The Ultimate Guide to Different Types of Bars: Everything You Need to Know

Local neighborhood pubs, dive bars, and speakeasies bars – from your favorite college to your favorite city. Understanding the different kinds of bars out there is essential for both owners and patrons. For owners, opening a bar fits their vision and informs their marketing strategy. For guests, it's finding the right watering hole.

Continue reading for a breakdown of what to foresee at each of the different kinds of bars to pick from.

At its heart, a bar is a licensed establishment where alcoholic beverages are sold and enjoyed. However, this fundamental description touches the surface of what a bar truly is. A bar is also a social gathering place, where people meet for relaxation, celebration, fellowship, or solitude.

Bars have an ambiance that reflects their purpose, ranging from the noisy clamor of a sports bar to the peaceful refinement of a wine bar. A bar's drinks menu is as broad as its audience, ranging from craft beers and fine wines to cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages.

A bar's design is also quite important. The layout, lighting, décor, and even the bar counter all work together to create a distinctive atmosphere and experience. To mention a few, there's the warm familiarity of traditional wood pub design, the slick sophistication of modern cocktail lounges, and the tropical appeal of tiki bars.

A Closer Look at Different Types of Bars

Immersing ourselves in the dynamic world of bars, we discover a plethora of styles, each catering to unique customer needs and preferences. There's a bar for everyone, from sports enthusiasts and wine specialists to lovers of live music and exotic cocktails.

Continue reading for a breakdown of what you can expect at each of the different types of bars to pick from.

A word of note: the bars on this list are not in any sequence. None of them are superior to the others. There are numerous sorts to pick from, and only you can determine which one is best for you.

Types of Bars

1. Cocktail bars  

Cocktail bars specialize in mixology, offering a variety of mixed alcoholic cocktails ranging from classics like martinis, Manhattans, mojitos, and margaritas to custom drinks made and created in-house. Cocktail bars, which are typically situated in cities or downtown, can take many forms and generally give a magical sort of atmosphere – from themed cocktail lounges to speakeasies to rooftop bars.   

2. Tiki Bars 

Tiki bars are like cocktail bars but are more tropical. Tiki bars are often built in warmer regions; however, they can be pulled off in colder climates with indoor decorations or a heated patio. If you want to set up a tiki bar, make some rum cocktails, and maybe even learn how to bake a rum cake. 

3. Sports bar 

Sports bars are typically casual and more concerned with entertainment than serving unique cocktails. Games and sporting events are assured to be shown on TV screens throughout the bar, offering a place for people to gather and cheer on their favorite team in both big cities and small towns alike. Sports bars usually have a food menu with favorites like wings and nachos, and while beer is usually the drink of choice, some do offer wine and spirits as well. 

4. Dive bar  

Consider karaoke, darts, and your favorite college campus bars. Dive bars are small, hole-in-the-wall shops that provide alcoholic beverages to locals with minimal frills. Food is not usually offered, and style is not a priority. Most dive bars are visited by locals and provide an atmosphere for people to gather and socialize over low-cost drinks. 

5. Wine bar  

Whereas cocktail bars focus on cocktails, wine bars concentrate on – you guessed it – wine. And, with so many types from all over the world, it should come as no surprise that wine needs a category of its own. Aside from their exclusive focus on wine, wine bars differ from other bars in that they provide a wide range of wine by the glass, allowing customers to taste a wider variety than could be offered elsewhere. Wine bars can also be quick-service restaurants, with quality food that pairs well with different glasses and can be enjoyed on-site or as a takeaway meal. 

6. Tavern or pub   

The pub is short for “public house," a term that originated in the United Kingdom (but Irish pubs do have historical roots in Ireland). When public houses became prominent in America, they were referred to as “taverns." The main feature that separates both pubs and taverns from other types of bars is their focus on food.  These places are more family-friendly than cocktail bars or dive bars since they provide full table service and menus that go beyond just alcoholic beverages.   

7. A live music bar   

Sports bars aren't the only ones that offer some sort of entertainment. Enter live music clubs! Bars that regularly include live music usually have a stage or designated area for a band or DJ to perform, as well as a dance floor for guests to get caught up in the music. Live music venues, where the focus is mainly on concerts and hosting musical talent, also usually have a bar area where concertgoers can get drinks while enjoying the show.   

8. Hotel bar  

Many hotels also include a bar. These bars are open to hotel guests, who can bill their purchases for their room. Hotel bars can also be open to the general public, though more premium hotels tend to have a more exclusive admission policy. Hotel bars are typically found in the lobby of a hotel building or, in higher-end places, on the roof. 

9. Specialty bars  

A specialty bar, like cocktail bars and wine bars, is any bar with a specific focus: a tequila bar, gin bar, whisky bar, vodka bar, or even a cigar bar where guests can smoke and drink. All these venues provide alcoholic beverages but with an intentional focus on curating a specific, high-quality selection for those looking to further explore and extend a given palette.  

10. Arcade Bar  

An arcade bar is a subset of themed bars. These bars, which feature old arcade games as well as a variety of typical bar games like billiards, darts, and shuffleboard, are consistently gaining popularity. They're a throwback to our childhood, and they bring joy to every bar patron for ultimate customer satisfaction.   

Frequently Asked Bar Types Questions

There are plenty of questions about the kind of bars that you can operate and open. Our answers to these commonly asked questions will provide you with more insight into the type of bars. They'll keep you on track with your business plan.   

1) Are There Different Kinds of Bars?   

Yes, there are different types of bars. Bars come in all shapes and sizes. They specialize in different food, beverages, and experiences. This list of 15 different varieties of bars is just the beginning. If you’re looking to open a bar, you can let your imagination go wild.   

2) What Do You Call a Fancy Bar?  

A cocktail lounge is a popular fancy bar. If you're invited to a lounge, chances are it'll be on the pricier end of the bar spectrum. Check your dress codes, but keep in mind that most lounges are casual in many ways.   

3) What Is Slang for a Bar?  

A bar's slang terms include juke joint, spirits lounge, managed house, and micropub. A bar, first and foremost, is a place to meet friends and drink in a relaxed setting. There are numerous slang terms with that meaning.   

4) What Is a Small Bar Called?  

A bistro is a small bar. Bistro is also sometimes used to refer to brunch cafes and brunch places. It's a little shop that sells beverages and different menu items. There are alcoholic drinks as well as mocktails for non-drinkers.   

Types of Bars: What Kind of Bar Will You Open?

You're ready to decide now that you've learned about the different kinds of bars. Which type of bar is best for you? That's entirely up to you. You can also read our post on opening a bar in 8 simple steps and essential features every POS for bars should have. When you're ready, return to Restaurantify for further bar opening tips and inventory program aid!