The Ultimate Guide to Building Your Own Game Room Bar

by The Bar Guru

So you’re ready to admit to your alcoholism, embrace it, and take it to a whole new level? Join the club. You’re about to add home value, fun and a possible fun family intervention to your lifestyle. So let’s go out with a bang and do it up right. I can teach you how to make the most out of your unused space and create a proper shrine to alcohol where you and your friends can worship properly.

Now let me ask. How many times have you headed over to someone’s house, and they say something along the lines of “I have a home bar!” and you instantly picture this:

Ikea-esque masterpiece looks promising -- but you can do better

At first glance that Ikea-esque masterpiece looks promising, then you try to picture yourself perched on those back-spasm inducing nail salon seat-em-ups, snuggled up to that 2 foot by four foot sliver of counter (sheathed in wondrous laminate flooring), sporting that one lone bottle of $5 champagne.

How long could you possibly sit there, even if you could somehow convince the hottest person you can imagine to sit with you? Right. Exactly. You might as well go sit in the alley staring at the dumpster and hope for raisins. What?

Okay. So now you have a vision of what not to do (and what so many people unfortunately do not do), which is create a space where people actually want to go, hang out and fraternize. A place where you want to go. We will go through a series of things you must do, and a number of things you should do, to create the ultimate meet and greet utopia, right in your humble abode. We shall cover a number of factors that you should carefully consider. Let’s get started!

Layout

Look, if you’re going to go to all the effort of building a damn bar, don’t stick it someplace stupid. Think about space, flow, aesthetics and capacity. Let’s look at capacity first: 1) capacity of people actually at the bar at one time, and 2) the capacity of the poor schmucks that don’t get a sweet spot at the bar, but have to mill about on the periphery. There has to be a magical balance between these two things. Too many people AT the bar and all the focus is on the bartender. Too many people not at the bar, and the bar itself loses its appeal; as people wander off to greener pastures. There are a lot of variables. You may have a thousand friends, or you may have two. Let’s pick an arbitrary number, say 30, and go with that. So you have 30 friends (lucky you!). You plan to have them over for a fun time. When they all come over and hang out in your kitchen your cutlery and breakfast cereals go missing, so best keep them in the bar.

So you need physical space for 30 people with enough extra space for drunken barn dancing and inevitable arm flailing. So really, you need about 200 square feet, PLUS space for the bar and all the treasures it contains. If you don’t have this much space to dedicate, then you need to lose a few friends (covered in a later article). However, since this is super happy fun time, we will assume that you have 200 square feet for milling-about-drunkenly space, PLUS space for your magnificent bar. If you can locate all this close to a bathroom, you are hitting a home run so far.

So, you have your people space, and your booze-pantry space. Now you need to harmoniously meld the two. We can look at the floorplan that I personally had to work with. It was cramped, but I only have a houseplant as a friend, so it worked out well.

So here we have a bathroom, a bedroom and another part of the basement that was up until now used by my children to have friends over, play and otherwise form lasting childhood memories. Since the bedroom alone isn’t enough space for a grown man and a houseplant to share a drunken barn dance, the only logical move…

Tear down the wall!

…is to tear down the wall. Hi kids! Now we can get a little leg stretching room. With the wall down we have a nice blank canvas, washed clean by children’s tears. We can now do the following floorplan:

I chose to put the bar close to the bathroom, because you never know when you need to use the shower. You might spot the most magical part of the home bar…the 45-degree bend. This spot at the bar holds power, mystical happiness and of course prestige, because the one who occupies and holds the 45 degree, rules the roost (but only as long as they can hold the spot!). Many a home bar builder has made the grisly mistake of omitting the 45. The only thing worse than a long straight bar, is the “bar against the wall”. There is no conceivable reason to have a ‘bar against the wall’.

There is no conceivable reason to have a ‘bar against the wall’

I mean look at that thing. So much craftsmanship put into something that nobody, EVER is going to hang out by. What do you do, lean up against it? Perhaps slouch in a sexy pose or just admire their knickknacks? Again, this is a serious faux pas. But hey, at least they got that bust of Van Buren in there. So back on track, you know you need a 45, or if you’re really lucky two 45’s, and if you are a superstar like Jared Fogel you might have 3 45’s (4 45’s is just right out). Why, you may ask, is the 45 so important?  Well it bends the bar.  It makes the strain on your neck less when you want to say something witty to someone else perched at the bar.  It’s creates a veritable 3-way, and hey, who doesn’t like a 3-way?  You can face the bartender, the person adjacent, and those two people can face you and each other…do you begin to see the magic?

Now granted some of you may not be as awesome as I am at carpentry, so you will need to bribe a friend or Amish barn builder to help. I won’t go into the details of this oak masterpiece — just know that a dull blade on oak can make a whole lot of acrid smoke and upset the dog. You’ve been warned!

So now we have a nice bar (okay I’m skipping a lot of steps here, Google is your friend), with a nice bar rail, and let’s assume you are high from finishing it with ten coats of spar varnish or something equally toxic.

What next? That’s right Jerry, a soffit. Second only to the magic of the 45, a soffit creates an absolute, definable area, which is ‘the bar’. It’s also a great spot to hide your munchies and porn (just kidding, who keeps porn in physical form any more?!?).

Just as important as the physical presence of the soffit is proper, dimmable, soffit lighting. Done correctly, it should look like little Star Trek transporter pads — and just how cool is that?

We will go into advanced lighting techniques in a later article, be sure to buy some ‘shrooms for that. For now, regular recessed lighting — or even cabinet puck lights will suffice. I should mention this is also a great fixture to keep drunks from dancing on your bar after a few vodka and red bulls, so there’s that too.

The last thing to consider is how much space you are going to allocate for behind the bar. I recommend enough room  for two people to move around comfortably, and maybe three people uncomfortably. That will help keep people from coming behind the bar. I’m not sure why everyone likes to get behind the bar, but they do. Sometimes you need two people back there, rarely do you need three.

FLOOR

This should be simple, but a lot of people overlook the obvious. People are going to drop drinks. So you need a floor material that can stand up to fluids, and clean easily.  Linoleum or tile would work, hardwood and carpet is not good. Nothing improves the look of nice hardwood like red wine left unattended overnight!

Sealing the cracks where the floor meets the bar, or the wall, is a good idea too, because in a party environment, you would be shocked at how much spillage can happen, especially when everyone is having a good time.

WORKING SPACE

Well this one is very important. How much space will you dedicate to prep space, bottle storage, glass storage garbage space, etc. Once it’s built and finished it can be hard to move and rebuild. So take your time, after all this is your bar.

One item that can make things easier is a bottle carousel. This takes up just a small area of your bar, yet holds 6 of your most commonly used liquors. Your regular mixes are a good choice here. Vodka, rum, gin, whiskey etc. Your less used bottles can be set up on shelving or in cupboards.

Although it can’t always be done, a sink is honestly almost a necessity. Your bar will be much more successful, and much more fun for you if you can get a sink in there somewhere. Really though, until your first real party, you won’t know what works and what doesn’t.

The Game Room Bar Completed

The Game Room Bar Completed

So that’s the rough overview. Next time we’ll go into more specific parts of the plan in much more detail. Now if you’ll excuse me I have a drink waiting for me at the bar. Cheers!

NEXT TIME: Installing a home beer tap!

[box type=”shadow”] Glen Burgess from Ontario, Canada is The Bar Guru. Glen has previously written articles for Gameroom Magazine. Currently he is a realtor, but has over ten years experience in house ‘flipping’ and home renovation. His passion for bars, pubs and ale has at some point mixed with his love of home improvement, and a keen insight into the home bar was born. Now he hopes to pass on what he learned to aspiring alcoholics everywhere. [/box]