How Light Impacts Psychology & Mood in a Bar

Mar 11, 2022

When checking out a new bar, service and drink quality can make or break your first impression. But if the bar’s atmosphere is well below par, chances are you won’t return for an after-work beer or pre-dinner cocktail anytime soon.   

Successful bars and clubs know how to set the right mood for their patrons. The most profitable bars provide a level of ambiance that leads to a memorable guest experience. In-the-know bar managers understand that proper lighting significantly affects the overall atmosphere within the space. Smart lighting choices such as dimmable pendants placed above intimate table settings, or thoughtfully arranged LED string lights in an outdoor beer garden create an appealing vibe.

Even though bar lighting plays a subtle role that often goes unrecognized, if a space’s lighting is too bright, too dim, or simply unflattering, bar patrons will notice and probably leave after their first drink. This is why it’s so important to have a good mix of well-balanced lighting in a bar establishment.

If you’re in the bar service industry, you want your clientele to have a great experience at your bar. They’ll hopefully become loyal, well-spending patrons who come back regularly.             

Impacting Mood in the Bar Industry

People who plan a night out at a bar expect to have an enjoyable time. Coworkers like to unwind after a long day. A couple on a date wants to chat and relax. And a big group celebrating a milestone event simply wants to have fun. Regardless of the reason for people patronizing your bar, the space needs to have an atmosphere that puts every customer in a good mood. 

When it comes to lighting, the lights in a bar should positively impact patrons’ senses and emotions. Bar lighting should also be functional. It needs to provide a sense of safety and allow people to see properly, too. Of course, no two bars are alike, and a lighting design that works well in a cozy, neighborhood pub might not be suitable for a large, trendy nightclub. There are a few basic lighting tips and techniques, however, that are essential for creating the right atmosphere in any bar environment.

Color Temperature

The best lighting for most bars ranges toward the warmer end of the color temperature spectrum. Lighting experts agree that warmer illumination, around 2500K, is appropriate for a lively, yet pleasant bar setting. This type of lighting evokes comfort, relaxation, and encourages people to sit back, stay awhile, and have another drink or two. 

Warmer color temperatures produce light that has a soft yellow to amber hue, which makes faces look more flattering, and food look more appetizing. As color temperatures get cooler, 4500K and above, the light becomes bluish, and can cast a greenish glow that’s quite unflattering in a bar setting.  

Natural Light

Does your establishment have large windows that let in natural light during the day? If it does, consider yourself lucky. Many bars and pubs have very few windows, or none at all, and rely on artificial light at all times. 

Natural light influences a bar space’s overall atmosphere and should be considered an integral part of the bar’s lighting design. Many brewpubs nowadays are designed with plenty of windows. Some even have garage doors that open up to let in natural light and fresh air.

The overhead, ambient lighting in these settings should complement the bright, natural light that’s entering the space. During the day, keep the lights on the brighter side. Then as it gets darker outside, go a bit dimmer and warmer. LEDs that can dim and change color temperatures allow bar managers to easily customize their bar’s lighting throughout the day, so it’s never too bright or too dark inside.   

For bar spaces with limited or no natural light, it’s essential to have a balanced mix of ambient, accent, and task lighting. The general bar room lighting should be slightly brighter during the day, then pleasantly warm at night. Back bar lighting, under bar lighting, wall sconces, and hanging pendants keep the entire space well-lit so customers can see without straining their eyesight.

Bar Concept

As we mentioned earlier, no two bars are alike. Every bar has its own unique concept, vibe or theme. This means that lighting designs are often very different from one establishment to the next. An upscale cocktail lounge may feature sleek, high-end fixtures within its lighting plan. While a nightclub with a dance floor may opt for multicolored LED strip lights for a fun, energetic atmosphere.     

No matter the bar’s concept, appropriate lighting in any space should make people feel comfortable. It should also contribute to the bar’s concept and intended mood, whether it’s cozy, lively, romantic, or something in between.                

Bar Lighting Design Ideas: Functions & Opportunities

Designing a lighting plan for a bar’s unique interior space may seem like a challenge. But it doesn’t have to be if you have some basic lighting know-how. And it’s also an advantage if you know what types of lights would best enhance your space.

Choosing lights that create the right atmosphere for your bar starts with a balance of ambient, accent, and task lighting. Ambient lights provide general lighting for functionality and safety. Accent lights help create mood and ambiance within the space. Lastly, task lights typically help staff see properly while preparing drinks or meals. 

If you’re designing a new bar, or updating an old one, here’s a few helpful lighting ideas to maximize the space’s appeal.      

Back Bar Lighting

A growing number of bars, pubs, and cocktail lounges designate the area behind the actual bar as the space’s main focal point. Shelves of neatly displayed liquor bottles and drink glasses add timeless appeal and visual interest to virtually any bar. 

Installing subtle LED strip lights to the backs of shelves illuminates bottles from behind, and gives the bar a chic, sophisticated vibe. Other back-bar options are recessed lights that can be directed at shelves and bottles for a clean, customized look.  

Over the Bar Lighting

Have you ever been in a bar that had a beautiful interior, but it was too dark to read the menu? So many bar spaces create an intimate, inviting atmosphere with soft, dim lighting, not realizing that it’s too dim for patrons to see properly. 

This is why overhead accent lights are essential in cozy, dark bar environments. Pendant lighting over individual bar spaces and above tables allows customers to see each other better while having a conversation. It also helps them read the drink list and food menu without using their cell phone’s flashlight.

Outdoor Bar Lighting

More bars and breweries are building outdoor patio spaces so customers can enjoy drinking and eating outside. Even after sunset, the patio continues to be the bar’s hot spot. As outdoor bar spaces become more popular, outdoor lighting options show increased demand. LED string lights have been a big trend for years, and they show no sign of fading.  They provide reliable illumination along with a ton of character and charm.

Lighting for Safety

Bar lighting design puts plenty of emphasis on creating an atmosphere for customers. An equally important aspect, especially in dark nightclubs, is safety for customers and staff. Walkways, bathroom areas, steps, and staircases need to be well lit so people don’t accidentally trip, fall, and hurt themselves. Recessed LED lighting along the sides of the floor, or installed on the edges of steps can prevent these unfortunate situations from happening. 

TCP Lighting in Bar Setting

Are you a bar owner? If you are, your business has the potential to improve with some minor lighting updates. Bar customers enjoy the atmosphere of a warm and well-lit, not bright and overly lit, bar or brewpub.  

If you’re unsure about what types of lighting would work best in your bar, we can show you the best options, and even customize lighting specifically for your space. When it comes to energy-efficient LED lighting, we are an industry leader and innovator.

Choosing energy-efficient LEDs leads to significant savings for your budget. Utility bills are lower, and maintenance costs are much less. All the money you save can be invested in other resources for your bar.

Are you interested in new bar lighting? The experts at TCP can help. Contact us today.

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