Live music, trivia, and karaoke are time-honored go-to’s when you’re hosting fun activities to draw people to your bar or restaurant. But, what if you want to mix it up and try something a bit more creative?
Innovative, unique events are a chance to attract eyes and guests by expressing your originality. Living in the unofficial “Creative Capital” of the US, Providence, Rhode Island, I tend to see interesting event concepts taking place at venues all over town. I’ve looked into some of my favorite examples to hopefully inspire you to do something similar, or totally different, at your own bar or restaurant.
First, you’ll want to decide if your goals are suited for a one-time party or something recurring. Are you looking to host an event weekly, monthly, seasonally, annually, sporadically, or one time only?
One-time only events can help create buzz on an anticipated slower night. It can also be used to put the spotlight on your establishment’s relationship with local charitable organizations or help run through anything you might be overstocked on behind the bar with themed specials.
Recurring events like the free “Tropical Hot Dog Night” that Nolan’s Pub hosts every Monday can bring in guests on a more consistent basis and help establish you as a fun hangout spot within your neighborhood. These kind of events can also be a boon especially for newly opened establishments. For example, Freeplay Arcade Bar offers regular half-price nights during the week to bolster their non-weekend business.
Major holidays offer excellent opportunities to bring patrons in to celebrate with you. I’ve noticed quite a few Providence bars hosting Oktoberfest celebrations this year, including the popular three-day outdoor Oktoberfest celebration hosted by The Malted Barley.
Halloween is, of course, another amazing opportunity to go all-out and flex your event-planning muscles—just make sure that the night you’re shooting for doesn’t already have a lot of steep competition happening in your neighborhood. Costume contests are an obvious go-to, but some bars get creative with their themes and offerings. For example, in 2015 The Dorrance went for a theme with their “A Tarantino Halloween,” with music and a prize to match.
As the end-of-year holiday season approaches, with it comes countless opportunities to partner with local charities for food, coat, toy drives and more. Santa Crawls have become ubiquitous—there’s even a Krampus Walk here in Providence—and you may opt to become a stop along their jolly trail, but be prepared for raucous antics especially if you’re situated towards the end of the path. After that, New Year’s is obviously its own animal, and then it’s not long at all until Chinese New Year, Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, and more.
Hopefully, these examples will give you some creative inspiration when it comes to mixing up your own unique events. Make sure to play up the already existing strengths of your establishment, and choose themes or activities that will both appeal to your regular demographic and hopefully draw in some newcomers. Most importantly, have fun with it!