How can you lift a sinking pub?

It's getting tough to run a pub these days. The smokers have been chased away, and the foundering economy has made frugality popular again. It's hard for some people to justify paying pub prices when beer and ale can be had at the supermarket for half the price. The key to keeping a successful pub in such a climate lies in giving patrons something that they can't get at home.

Specials, Specials, Specials

Just about every pub has happy hour; that's not enough. People expect it, and they often take it for granted. Plus, many of them will leave as soon as happy hour ends. That's no good when it leaves the pub empty for the rest of the night, so come up with a few different specials. Remember, one of the biggest disadvantages of drinking at a pub is the price. Take a hint from other industries. Every big box store has specials they call "loss leaders," the items that make little profit but bring lots of people in the door. Publicans can do it too; it won't hurt to sell cheap beer at cheap prices for one night. You don't even have to drop the price very much at all; you just have to make them think they're getting a good deal.

 

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Entertainment

Pub owners have a lot of options in the entertainment department. The first is live music, one of the best draws a pub can have. It doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg, either. Unless you have a huge venue, you won't want to book any famous acts anyway. Stick to local bands and unsigned amateurs - those starving artists will work for peanuts, or possibly bar pretzels and beer. Even if they insist on getting paid with actual money, in many cases bands just get a portion of the door charge.

Sports and games also present another good option. This doesn't mean televised sports; it means bar sports. Classics like darts and billiards go over just as well as newcomers like beer pong. The best way to promote this is to enlist the help of other pub owners. Start a league for whatever the activity may be, and each pub can sponsor a team. If you get just 5 or 6 teams in the league, that's a lot of drinkers coming to your pub to play. Take turns hosting the matches, and every pub involved gets to share in the windfall.

Revamp the Menu

Some drinkers like sub-par beer. Some don't. The ones that do can drink that mass-produced swill from the store, but the ones with taste will come to a pub that has what they want. If your pub is in a large enough town, there's definitely enough demand for the finer brews. Every pub has Bass and Guiness, but so does every corner store and supermarket. It's a shame to limit your draught lineup to the same old stuff that can be found in every other pub. There are microbreweries, cask ales, seasonal craft beers and beers that are only available on draught. Some of them, the beer aficionados couldn't find at the supermarket even if they wanted to. And yes, some of those aficionados love beer like a sommelier loves 200-Euro French wine.

Ladies' Night

Ok, we all know that the prospect of a little late night lovin' is one of the quickest possible ways to get a man to spend prodigious amounts of money. If you can get some members of the fairer sex to frequent your pub, the men, with their taste for ale and, if you're lucky, impulsive spending habits, will follow in droves. It's like chumming the water for sharks, but with less blood and guts.

Lets ignore the more predatory aspect of that comparison for now. Much like a hungry shark, who is little more than a mouth and teeth driven by an insistent, hungry belly, once a man starts to think with his "little head" it's a very simple-minded sort of thought process. He won't think about the next morning's early wake-up call, the fact that he can get beer at the grocery for a cheaper price, or the fact that he can smoke as much as he wants at home. He probably can't find willing ladies at the grocery store or amongst the dirty dishes in his dingy, sock-strewn bachelor pad.

All of this is not meant to advocate the use of "drinky-drinky girls," nor is it meant to suggest that you start running a brothel out of the upstairs flat. If that sounds like your style, well, go for it if you want, but be sure to watch out for those darned prostitution laws. What you're really going for is a good mixed crowd. Ladies' night doesn't mean you have to let the womenfolk drain all of your best single malt and send you to the poorhouse; just offer them free wine or something. It doesn't even have to be the good stuff - the cheap stuff is made good just by virtue of being free. Don't worry, they'll make the men buy the good stuff. You're just trying to avoid the dreaded sausage fest.

Of course, this tactic melds right into the next one:

Sex Sells

Give your patrons some entertainment value, the lewder the better. Sponsor a wet t-shirt contest or an all-girl mud-wrestling league. Scantily-clad babes are already used to sell everything on TV anyway, so why not use them so sell your libations? All it costs is a cleanup job at the end of the night and perhaps a prize for the winner, and she will be more than pleased to receive free drinks for the night as her reward. It's a small price to pay to ensure that the fellows, and their wallets, stay for the long haul.

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