Our annual guide to doing business in a bar will take you across the country to the perfect spots for impressing clients, snagging funding (or celebrating said snagging), finding a key hire and more.
Consider your rapidly expanding professional social network: LinkedIn, Biznik, industry forums. With the numerous methods for connecting online at our disposal, it would hardly be surprising for two parties to complete a deal without ever meeting face to face.
Tempting as it may be to hide behind a computer, there are times you'd be wise to ditch the "media" and focus on the "social." Seeking funding or new clients? Hoping to meet that savvy salesperson who will help turn your business around? Craving the latest industry gossip (or have some juicy dirt to spread yourself)? You need to get out there, where the people are. And one of the most pleasant places to connect with those people is at a bar, for a planned meeting, networking event, stealth attack or chance encounter.
We're not here to condone excessive drinking, but one thing we do like is communication. The bar is merely the venue, a place for you and your peers to collaborate, discover, brainstorm and, yeah, maybe even indulge in a bit of trash talk. Here are some of the best places we've found to conduct those activities, plus some tips on how to behave while doing so. Closing the deal is up to you.
Mingling at Drago Centro means rubbing shoulders with a menagerie of business types, many of whom have the enviable commute to the bar from their offices upstairs in the City National Plaza complex. The vast and stylish Italian restaurant is host to power lunches and business dinners in its main and private dining rooms, but (as usual) the best networking happens around the bar. Off to the side of the dining area, separated from view by a 15-foot-tall glass wine cellar, are communal tables and the bar. If you're on the hunt for a head of sales, that's the place to be. It's a veritable who's who of the city's business community. Even if your dream hire isn't there that night, somebody who knows that person will be.
Though no one can be blamed for taking advantage of the 600 or so wine options (mostly Italian reds), the cocktail list is too tempting to resist. The selection rotates seasonally but includes an international range of spirits (pisco, cachaça, mescal) used in cocktails with gastronomic touches like black pepper, squid-ink syrup and lemon-and-dill meringue.
Photo courtesy of Drago Centro
The drinks aren't cheap at any W Hotel. But if you're running your startup from mom and dad's basement (or a dumpy, roommate-filled apartment) and you long for something better, the Living Room is where you could meet a client or investor who could really take your business to the next level. Nestled in Midtown, Atlanta's most influential business district, the bar is convenient for local bankers and finance execs, as well as out-of-town business types. Come for the day (the bar opens at noon), drink and eat, use the free Wi-Fi and connect with everyone coming and going through Midtown--without looking like the lowly couch surfer you are. Should you want to extend your networking after-hours, head to the hotel's glam upstairs bar, Whiskey Park.
Photo courtesy of W Midtown
Money doesn't always talk; sometimes, it listens. When you're sitting across the table from a deep-pocketed potential client hanging on your every word, it helps to have an aura of inevitable success on your side.
At the Metropolitan Grill, the gravitas comes gratis. This classic steakhouse has been fortifying the city's business elite for generations, from stockbrokers who wager on future Dow closings over martinis in the green-bedecked bar (the choice of color is not an accident) to the real estate and technology barons who hash out deals over Wagyu beef and bottles of Washington red in the cloistered dining room. The old-school atmosphere can make a potential client forget your current shoestring phase, as you lay out your pitch over a lunch of Alaskan king salmon, then seal the deal with one of the Met's bespoke bourbons.
Money is listening. Here's a place where you can do the talking. --Paul Clarke
Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Grill
You'll have to see for yourself exactly which politicos are wheeling and dealing over their gin martinis at Charlie Palmer Steak--the discreet staffers at the bar, across from the U.S. Capitol, won't name names. But if you come when Charlie Palmer is liveliest, after 5:30 on Tuesday or Wednesday evenings when the Senate is in session, you might just score meet-and-greets with power journalists, lobbyists and congresspeople--the types of encounters that, especially in an election year, are typically reserved for VIPs.
The best place to network is on a stool right at the bar, a position that lends itself to open conversation. (Casual dressers, beware: You must suit up if you want to be taken seriously.) Show the in-the-know bartenders you're a serious sort (not a schmoozy player) and they may introduce you to fellow patrons and, naturally, encourage you to indulge in Dirty Politics. The signature cocktail, that is. --Kayleigh Kulp
Photo courtesy of Charlie Palmer Steak
Feeling on top of the world? Then you should sit there, too. Roof is atop theWit Hotel, near the Theater District in the Loop. On the 27th floor, you'll find a multiroom playground populated after work by a mingling professional crowd--plenty of people with whom to celebrate your big news late into the night, when Roof morphs into a hard-partying club.
Roof has indoor and outdoor areas; the latter include The Patio, with bar seating, fire pits, a dance floor and a new retractable roof. But for a true top-floor celebration, reserve The Hangover, a section overlooking Lake Michigan and Millennium Park. The farthest table is what gives The Hangover its name: It is cantilevered over the side of the building, with glass walls on three sides. If you're not already feeling like you're floating on air from landing that round of financing, you will after a few celebratory drinks here. --C.E.
Photo courtesy of ROOF on theWit
Call it the Insider Express. Metro-North Railroad's bar car, on certain trains on the Grand Central-to-New Haven, Conn., line, is a savvy networking spot for entrepreneurs looking for backing. Frequented by Wall Street types who commute to the Big Apple from the 'burbs, the bar car has become the unofficial spot to chat up the finance crowd. Just don't be too heavy-handed in your approach--the bar car's about relaxation first, networking second. You don't want to rile up the after-work steam-blowers enjoying the tête-à-tête seating, conducive for well-lubricated chats. And, yes, some days a bourbon does help smooth the transition from work life back home.
How popular is it? When word got out that Metro-North was considering doing away with its bars, regulars got very grumbly. Needless to say, the bar car rolls on.
Photos courtesy of Westin/Eric Rojas
Location, location, location. Azúcar sits smack-dab in the middle of San Francisco's SoMa district, home to loads of tech companies, including Twitter. Geeks from Adobe, Square, Klout and Dolby, along with other loft-dwelling locals, populate the space after work, for winding down and occasional networking mixers.
Rather than a den of austere mixology, Azúcar is a comfy corner bar. Most seating is on couches and plush chairs scattered about the room. The brief menu offers up inventive, Latin-inspired cocktails with ingredients like carrot juice, cucumber and kombucha, along with cheap eats like hot dogs. As you might expect at a venue populated by programmers in promotional T-shirts, Taco Tuesday is the busiest night of the week. --C.E.