15 Bar Event Ideas & Top Promotions to Try in 2024

By Katie McCann

Friends sitting at a bar smiling at each other

So your bar is doing well. Your bar POS shows you that business is booming on Friday and Saturday, and there’s a decent after-work crowd on Thursday too.

But wouldn’t it be great to also be busy on the slower weeknights? 

If that’s the case for your bar, then great news: it’s easier than you think!

Planning the right bar events can have seats full and bottles empty on any day of the week. In this article, we’ll cover all you need to know about hosting events at your bar:

  • Why you need bar promotions
  • When to start planning
  • The 15 best event ideas for your bar

The right bar entertainment promotion can bring in a ton of extra traffic, so let’s dive in!

Why You Need Bar Events

There are a few times you can count on bars being a little busier, including happy hour, patio season, payday, and weekends – to name a few. However, you can’t run a business banking on people celebrating the end of the work week and a sunny summer. This is where a great bar event can come to the rescue and help drive traffic to your pub on less busy days. 

Besides extra bar traffic, there are a few more reasons you want to make events a regular occurrence at your restaurant: 

  • Bar theme nights and events are a great way to stand out in a competitive industry. All bars have drink specials and signature cocktails, so a unique event will break through the noise and differentiate your restaurant from your competitors.
  • Hosting events can get people talking about your bar, whether through word-of-mouth with their peers or on social media. Ultimately, helping you generate brand awareness for your bar.
  • It’s a great way to appeal to completely new audiences. You can host different events that appeal to a wide range of people. From hosting an event for sports teams to dance troupes, you’ll get the opportunity to draw in and meet various types of customers.
  • Events give the local press something to write about your bar. Chances are, they aren’t going to give a 2-for-1 beer special the same coverage as a one-night-only event. And as a result, it makes it a good public relations opportunity for your bar.

Make sure to review your local liquor laws before throwing any events at your bar. Laws around drink specials, serving hours, and staff training all should be double and triple checked before hosting anything to keep your liquor license safe.

A group of friends smiling and raising a toast with their glasses.

When to Start Planning Your Bar Promotion Ideas

Now that we’ve answered the question why having events at your bar can be beneficial, let’s discuss when you should start the planning process. As a restaurant operator, finding the time to plan your bar promotion event ideas can be quite a challenge, especially with the multiple tasks already on your plate. However, the best time to start brainstorming and planning for events at your bar is between patio and holiday season.

The best way to approach planning is to sit down and put together an events calendar well in advance. This way, you can help minimize your stress associated with event planning. Although, this isn’t always possible to accomplish, especially since the restaurant industry is so fast-paced. 

If that’s the case, you can start by planning a few events that you know you want to have. For example, hosting a speed dating event around Valentine’s Day. Once you have a few solid events in mind throughout the year, it’ll be easier to slot smaller events around them.

While planning, it’s also important to keep in mind that some events will require more than others. For instance, speed dating requires a little more effort from a planning perspective, like creating a sign-up page, finding someone to emcee, and changing your table set up to accommodate people moving from spot to spot. On the other hand, a viewing party at your bar wouldn’t require as much advanced work, aside from confirming what channel you need for the show.

In terms of how much time you want to give yourself for planning all the way to execution, you generally want to give yourself at least a few weeks. This will give you enough time to plan the actual event at your bar, as well as how to market it. 

When it comes to marketing the event, you can use different advertising methods and see what works best for your bar. You can try a mix of traditional methods – like radio and newspaper ads, or digital methods – like Facebook ads or email blasts. After all, people can’t attend events they don’t know about! Therefore, it’s critical that you take the time to advertise and market the event to the right target audience.

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15 Pub Event Ideas for 2024

Now you’re ready for the fun part – it’s time to start exploring ideas for an event to host at your bar. 

The key is to create promotions and events that get customers off the couch, away from their Netflix bingefest. If you’re ready to boost your bar sales during downtimes, here are 15 fun and inventive bar and event ideas you can try.

1. Trivia Night

A trivia night is a fun event to host at your bar. And if you are looking to put in minimal effort, the classic PubStumpers trivia game is a North American favorite for a reason – it’s addictive! All you have to do is simply sign-up and you’ll get the PubStumpers kit, which includes questions and answers for a twelve week season, game materials, and marketing tools. 

On the other hand, if you want to get creative and create your own trivia to host at your bar, you can base your questions on unique themes your guests would love, including pop culture, history, or a mix of everything. You can also have your trivia host include facts about your bar to teach your customers a little trivia of your own.

Teams can sign-up and compete each week at your bar, vying for the final prize. Pairing trivia with a menu and drink special can create the perfect event to host at your bar.

2. Host Viewing Party Events

Watching television at the bar doesn’t just have to be about sports. Think of all the popular shows that aren’t so easy to stream from the comfort of home and will be a better fit for going to a bar with friends to watch. For example, having the Olympics playing on the big screen at your bar, and pairing that with some Olympic marketing restaurant promotions, you’ll be all set. The pre-show Oscars, anything with a cult-like following (think the uber-popular Game of Thrones), season or series finales, and throwback movies like Back to the Future or Pretty in Pink. Theme your beer or drink specials with the feature show or movie, and encourage patrons to dress up for the event and really get into the spirit of things.

3. Board Game Night

While bars are most commonly known as a place for watching sports, going to bars to play board games has become quite popular with guests as well. It seems people love a rousing round of snakes and ladders with their buddies (and a beer or two). This provides bar owners who have yet to hop on the bandwagon a unique opportunity to host an event featuring board games. You can provide unique games or host a Bring Your Own Board Games night. While your guests enjoy playing board games with their friends, they’ll also be enjoying your menu offerings, such as shareable plates and deals on draught pitchers.

4. Speed Dating Event

Dating apps are commonly used nowadays to meet a potential partner. However, to provide your guests with an escape from mindlessly swiping right, think about hosting this type of event – speed dating! Speed dating is one of the most iconic event marketing ideas, because people turn out for it. Set up your bar so that singles can rotate from seat to seat, chatting with a new potential partner every few minutes. You can even provide some sample questions – or drinks – to break the ice. You get to play Cupid and drive business at your bar – it’s a win-win! And who knows, maybe in a few years, you’ll be hosting an engagement party for the couple that met speed dating at your bar!

5. Friendly Speed Dating Event

A speed dating event doesn’t have to be an awkward two minutes staring at a stranger’s ugly tie. Instead of the normal speed dating, host a Get to Know Your Neighbors event night at your bar instead. No forced romance necessary. This fun bar event has the announcer ask a lighthearted question such as, “If you could have dinner with one celebrity who would it be?”. Then each person has to answer in sixty seconds to their temporary partner. Once the bell dings, it’s time to move on to another partner and the next question is asked.

It’s a guaranteed way to have patrons stick around after the event for another drink while they learn more about the people they’ve met and hear more about dining with Dolly Parton. It can be seen as one of many great ideas for guests, who are looking to make new friends and perhaps create long-lasting friendships with the people they have conversations with throughout the night.

6. Group Meetup Events

Is there a popular social network in your locale that meets weekly? Connect with them and offer to host them at your bar and offer a special group rate or drink specials for the event. It could be the local dog-lovers club, a popular sports team, or a career-networking group. Find them on or by asking your regulars if they are part of a group that needs a regular home or even space to host a one-time event. You never know – your bar could be the host for a slew of new customers!

7. Charity Night with a Special Restaurant Promotion

Nothing says “reason to drink” like raising money for charity, right? Partner with a local charity and host a bar event dedicated to fundraising for them. Consider hosting a raffle or something more creative like charitable music bingo sponsored by your business. You can include a signature drink where proceeds are donated or have a cut of the money from the night as a donation. You can even have a representative from the organization come in for the event so people attending know what they’re supporting and split marketing efforts with your charitable partner. They have just as much to gain – if not more – from a successful event!

8. Host a Paint Night Event

What do you get when you cross brushes, canvas, and paint with customers in a bar? A room full of artists and bar tabs! Yaymaker pairs artists with your bar, and locals can find you and pay for their tickets via the website. The group is given canvas and paint and taken through the steps to create a scenic landscape by a local Yaymaker artist. All you need to do is top up drinks and shake up cocktails all night. Can an event get any better than that?

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9. Open Mic Night

Open up your bar – and your ears – for all the budding musicians in your area. This can be a fun event to host at your venue, especially if you have the space and equipment to do so. With a stage or cleared away area, and a decent sound system, you’re all set. Hopeful stars sign up and wait for their time to shine, while family, friends, and fans fill up on food and drinks throughout the night. By providing a space for the community you operate in, it shows your bar’s dedication to supporting and fostering local musical talent. 

And if you would like to take it a step further, you can make it a six week competition, where eager contestants can compete. Each week there is an audience vote and elimination leading up to the last week, when all finalists perform to compete for the final prize. The more participants want to win, the more people they’ll bring in to vote for them. Votes for performers, more guests, and checks for your bar.

10. Bar Olympics Events

Who can turn down a night of togas, competition, and beer specials? Set up games that people can enjoy and keep score – darts, pool, or foosball – or bring in some special games for the evening – like cornhole or video games. Start advertising early and people can sign their teams up for the event, which will help you know what type of traffic to expect. This way, your bar staff will be prepared for the event, and the night can be executed with ease. From each station, you can tell those competing in the Olympic events to keep score. At the end of the event, hand out your gold, silver, and bronze medals! Make sure your staff are hyper aware of guest behavior so they can serve responsibly as competition heats up. 

11. Stand Up Comedy

Everyone loves a good laugh, so why not provide the space for all of the jokers in town? All you need is a mic stand in the corner and a signup sheet. Get the word out around town and watch people pack in to get their giggle on all night long. Craft up your own funny cocktails and joke-themed eats to go with the comedic theme.

12. Bartending Show

You have a whole arsenal of talented bartenders on your staff. Why not use that talent as a starting point for an amazing bartending show? Have your best bartenders prepare to dazzle crowds with flying bottles or flaming drinks. Watch the crowds pour in to see – and taste – the delicious performances. 

Friends smiling and raising their glasses in a bar.

13. Tasting Event

Whether it’s wine, beer, or mini cocktails, people love a drink sampler. Host an event – either indoors or on your patio – where you give the people what they want and offer one-night-only samplers. Have some favorites paired with completely new concoctions to drive traffic. If you want to add to the fun of it, have guests vote on their favorite drink from each sampler and add it to the menu as a limited time offering. And hey, if the new drink does super well, it can become a regular, chosen with love by your guests. 

14. Participate in a Bar Crawl

This is a great one that requires a little less effort while giving you some great exposure. People who sign up for a bar crawl are given a list of bars to attend and drinks to try at each one, checking each location and drink off as they go. You can find holiday themed bar crawls – like Bunny Hop or Santa Crawl – or some just because. For a spooky bar crawl, you can take a look at restaurant Halloween ideas to gain some inspiration. Participating in bar crawls in your area means the pre-event planning is off your plate, but you can still expect a good boost in traffic. 

15. Dance From the Past

A senior’s sock hop, Sadie Hawkins dance, or retro prom night can do wonders for business and boost morale for dancers that don’t dance as often as they’d like. This can be a great event idea, especially if you meet the space requirements to host one. All you have to do is pick a theme, ask guests to dress to match it, and make sure everyone brings a date. A DJ playing throwback hits and an old school menu to match will make your party a success.

It’s not hard to boost business during your slow times with the help of some creative bar and restaurant promotion ideas. Plus, bar events can be a great way to meet and greet customers and put yourself out there as Celebrity Chef Vikram Vij likes to do. Give your regulars and new customers creative and fun events they’d hate to miss out on and you’ll find your bar busy and bustling all week long.

Photo of Katie McCann
by Katie McCann

Katie is a former Content Marketing Specialist at TouchBistro where she writes about food and restaurant experiences. She doesn’t shy away from the finer things in life, but no matter how much success she continues to acquire, she stays true to her roots and still considers imitation crab as gourmet. If she isn’t writing, you can find her on a patio with friends and a pitcher of white wine sangria.

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