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Restaurant Bar Lighting

Apr 27, 2008
Effective restaurant bar lighting and hospitality lighting design requires focus on a number of key elements to create an effective, appropriate sensibility for this special place within your establishment. Fixtures used in restaurant bar lighting must be energy efficient and avoid filling the room with too much light. A number of practical concerns must also be considered when lighting your restaurant bar. What shape is the bar itself? What is the total square footage of the bar area? What type of clientèle does the bar attract, and at what time of day?

The answers to these questions will help you quickly determine an effective strategy for designing a truly sophisticated, unique restaurant bar lighting system that is easy to control and customize to different seasons, occasions, and groups of people. Working with a licensed, professional lighting design and electrical service firm such as ILD will also help you achieve the very best results. Companies such as ours have access not only to the full gamut of traditional lighting fixtures and high-end lighting controls, but we also have access to specialty lighting equipment and LED technology not available on the open retail market.


The fixtures used in restaurant bar lighting can range from the simple to the ultra-modern and classically ornate. The interior architecture, design, and overall theme of the restaurant will play a big role in determining what types of fixtures you select. Generally speaking, restaurant bar lighting fixtures tend to output lower than normal levels of light and are often recessed low voltage lighting fixtures installed with the intention of reducing power costs.

ILD can design a system that is both functional and decorative at the same time, ranging from contemporary ceiling and recessed lights for high-end facilities, pendant lights and chandeliers for refined environments, and small specialty lamps for cozy, traditional settings.

Practical Concerns

Although the fixtures used in restaurant bar lighting vary greatly from bar to bar, the same practical considerations have to be taken into account in virtually every facility. Down lighting is essential to both patrons and staff because it provides the most effective and even source of task light that provides enough light to see without overwhelming the eyes. Incidentally, humans need only minimal amounts of light to move around, so lights over a restaurant bar and surrounding floor space can be very Spartan in output and still produce optimal results.

Bartenders, however, need to see to make the drinks. In order to avoid disrupting the atmosphere, our designers often install low profile under cabinet strip lights that provide bright task light for mixing drinks and washing dishes. The only commercial lighting the patrons may notice coming from these fixtures is a gentle radiance that emanates from behind the counter and actually works toward contributing to the mystique environment.

Many bars also have a mirror spanning the length of the back wall. This mirror works to visually expand the environment and showcase wine and liquor. Lighting here represents both a challenge and a very high reward if you contract a firm that has the skills necessary to angle dimmable light indirectly at the mirror so as to avoid reflecting it back into patron's eyes.

Lighting Control

Due to the high revenue generated by most restaurant bars, lighting control systems are strongly recommended. A trained lighting control and automation expert can assess your interior architecture, calculate the necessary luminance to adequately light all of your floor space, and program different lighting themes into a central Lutron Grafik Eye, Vantage, or AMX control unit.

These lighting control switches, though technically sophisticated, are extremely easy to operate from concealed touch panels or wireless hand held remotes. They will allow you to use your lighting to set the mood specific to different crowds, occasions, and seasons of the year. Everything from Happy Hour, conventions and corporate events, and personal birthday parties can be augmented and accentuated with a lighting automation control system by a consulting firm such as ILD.

Special Equipment and Techniques

A final benefit to consider when thinking of installing your own lighting system or hiring a lighting design with specialized services is the access to special equipment and lighting techniques that only a professional firm can offer you. Working with a multi-specialist firm like ILD gives you access to lighting design strategies and equipment you may not have been aware of or considered.

For example, if your restaurant has a wood structure bar on the patio, patio lights normally used in outdoor settings can also be used for overhead and accent lighting of the eaves and beams. Any number of outdoor restaurant lighting themes can be implemented as well; from a decorative festive look using rope lights, to a tropical island look using LED signs and decorative candles.

Keep in mind as well that LED technology of any kind represents both a high-end technical advantage and a low-end cost to the restaurant owner. LED uses only 20% the electricity of incandescent lighting, and sophisticated commercial equipment like Traxon panel lights can be substituted for a back wall mirror to create a futuristic, multi-colored spectrum of changing lights. Our automation team can also synchronize these panels with your lighting control and music, so that when the songs change, the lights change with them.
About the Author
ILD has worked for 25 years to become a leader in not just one, but five major lighting design and electrical service disciplines. We work extensively with hospitality clients like hotels, resorts, restaurants, and country clubs. Visit http://www.illuminationslighting.com/restaurant-bar-lighting.htm and Visit http://www.illuminationslighting.com for more information.
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