Keep my happy hour from becoming sad.
March 15, 2008 1:14 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to organize a happy hour at a bar?

This is probably the silliest question I've asked, but I've never done something like this. I just want to set up an informal have-a-beer at a brewpub with my classmates. I'd consider it a success if we got somewhere more than 8 people, but since I'm planning it for the same day/time as class had been it wouldn't surprise me if the number swelled up to twenty.

What's the right protocol? Do I have to contact the bar in advance with a head count? Is it better to just hang out a the bar or try to get tables? Do I need to bring name tags? Are we going to piss off the usual crowd if we overcrowd the bar?
posted by rouftop to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'd just show up. Unless it's an organized, rent-out-the-bar thing, they'll just treat you like any ol' group of friends going for a drink. :)
posted by iguanapolitico at 1:35 PM on March 15, 2008

Happy hour usually relates to a period of discounted drink. Is this your intention - to host a discounted period? Or to visit a pub/bar during their own period of happy hour?
posted by Brockles at 1:37 PM on March 15, 2008

Depending on the size of the bar and the time of day/night you want to do this, you may want to pop in there and work something out before hand. But then again, it does not sound like you want to pay for all the drinks. Are you most concerned with space for everyone, or cost?
posted by vrakatar at 1:47 PM on March 15, 2008

I highly recommend calling first. Depending on the layout of the bar, they may have a limited capacity to handle larger groups, and if you do not call ahead you may find that you and your group are out of luck for tables and have to stand/crowd around which is extremely uncomfortable for you, not very conducive to socialization, and is a pain in the ass for the bar staff. Each establishment will have different rules and systems for handling groups in the bar area and calling ahead to let them know can only help them serve you better and make your function more entertaining overall.
posted by baphomet at 1:54 PM on March 15, 2008

I'd call if you anticipate this being a regular thing. Otherwise, just show up and gather tables as people arrive. But I'd definitely choose a bar that's big enough to handle such behavior. It's also a good idea to find an area that's not so bar-like that folks who don't drink won't feel out of place. I've organized regular happy hours for my grad school friends that bombed because so many of them didn't drink. So I tried to find a place where they could just come and go as they pleased, no pressure.

I think the success for this is consistency. If you do it every week at the same time, it'll take hold and eventually you don't have to be responsible for organizing it every single time.
posted by alist at 2:04 PM on March 15, 2008

If you can get enough people, you should talk to the bar and see if they are willing to put something special together for your group as an incentive to maybe make it a regular hangout. They might want your business enough that they'll give you a special discount or appetizer if the bar owner has good business sense and you present your group as potential repeat customers. Smart bar/restaurant owners will do that kinda stuff.
posted by miss lynnster at 2:07 PM on March 15, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all the comments. Let me clarify.

I wasn't trying to set up a recurring thing. Basically, I'm in an evening masters program with a bunch of nice people, but outside of the classroom and a few group projects we don't get to know each other. This is a shame because we're missing out on an opportunity to make new friends and also build up our professional network. My idea is simply to invite all my classmates out for drinks now that the quarter has ended. If it works out well, I'd do it every quarter, so 3 times a year (the summer quarter is not well-attended).

My goal is to make it as low-key, low-commitment as possible -- people just drop in and out. In my head it doesn't require any planning at all -- we just show up, hang out at the bar, and whoever comes just enjoys conversation without having to worry about splitting tabs or getting the right number of seats, etc. But I fear that if the group becomes largish, it won't be comfortable, people won't feel like staying, etc., or that we'll overcrowd the bar.

So I guess it's partly logistics -- what do I need to tell the bar in advance? And also social -- what can I do to help make it successful? I define success as "whoever shows up feels like s/he has a chance to get to know their fellow classmates in a nice setting and doesn't want to leave because there's nowhere to sit or it's too crowded or there's some other stupid thing that could have been prevented by better planning."

Thanks all!
posted by rouftop at 3:59 PM on March 15, 2008

Best answer: It doesn't require any planning at all. Seriously. If you want a carefully planned event, that's not a happy hour, and it's a more formal event.

You don't need to tell the bar in advance. Pick someplace that's roomy, casual, and not The Hottest Place In Town. Picking a good place is really the most important part. You're waaaay overthinking this.
posted by desuetude at 4:11 PM on March 15, 2008

In that case, I'd choose a bar with ample seating space and just get there early to grab at least one large-ish table. And try to choose a bar that does not get slammed at the time you'll be there. What day of the week? That could be the key. If you're planing this for a friday at say, 8 pm, best to go in a few days beforehand and talk with someone. But if it is a monday or tuesday at 5:30 or so, the plan as it is in your head should work just fine.
posted by vrakatar at 4:12 PM on March 15, 2008

I've helped organize similar get-togethers with some professors and students in my program. It required very little planning, although two or three people always arrived early to save some tables.

How large is the bar? Unless it is extremely small, you could probably get away with saving maybe three tables ahead of time. Assuming four people to a table, this arrangement could accommodate 12 people. If fewer than 12 people show up, then just give up a table. Conversely, if more than 12 people show up, grabbing an extra table is probably not too hard.
posted by tickingclock at 4:15 PM on March 15, 2008

You don't need to tell the bar in advance. Pick someplace that's roomy, casual, and not The Hottest Place In Town. Picking a good place is really the most important part. You're waaaay overthinking this.

Agreed. Consider how most MeFi Meetups occur. A bar/restaurant is agreed upon. People show up. Fun, conversation and drinking ensues.
posted by ericb at 5:07 PM on March 15, 2008

I do this with different groups of friends at uni, this is how I've had most success.

Get on Facebook. Make it an Event. Say you'll be there for a designated period of time, to bring friends, to come/leave whenever (mention it casually in passing to anyone who doesn't have Facebook/is unlikely to check it regularly). People may or may not RSVP, but it'll give you a definite idea of number. Rock up on the day and have fun.
posted by cholly at 8:58 PM on March 15, 2008

When I coordinated stuff like this as a grad student, I would send out an email to the other grad students and invite them to come out. More people tended to show up when the get-together was held at a place that served food, as we had quite a few non-drinkers in our group. Brewpubs and pizza places with good beer/wine lists worked out the best. You can always call the establishment ahead of time and ask if you need to reserve a table.
posted by pluckysparrow at 9:53 PM on March 15, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks desuetude, that's exactly the answer I was hoping for.
posted by rouftop at 11:31 AM on March 16, 2008

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