Pub Flexibility – Chameleon Effect
Pub Flexibility: The Chameleon Effect
Often a publicans design brief is multi faceted and needs to be different things to a variety customers at
different times. These needs can emerge over time but sometimes publicans are quite clear from the start as
to who their potential customer is and what they are going to offer them. When we know from the start then
flexibility is easier to be designed in.
What is the chameleon effect? Like the reptile, the pubs’ surroundings can be easily adapted or changed to
blend in with the ambience and atmosphere required to suit the particular offer that is being presented
atthat particular time. Different offers require different set ups. Over the last 25 years we have developed
lots of ideas for transforming a pubs atmosphere in a matter of minutes. Here are some ideas which can help
you adapt your premises to create the chameleon effect:
A flick of a switch can totally transform a pub.
During the day time if food is being served the atmosphere is generally warm with tones of warm white or
amber lighting. Coloured lights should be turned off or switched to yellow. Menu boards for food should be
well lit if this is the focus at lunch time. Plenty of daylight is preferable. No one likes to sit in the dark during
the day especially when eating so window blinds should be up allowing the daylight through.
The trend in the last few years is towards LED ( Light Emitting Diode). LED’s have many advantages over
incandescent light sources including lower energy consumption, longer lifetime, smaller size, and faster
switching. It’s greatest benefit is its ability to transform the atmosphere of a space from day to night, from
dining atmosphere to bar or dance bar atmosphere. So for daytime it might be amber or warm white, while
for drinking bar time it might be blue or red and for dance bar it might be slow or fast colour changing. By
varying the level of red, green and blue (RGB) LED many colour combinations can be made. This kind of
lighting is great for seasonal changes like using green for Paddy’s day, red for Valentine’s, etc. LED lighting
is easy to retrofit as it comes in a thin flexible roll (almost like cellotape). LED can be fitted behind shelving,
in the back bar, in recessed cornices or frames and countless other places.
Stage areas/dance areas
Empty stage and dance floor areas can stick out and look awkward when not in use. In O’Reillys Irish Pub in
Frankfurt we designed a karaoke stage which had a duel purpose. It acted as a raised seating area during the
day and a stage at night. We designed flip down seats and light weight tables with loose stools for the
daytime which are easily removed and integrated into the main pub area when the stage is in use at night.
Stage backdrops can be created which are invisible during the day and become revealed at night. This can be
done in many ways such as using curtains, folding doors and pull down screens.
Some pubs like to only have TV’s turned on when there is a sporting event. In order for a pub to transform
into a sports bar it works really well if TV’s can be made visible for these events only. In Durty Nelly’s,
Bunratty we built a false chimney breast which hid the TV behind panelled doors. The bulk of Durty Nelly’s
clientele are tourists so it was important to keep a traditional heritage atmosphere while providing a TV
point for when sporting events and occasions required it.
In Waxy’s in Frankfurt we designed a TV behind a beautiful handmade backbar mirror – the mirror was on
hydraulics so it could be hoisted up behind the back bar unit revealing the TV.
O’Reillys in Dusseldorf features a 1500mm plasma screen hidden behind a large mirror over the fireplace.
The glass has been treated so that when the TV is off it looks like a mirror and when the TV is on it shines
thru the glass. O’Reillys are big on showing sports but they want a gastropub atmosphere (not TV focused)
during the day so this works a treat for them.
Furniture and Fittings
Re-configuring a layout is a great way to transform a venue however this is more easily achieved if the pub is
being designed from scratch. Spaces can be divided or opened up using curtains, moving walls or pivoting
/folding/sliding doors. A space that is full of snugs can evolve into a large open space and vice a versa if that
is the requirement. Pivoting/folding/sliding doors can work particularly well when creating an indoor
outdoor connection. When opened up the doors, weather permitting, make the outdoor space feel at one
with the interior.
Generally food pubs are designed with lots of small tables so there can be flexibility. If tables are all the same
size they can be put together to form a long table for 10 to 20 or more. To create a dramatic long table effect,
a large timber top can be set onto a row of tables just for events – a real sense of banquet…
To really change the visual ambience from a drinking pub to a gastropub, table cloths can be really effective.
However I would only recommend table cloths if you are going for a high end market.
Signage tells the customer what the offer is – so if the offer changes from day to day or day to night then a
quick way to change the message is extremely necessary. There are a few ways to do this. Timber
blackboards or painted signs can be double sided so messages can be flipped when appropriate. The other
way to display a changing message is with illuminated signs or TVs which can be programmed to display
specific messages at different times.
Ideas for changing the atmosphere are innumerable. In the chameleon scenario they could be features like
black and white movies projected onto walls, moving items like a miniature train or flashing carnival or
neon lights……things that are turned on only for the big event ……features that get people talking……..
The Red Hen in Limerick is a typical chameleon bar. It incorporates many of these ideas, but lighting is it’s
strongest chameleon tool. This bar serves cakes and coffee early in the day, lunch all day and then
transforms into bar early evening and night continuing to late bar. This design works because it was
designed primarily as a bar…….. The key to designing a good chameleon pub or bar is to design a strong
themed/styled background and then design a layer of adaptability into that. For The Red Hen it’s the LED
lighting fitted into shelving, counters, cornices, skirtings and backbars which ultimately changes the
atmosphere from dining to bar/late bar.
Once the pub is up and running it is so important that managers and staff are clear on the vision that is to be
created and that they are trained to carry out the actions at the necessary times. In a way the chameleon has
always been a part of our pubs make up. It is nothing new. We all remember the lights being dimmed and
blinds being drawn down, the fire being lit and the music and craic getting louder as the night