorful handles promoting brews from a variety of origins.
When determining seating arrangements, versatility was a key design component. “The casual nature of the lounge seating, centrally located within the right entrance into the bar, invites conversation and a lengthy, comfortable visit,” says Skelton. In contrast, he notes, “banquet seating filled with pillows, and set with low-sitting cocktail tables, fosters a private, more intimate experience.”
These options, balanced by seating at the U-shaped bar, offer a range of options conducive to all types of socializing. “The versatility of different sectors creates options that never existed before,” Skelton notes.