Several weeks ago, as the weather warmed around the country, we asked you to choose your favorite outdoor bar. Thirty-two bars from 16 cities, organized into North, East, South and West divisions, were pitted against one another, bracket style.
The outdoor bars we selected represented an array of venue types, from breweries and sports bars to sophisticated drinking establishments perched high atop boutique hotels. There were sprawling patios, covered outdoor bar spaces, and indoor/outdoor bars.
The winner as chosen by Nightclub & Bar readers? Whiskey Blue in Atlanta, Georgia! Operated by the industry-leading Gerber Group, this Buckhead district hot spot is the second Whiskey Blue location (the first being Midtown Manhattan).
General manager David Schweitzer graciously took the time to share valuable insights into Whiskey Blue’s operations. Read on to learn about the design of Whiskey Blue’s two outdoor spaces, cocktail menu and promotions, and marketing strategy.
How many months out of the year are Whiskey Blue outdoor rooftop areas open?
Whiskey Blue has two patios on opposite sides of the venue that are open year-round. The Buckhead Terrace showcases the Buckhead business district overlooking Peachtree Street and Lenox Mall, while the Atlanta Terrace on the other side of Whiskey Blue gives a full skyline view. With two patios providing different vantage points, the goal is to make the space comfortable with changing seasons. We have outdoor heating and cooling, blankets and plush couches that provide a relaxing experience no matter the temperature.
How far ahead of opening the areas does Whiskey Blue begin preparing? What do these preparations entail?
Whiskey Blue actually has two patios on both sides of our venue, and since we try to keep them open as much as possible we find ourselves being unofficial meteorologists.
Our winters can be mild—but we do have to prepare for the colder months by having heaters outside, as well as blankets. In the spring, we’re constantly on our toes watching to see if it will rain, so we staff accordingly.
What does Whiskey Blue do to market the opening of the outdoor rooftop areas and build anticipation?
Utilizing our social media channels, database and local influencers is instrumental in our patio marketing strategy.
Does Whiskey Blue plan and execute promotions specifically geared toward outdoor rooftop season?
We absolutely do! We evaluate overall trends in the market that will appeal to our customers (locals and hotel guests), as well as reviewing plans seasonally. We also coordinate with other Gerber Group properties and brainstorm as there’s often an idea we can also adapt for Atlanta.
Are seasonal cocktail, beer and wine menus developed for the outdoor season?
Yes—and I can give you an example. In 2017, we spent four months developing a “Summer Poptails” menu to launch on Memorial Day. It was a series of curated cocktails that were paired with popsicles to fit the drinks’ profiles. Not only were the Poptails refreshing, but customers went nuts posting photos on their social channels, especially Instagram. Conceiving creative and eye-catching cocktails is one of the ways Whiskey Blue is able to continuously drive traffic to the patios.
How important to the bottom line are the cigars offered at Whiskey Blue?
Well, we’re always happy to accommodate cigar smokers, and also host an annual summer smoke series and bourbon pairing that’s very popular.
How far in advance of closing the outdoor areas does Whiskey Blue prepare? What does that preparation entail?
When we close the outdoor areas it’s because of inclement weather. Thankfully, our patios are fairly weatherproof.
Does Whiskey Blue plan and execute a promotion or promotions aimed at leveraging the final days of the outdoor season?
We change up our cocktail menu quarterly, but we don’t plan for the end of outdoor season as we want to remain fluid.
How do operations and promotions change for Whiskey Blue during the months when outdoor areas are closed?
We sell hot cocktails and order more bourbon when the weather is gray.
What advice do you have for our readers regarding designing their outdoor spaces?
Honestly, my biggest piece of advice is to plan and select carefully when designing your patio. Trust me on this—picking and purchasing quality items that are specifically made to live outdoors will mean less headaches long term.