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A great bar makes community life better. These venues aren’t just places to have a drink, they are places to listen to music and poetry. They are places to dance, places to flirt, places to fall in love. Having a beer or a cocktail is fun, but having that drink in a comfortable atmosphere, surrounded by people who are also having a good time, can define a community. As funny as it may sound, your local pub might be as important to how your community defines itself as your local church or temple. After all, churches and pubs are both places where people come together to celebrate and mourn. And like a church, a bar should be a beautiful and unique expression of the community that created it.
When it comes to the economics of bars, the United States’ bar and nightclub industry has enjoyed steady growth over the last half-decade, reaching revenue of around $27 billion in 2018. With about 45,000 establishments in the US, the industry is highly fragmented. First Research reported that its top 50 largest companies only account for 5% of the overall industry revenue. That fragmentation suggests that even there’s lots of competition, there also always seems to be room for a new neighborhood bar. And new ones continue to open across the country. Entering this industry is a high-stakes investment that should involve careful strategic planning. Part of this is choosing the right contractor who can bring your dream bar concept to life.
To help you decide who to hire, our team has selected the best among hundreds of contractors with demonstrated histories in bar construction. The top firms are capable of delivering projects across different budgets and styles. We evaluated them based on their portfolio, their awards, and the recognition they have received from local and national media.
24) PWI Construction
1501 NW 1st Ct. Suite A, Boca Raton, FL 33432
PWI Construction is a leader in luxury construction for retail, restaurant, and hospitality buildings. The company was founded by Jeff Price in Mesa, Arizona in 1985, and has since grown into a national general contracting firm headquartered in Las Vegas. Its work has appeared in Building Design + Construction, Eater Vegas, and Hotel Business.
In 2017, it worked with international hospitality brand Ritz-Carlton to build a bar and eatery in Key Biscayne. The ocean-facing restaurant was designed to reflect the Cape Florida Lighthouse, from which tourists and residents could view Miami’s famed beaches. So, the firm installed floor-to-ceiling windows to showcase the view. The bar’s decor is restrained, kept casually elegant through the installation of hardwood flooring and wood panels in the ceiling.
23) Greiner Construction
121 South 8th St. Suite #1200, Minneapolis, MN 55402
Founded by Wolfgang Greiner in 1989, Greiner Construction specializes in high-end interior build-outs and expansions. Since its inception, it has worked on hundreds of projects in several market sectors, including commercial, medical, and educational construction. Its expertise was recently recognized by the Twin Cities Business Magazine with the Best Construction/ Development Business award for 2018.
In 2016, Greiner completed its construction of the Hewing Hotel in Minneapolis’ Northern Loop neighborhood. Its ground floor houses a restaurant and bar named Tullibee, named after the state’s rarest fish. The bar follows the hotel’s rustic theme, with touches of Scandinavian design and Nordic themes: warm wood, blackened steel, and brick walls.
22) Hensel Phelps
420 Sixth Ave., Greeley, CO 80631
Eighty years of experience in the construction industry has helped Hensel Phelps expand from a small residential contractor into a company that is capable of servicing international clients. Its excellence has been recognized by the construction industry with 15 Build America Awards from the Associated General Contractors. Its work has also been covered by national media, including Construction Dive and Engineering News-Record.
One of its best is the Magic Rat at The Elizabeth Hotel in Fort Collins, Colorado. In collaboration with dashdesign, the firm created a music bar that’s reminiscent of the heyday of theater and cinema. From its green theater doors to its subway-tiled fireplace, the bar creates an inviting and intimate atmosphere for nightlife and entertainment.
21) Brackett Builders
185 Marybill Dr., Troy, OH 45373
Brackett Builders is a commercial and residential general contractor with nearly four decades of experience in constructing hospitality, healthcare, and mixed-use buildings in Ohio. It currently has an annual revenue of $80 million and has built more than 5 million square feet of commercial real estate since its establishment in 1983.
Architectural Digest recently lauded one of its projects as the most beautifully designed bar in Ohio. VASO, a rooftop lounge bar at the AC Hotel Dublin, looks like a bar straight out of Hollywood. Its expansive windows offer stunning views of the Scioto River and historic downtown Dublin. It features two bars, private cabanas, and an outdoor patio with fire pits.
9440 N 26th St., Phoenix, AZ 85028
Recognized as the #4 Largest General Contractor in Arizona by the Phoenix Business Journal, Wespac offers an array of construction and pre-construction services in a variety of market sectors. It is led by CEO John Largay, who has 30 years of contracting experience with the company. He has worked on several high-profile projects, one of which is $200 million worth of improvements on the Phoenix Plaza.
Wespac is behind the construction of Cornish Pasty in Flagstaff, Arizona. The firm had to demolish and rebuild the original structure, which was designed as a laundromat. The new bar was transformed through Wespac’s installation of a stone bar and classic candle-style chandeliers. The eclectic theme is also apparent in the flooring, made of hardwood flooring and patterned cement tiles. The use of contrasting materials created a division between the dining tables and the bar area, adding visual excitement and interest to the whole space.
19) Kort Builders
8709 Castle Park Dr., Indianapolis, IN 46256
For three decades, Kort Builders has been offering full-service commercial construction in Indiana. It was founded by Bob Kort, who remains involved in the company’s operations and collaborations with prospective clients. His concentration on providing quality service has earned him a spot in the Indianapolis Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 list. Under his leadership, the firm’s work has also been covered by Architect Magazine.
In 2014, Kort Builders completed work on The District Tap. It was built on a spot that was infamous for its checkered history of closed businesses, so the firm was challenged to build a bar that beckoned to guests and encouraged them to stay the night. In the end, the bar featured indoor and outdoor dining options, as well as a gaming area to accommodate pool tables and shuffleboards.
18) Rolin Construction
5060 Jack Springs Rd., Atmore, AL 36502
Rolin Construction started out as a construction company that primarily caters to the tribal sector. Over its 14 years of operations, it has grown to expand its services to the private, commercial, and government sectors. In 2017, the firm was recognized as one of the largest general contractors in Alabama, based on the value of contracts awarded in the previous years.
The firm collaborated with STOA Architects to complete the construction of Groovy Goat Sports Club in Folley, Alabama. The 6,800 square feet project was slated to open as the first restaurant in OWA’s Downtown District. It required space to accommodate 16 80” televisions, one 26-foot screen, and a beer cooler with over 25 beers on tap. Rolin Construction completed the interior build-out in just six weeks.
17) Desert Viking
3260 N Hayden Rd., Suite #201, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Niels Kriepke founded Desert Viking in 1997 to focus on property development, design-build management, and rehabilitation. Under his leadership, his company has successfully built its reputation as one of the best historic preservationists of Arizona. It has rehabilitated 20 National Register Historic properties and has won heritage preservation awards for its work.
In 2016, Desert Viking finished The Womack. The bar pays homage to Chez Nous, a bygone lounge that was known for promoting R&B, funk, and soul in Arizona. The owners took on the challenge of recreating the iconic nightspot. Desert Viking tried to keep the bar’s look as faithful to its source material as possible: it sports black and gold wallpaper, vintage fixtures, and vinyl booths. Lighting was kept at a minimum to keep the space dimly lit and intimate, and a dance floor was also installed.
16) Lennon Construction
255 Saint Philip St., Charleston, SC 29403
Lennon Construction is an award-winning design-build contractor for commercial and residential projects. Within 13 years, it has managed to establish itself as one of the South East’s best restaurant builders. In 2018, it won Eater Magazine’s Design of the Year Award for its excellent work on Tradd’s, a restaurant based in South Carolina.
Among its award-winning work is The Cocktail Club, an upscale lounge located in a historic building in Charleston. Lennon Construction used reclaimed wood, salvaged doors, and the original beams from the 130-year old building. The firm also built a custom bar, also with reclaimed wood, which matched the whole space’s rustic aesthetic.
2212 1st Ave. S, Birmingham, AL 35233
In 2016, Golden Construction and Appleseed Workshop merged to offer integrated construction, architecture, and manufacturing to reduce costs for its clients. In 2018, it renamed the venture to Creature. Its expertise in the design-build approach has resulted in several projects in the bar and restaurant market sectors.
In 2018, it completed the construction of Pilcrow, a basement speakeasy that follows a typographical theme. The Birmingham bar was built in an old building that originally housed a printing press founded in 1881. To honor the building’s history, Creature’s design team decided to keep the basement’s old exposed brick. The wall adds personality to the otherwise bare horizontal space and is contrasted by the wall of steel hieroglyphics and Pilcrow branding that the firm made for the client. This project has appeared on several local media sites, including Birmingham Business Journal and Alabama Now.
14) Hooper Construction
421 N Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
Hooper Construction offers full-service general contracting and development in Florida. Founded in 1994, it has established itself as a green builder that focuses on building energy-efficient structures that are also cost-efficient. It is a member of the US Green Building Council, and the firm crafted several LEED-certified buildings across its serviced state.
The firm is the contractor behind the first-ever rooftop bar and lounge of Fort Lauderdale. In 2017, it built Rooftop @1WLO atop the One West Las Olas Building. The bar occupies 4,000 square feet of space and was outfitted with lush natural decor and an eclectic mix of finishes. Hooper Construction incorporated wooden plant boxes and a custom bar made of wood and chevron tiles.
13) Summit Design Build
1032 W Fulton Market Suite #300, Chicago, IL 60607
Summit Design Build is a general contractor and construction management firm that specializes in the design-build delivery method for commercial, industrial, and hospitality markets, among others. In its 14-year history, it has managed to build over 300 buildings that total to more than 6.5 million square feet of space. The firm also offers sustainable construction services and has even won Engineering News-Record’s Best Green Project Award.
In 2019, the firm completed the renovation of The House of Blues Foundation Room, a popular music venue that was originally built in 1965. The project scope included remodeling the main dining room to include a semi-private dining area. The firm also built a custom bar that features bespoke millwork and stained glass detailing.
12) Howard CDM
3750 Long Beach Blvd. #200, Long Beach, CA 90807
Howard CDM traces its humble roots back to Michael Howard’s garage in 1972. The general contracting business is now operated by his son, Martin Howard, who successfully expanded the business into a multi-million dollar company. The firm offers its design-build services in the restaurant, hospitality, and retail markets.
The company is behind the construction of the intimate craft cocktail bar, Bibo Ergo Sum. The bar’s interior draws inspiration from the Art Deco style, evoking sophistication and luxury. Its design is intentionally symmetrical, with the stylized bar smack in the middle. The theme continues throughout the 2,100 square feet bar, with strategically placed pendant lights, and an arched deco door to welcome guests.
6150 N 16th St., Suite A, Phoenix, AZ 85016
Established in 1985, hardison/downey specializes in building commercial and community living structures in Arizona. The company was founded to offer large general contractor expertise with the personal service and focus of a small one. Through its excellent client-centric approach, it has secured projects from repeat clients and word of mouth referrals.
The firm was hired to gut and complete a remodel of a Bank of America building that was originally designed by Ralph Haver. The structure now houses The Vig Uptown, a stylish upscale tavern located in Uptown Phoenix. The buildout involved building a new kitchen, a bar area, a covered patio, and interestingly, a bocce ball court. hardison/downey maintained the original bank vault, turning it into a wine and cold storage room.
10) Ashling Construction
258 Elm St., Suite #200, Somerville, MA 02144
Thomas Clark founded Ashling Construction in 2003 to focus on building for the retail and restaurant markets. Since then, it has managed to complete over 200 projects for independent restaurants and some regional concepts from multi-unit brands. Its expertise in restaurant construction has earned it several accolades from industry magazines, including Eater’s Restaurant of the Year and Design of the Year awards.
In 2017, the firm was hired to build a flashy second location for Lolita Cocina and Tequila Bar in Fort Point. Situated in prime real estate, the restaurant’s owners wanted to stick to its brand’s reputation for bold design. Thus, Ashling Construction made sure to create a visually distinctive space through a mix of daring design choices. The firm used brick masonry for portions of the walls, which contrast nicely with the colorful wall murals throughout the space. The owners also wanted to pay special attention to the ceiling, with portions of it decorated with skulls and red chandeliers.
1330 W Fulton Market, Suite #200, Chicago, IL 60607
Founded in 1955, Skender is a general contracting firm that has been revolutionizing the building process by unifying design, construction, and manufacturing. With its annual revenue of over $415 million, it is one of the largest general contractors in the US. In 2019, it was hailed as one of the most innovative companies by Fast Company for bringing modular housing to Chicago. The firm also serves clients in the healthcare, retail, and hospitality industries, among others.
The firm completed the interior buildout of Swift and Sons in Chicago’s Fulton Market neighborhood in 2015. The high-end restaurant and bar required the construction of an oyster bar, a bistro bar, and private dining areas.
8) Turner Construction
375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014
Turner Construction is one of America’s largest construction services companies, capable of serving international clients in various market segments. The firm earns around $12 billion annually, with over 1,500 projects each year. In 2017, it was ranked #6 in Advisory HQ’s Best Commercial Building Contractors in the US, and #1 in Engineering News-Record’s Top 100 Green Building Contractors in the US.
Among its best projects is the Havana Club, which was built on the 55th floor of the Wachovia Financial Center. Turner Construction updated the ceiling and changed the flooring to fit the bar’s modern style. It also installed high-end millwork and other striking architectural features in the 15,000 square foot space.
7) Hyder Construction
543 Santa Fe Dr., Denver, CO 80204
Hyder is an award-winning construction firm that offers its services throughout Colorado. It specializes in resort and commercial construction but also accepts projects from the retail, restaurant, and corporate markets. It is an active member of AGC and has won several awards for its hospitality projects.
In 2016, Hyder Construction was hired by MillerCoors to convert an old bow truss warehouse into the Blue Moon Brewery in the RiNo district of Denver. The project includes the installation of a twenty-barrel brewing system and the construction of a 400-seat bar and restaurant. Its focal point is a circular bar accentuated by an 8-foot diameter blue light fixture. The firm also installed booths that are reminiscent of beer barrels, and round LED lights for additional illumination.
6) Stack + Co.
555 E 2nd St., Boston, MA 02127
Stack + Co integrates architecture and construction to provide a seamless building process for its clients. For over a decade, it put a premium on emphasizing thoughtful architecture and better-informed, technology-driven construction and management. As a result, it has received recognition from industry organizations and media, including Boston Business Journal, Massachusetts Historical Commission, and Rhode Island Monthly.
The firm was hired by Arturo’s, an Italian restaurant and bar, to expand its space with a modern bar and function room. Stack + Co renovated two tenant spaces, completing the construction in just three and a half months. The new space boasts of a contemporary Italian theme, with globe chandeliers and a bar with a white marble finish.
5) Basile Studio
840 Eleventh Ave., San Diego, CA 92101
Basile Studio is an award-winning design, build, and fabrication studio that was founded by Paul Basile. As a designer and builder, Basile is frequently called the “brick and mortar guru,” and has received several accolades from the American Institute of Architects (AIA). The firm’s projects have also consistently received praise and recognition, having won awards from the San Diego Architectural Foundation, AIA, and industry magazines.
Among its most recent projects is Raised by Wolves, a one-of-a-kind bottle shop and cocktail bar concept for Consortium Holdings. Basile Studio implemented a mix of romantic and eclectic design to set apart the venue from its location, a high-end Las Vegas mall. The bar’s finishes are inspired by 1800s French Art Nouveau and Victorian Rococo Revival styles. An interesting visual point is the custom bar that the firm built for the project. The circular bar is clad in black marble with gold veins and a golden bar top. In the middle is a vintage French fountain, giving the space a luxurious yet eccentric feel.
4) Shawmut Design and Construction
10800 Biscayne Blvd. Suite #1000, Miami, FL 33161
With offices across the states, Shawmut Design and Construction offers a full array of construction services throughout the country. It specializes in luxury construction and management in the hospitality and retail sectors, among others. With over three decades of national contracting, the firm has been featured in national media, including Engineering-News Record, Fortune, and Inc.
Shawmut Design and Construction had the opportunity to work with Hilton Group’s The Diplomat Beach Resort to build a modern Japanese restaurant and bar by celebrity chef, Michael Schulson. The bar, named Monkitail, follows a modern Asian aesthetic to create a laid back, calming ambiance. The firm incorporated a variety of wooden materials in different shades of brown and black, which is contrasted by white ceramic tiles.
3) Choate Construction
8200 Roberts Dr. Suite 600, Atlanta, Georgia 30350
Choate Construction has been providing general contracting and construction management services nationally for over 30 years now. Founded in 1989 by William Millard Choate, the company now has nearly 500 team members. In 2016, it became a 100% employee-owned company. This allows the company to share its success with employees, while also remaining an independent, internally-operated company. Through this, Choate Construction has become one of the largest commercial contractors in the Southeast.
One of Choate’s best work is the New Realm Brewery in Atlanta’s Beltline Trail. The company transformed a 26,000 square foot storage facility into a full restaurant, brewery, and rooftop bar. Choate Construction worked with ai3, who implemented a contemporary feel throughout. The space features hardwood floors, custom steel and wood ceiling features, and a sleek stone bar top. A focal point in the restaurant is an abstract wall treatment inspired by stilts hop farmers used to harvest crops. A steel rail winds through the first level ceiling and continues to the rooftop, reminiscent of the systems hop farmers previously used.
2) New World Design Builders
261 Madison Ave., 25th Flr., New York, NY 10016
New World Design Builders’ portfolio is filled with award-winning bars, restaurants, and hospitality spaces. Founded over two decades ago, the firm has grown into an outstanding source of construction and interior design in New York, New Jersey, Miami, and California.
The firm is led by Chris Kofitsas, who was listed under Architectural Digest’s “Five Must-Know Restaurant Designers of New York” in 2016. Under his leadership, the firm’s construction of Jean Georges’ ABC Kitchen won the highly-coveted “Best New Restaurant” award from the James Beard Foundation in 2011. New World Design Builders’ projects have also been featured on Vogue, The New York Times, and Business Insider.
In 2019, the firm completed De Novo European Pub in Edgewater, New Jersey. New World Design Builders used reclaimed wood and brass for the restaurant’s detailed facade. Guests are guided into the restaurant through an overhead pergola lined with greenery and a cluster of floating glass lights. It features a beautifully lit tree that’s gracefully encircled by curved banquettes. A sun room also offers diners panoramic views of the Hudson River and the iconic George Washington bridge. The project is a landmark project for the firm, being its first-ever hospitality project in New Jersey.
1) Beyer Blinder Belle
120 Broadway, 20th Flr., New York, NY 10271
Founded in 1968, Beyer Blinder Belle is an award-winning practice with nearly 200 design and construction professionals based in New York, Washington, DC, and Boston. Over its five-decade experience, the firm has collected multiple accolades from several prestigious industry organizations. In 2016, it earned a Citation from AIA New York for its iconic work on The Met Breuer. It also won nearly 20 preservation awards in the last four years alone for restoring several historic buildings, including Harvard University’s Winthrop House.
Led by Jack Beyer, one of the company’s founding partners, the firm remains steadfast in its mission to keep a civic-minded approach to architecture. He and his departed partners Richard Blinder and John Belle created the firm as an answer to the country’s urban renewal movement. Since its beginnings, the firm has been focusing on the social integrity of their projects: how people will interact with their environments, and how their environments could make their daily lives better. Thus, the firm specializes in preservation, restoration, and contextual design.
Among Beyer Blinder Beller’s landmark projects is the revitalization of the Whitney Museum of American Art, which was renamed The Met Breuer (after its original architect, Marcel Breuer). Within this bigger project is the construction of the Flora Bar on its lower level, which won the first-ever Best Restaurant Award from Surface Magazine. Restaurateurs Thomas Carter and Ignacio Mattos challenged the firm to infuse contemporary touches into the structure’s brutalist design style. To do this, the company installed furnishings with blackened steel, bronze, walnut, and marble detailing to complement the structure’s original concrete walls and columns.
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