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How to Pack A Bar and Make Some Money

By , August 28th, 2009 | 4 Comments »

What was former congressman and pro baseball player Wilmer Mizell’s nickname? Who played the part of the piano player at Rick’s Cafe American in Casablanca? How did the ancient Egyptians mourn a dead cat? I love questions like this and have spent countless hours over the past four decades reading the backs of baseball cards, watching movies and buying trivia books, just to be able to answer questions such as these.

With such a love of trivia, it should not be surprising that I enjoy participating in trivia contests. Fortunately, here in central Florida we do not have to look far for trivia because The Simon and Gene Trivia Show is busy bringing trivia to the masses four nights a week and their colleagues at Curtis Earth Trivia add a bunch of other shows as well.

Simon, who is also a professional wrestler, and Gene, who by day is an actor at a major Orlando theme park, are also trivia experts. A few months ago, they started performing one night per week at a local sports bar. Their concept is very basic but it still brings out huge crowds on weekday nights. They play good music, engage in witty banter and pose trivia questions to participating teams. After three rounds of ten progressively more difficult questions, they tally the scores and the top three teams win gift certificates from the host establishment. The host establishment pays Simon and Gene for their two to three hours of effort and pay for the prizes given to the participants. In return, the host gets a packed house for about three hours on a weekday night.

Watching Simon and Gene on a recent Wednesday night, it struck me that they were having a lot of fun putting on the show and that they had found a great niche in providing a service that brought value to both the host establishment and the people who came out for the show. It was an all around winning relationship and one that allowed Simon and Gene to profit from the bar-going public without actually having to work for a bar.

There are a lot of ways that people can create opportunities for extra earnings in bars and restaurants, especially if they are creative and innovative. If you have a talent that you want to exploit, you might want to consider:

Restaurants can be Art Galleries: Are you an artist without a place to show off your art work? Look for restaurants and other businesses that might be willing to allow you to hang your art work along with information on how patrons can purchase it. Of course, you won’t want to hang your work in a rowdy biker bar, but plenty of more sedate restaurants, local coffee shops and even professional offices may be willing to work with you. You will get exposure and the restaurant or other business will get free art that is ever changing as you sell older works and replace them with newer works.

Restaurants can be Music Halls: When I lived in Boston, there was a Middle Eastern Restaurant in Central Square, Cambridge. Local musicians approached the restaurant and suggested live music one night per week. The restaurant liked the idea and in a very short time was offering music seven nights per week with afternoon shows on some weekends. If you play an instrument or play in a band, and regardless of your genre, look for a restaurant, cafe or bar that might have space for performance and try to sell your services as a performer.

Karaoke! Karaoke is not dead (no matter how much I might wish that were so). If you have a decent music collection and can DJ, you might consider expanding your show to include karaoke. Karaoke contests are enjoying a resurgent popularity and you can probably find a bar that will gladly hire you to entertain. Of course, you do not need to limit your thinking to karaoke. Whatever talent you may have, whether comedic, musical or otherwise, local bars and restaurants may be eager to retain you as a way to get patrons to come to their establishments and to linger their longer.

Start a Valet Service: If there are finer restaurants that you notice do not have a valet service, you might consider offering to provide valet service to the restaurant’s patrons. The restaurant will pay you a fixed fee for the evening and you will receive tips from the patrons, too. Of course, you will need to consider insurance and other liability issues, but that goes hand in hand with starting any business.

Start a Delivery Service: If there is not a restaurant delivery service in your town, restaurants may be interested in having a delivery option, and you can provide it. If you have a reliable car, such a service should not be difficult to establish. Restaurants will pay you for each delivery and you will receive tips from the people who receive deliveries from you.

What other ways can you identify to make money from bars and restaurants? Have you ever shown art work at a restaurant or performed music in one? Do you have a talent that you think would help to bring people into a restaurant or bar on a Tuesday night?

And for those of you who are still wondering about the answers to the questions I asked at the beginning of this column (i) Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell was a pitcher from 1949 to 1963, playing a majority of his years for the St. Louis Cardinals, and later serving three terms as a congressman from North Carolina, (ii) Dooley Wilson played the part of Sam in Casablanca, and (iii) the ancient Egyptians shaved their eyebrows in order to mourn a cat.

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  • Ann says:

    I’ve actually seen some 2-D artists using banks as galleries.

    There are times when it’s helpful to think outside the box. 🙂

  • David says:

    Interesting to read about the beginning of music at the Middle East Restaurant. Now they have room for 550 people to listen to music in their basement.

  • persephone says:

    A sports bar near my home offers Texas Hold ‘Em (no gambling)every Monday night. The bar pays the dealer and the dealer really packs the bar with patrons. Both the dealer and the sports bar win!

  • spicoli says:

    Another good bar job is bouncer, especially if you like live music and can get on the security staff at a bar that presents live bands.


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