These 5 bars in Chicago are ahead of the curve when it comes to partnering with performance groups for unique event programming. Whether you use your private event room or the front bar, if you find the right production and group of people, hosting a live performance in your venue is a unique and lucrative marketing strategy.
First off, let’s look at the numbers. The beauty of hosting live performance in your bar or restaurant is that offering your space in exchange for a cut of the profits, instead of charging an arm and a leg per hour or per performance like other event spaces, benefits everyone. Firstly, the bar can take a cut or all of the door and drink sales, depending on the agreement. For example, you could let an artist group keep their profits from the door and reap the benefits when the cast, crew and audience stay long after the performance for food and drinks.
Not only will your bar see an audience that may not regularly frequent your venue but most event patrons, just like football fans or concert-goers, are sure to drink that evening. Your fully stocked bar is especially likely to see business when compared to smaller bars with very few options at typical performance venues.
“Offering your space in exchange for a cut of profits benefits everyone”
The artists benefit by avoiding costly venue rentals. Additionally, from a Producer’s perspective, the event budget is decreased by working with a bar because there is no need to purchase general liability or alcohol insurance.
After a mutually beneficial evening, the performance group is likely to refer your business to their industry colleagues for future events. Best of all, the performers and your bar each receive FREE marketing from the other, spanning a wide variety of media platforms and demographics.
If this sounds good to you, and you’d like to set up one of your bar spaces to host live performances or theater, email email@example.com/hospitality and our consultants can advertise your venue to local groups.
Here are 5 Hot Bars & Restaurants that are Slaying the Balance of Booze and Art
#1 Fizz Bar Chicago, 3220 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL www.fizzchicago.com
This year’s host of 50 Shades of Shakespeare, by the incomparable (Re)Discover theatre, Fizz Bar has theatre company partnerships down pat. For ‘50 Shades’ they provided a stage, hosted cocktail, full private bar and bartender, plenty of chairs and tables, and they let guests dance the night away in the space post-show. An original production adapted from Shakespeare’s iconic romance scenes, by Matt Wills and Janet Howe, In 2016 ‘50 Shades of Shakes’ renewed a sponsorship from Mary’s Attic and consistently packed the house. They even used the venue to stage a special production of ’50 Shades of Shakes’ on Willy Shakes’ Birthday. A performance and a themed bar event in one night is a win for everyone!
More information on (Re)discover Theatre (www.rediscovertheatre.com) can be found on Facebook or their website. Photo by Cody Jolly
#2 Beauty Bar Chicago, 1444 W Chicago Ave www.thebeautybar.com/home-chicago
Home of several artistic celebrations like live music shows, themed DJ sets and variety hours, the most collaborative event Beauty Bar hosts just celebrated a 5 year anniversary. Salonathon is a Monday evening of performance art with an emphasis on sharing early works, bringing in new Chicago artists and promoting an LGBTQ safe community, all curated by a staff of rockstar Chicago artists. No cover at the door and the bar sponsors a brand of liquor from 8pm-9pm for attendees that rsvp via Do312. This event brings between 50-100 people to Beauty Bar every Monday, which typically brings small crowds for most bars, so it gets five stars on the booze+art scale.
Salonathon happens every Monday night, hosted by a team including Jane Beachy, Will Von Vogt, Joe Varisco and Bindu Poroori. www.salonathon.org. Photo Credit Unknown
#3 Ada for the Arts at Ada St., 1664 N Ada St, www.adastreetchicago.com/
Ada st. takes an even more of a philanthropic approach to the strategic pairing of theater and cocktails. With their Ada for the arts program, they host a quarterly fundraiser with conversation and delicious bites for one lucky arts organization. By donating their services and event space for the benefit of the group, as well as $1 from a specialty cocktail at the bar, they help raise crucial funds for their partner’s work. While this is not a performance, an evening of philanthropy and craft consumables romances a wide variety of potential repeat customers that are sure to keep Ada St. on their minds for future parties and dinners.
#4 One Year Chekov at The Brixton, 5420 N. Clark Street, thebrixtonchicago.com
The Brixton is home to One Year Chekhov, an immersive bar+theatre experience with powerful performances to boot. The material being performed suits the venue; 9 times a year varying groups of actors working with One Year Chekov direct themselves through one rehearsal before staging a gender-fluid performance of an Anton Chekhov play. By hosting this type of cult-following performance art multiple times a year, The Brixton opens itself up to a consistent revenue stream and a different customer base. Plus, the performance is Free 99, so the venue has everything to gain!
One Year Chekhov holds performances of different Chekov plays on several dates throughout the year. Keep in touch to see one yourself! www.oneyearchekhov.com Photo credit Dylan Stuckey
#5 Unique Weekly Programming at Bank of America Building, 540 W Madison St, Chicago, IL 60661
While the previous bars have already made the connection with a great live performers that brings in sales, some are still on the lookout! Olivia Lilley, the enterprising event Coordinator at Mila One, is constantly trying out new acts for her Wednesday live-music showcase. In addition, she books weekly performance artists and writers on top of daily drink deals to entice post-work patrons. Mila One is still looking for special groups that bring in clientele otherwise absent from the Loop, and with a central location like this one, it could be your performance group that benefits!
Olivia Lilley is currently directing ‘Mary Shelley Sees the Future’ with The Runaways Lab Theatre. Tickets at www.runawayslab.org. photo by Matthew Gregory Hollis
Need more bar event or marketing ideas? Feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org/hospitality to schedule a consultation with our industry experts!