When to Open the Second Location of Your Bar

Images: Amor y Amargo

Opening a second location of your bar can either be a great idea or a terrible one. You have to do it when the time is right, but when is that?

It’s important to not expand to an additional location before your first is established as a brand, as a location with steady customers.

Less than two weeks ago, Sother Teague opened the second location of his bar, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

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So far, the bar’s doing really well, he says, but it’s been a nerve-wracking experience. And that’s saying something since this is the fifth bar Teague’s opened.

He opened the first location of Amor y Amargo (number 94 on the 2019 World's Best Bar List) in New York City eight-and-a-half years ago. In that time, it’s garnered a loyal following. But his second location is in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, just a mile-and-a-quarter away, but across a river that can seem foreboding to Manhattanites.

Would the brand translate well there? Would it get a following?

Interior of Amor y Amargo bitters bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Less than a fortnight in, the bar’s doing well. It’s attracted people from the local neighborhood who’d never heard of the original location, Teague says. But it’s also received support from the first bar, with regulars from visiting the new one.

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Despite his experience in the field, Teague was nervous. “There was a layer of stress added to this one because there’s the reputation of the original Amor y Amargo—there’s a standard to uphold,” he says. “Amor y Amargo has a reputation for being hospitable and unique and intimate, so we had to replicate this, and people would have to get that it’s a duplicate but still has its own personality.”

The Williamsburg location is clearly tied to the first, with the same name, same color scheme, barstools and signage, same retail outlet, but they’re not cookie-cutter locations—each has its own personality and the second bar is around three times larger than the first.

Teague was also worried about cannibalization, not wanting to lose sales from his East Village bar, but says they’re far enough away for that not to be a concern. He even considered them being farther apart. When he started thinking about a second location two years ago, he contemplated opening in other cities, but knew he’d have distribution issues with the bitters the bars’ menus are built around.

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Plus, by staying in New York City, he could springboard his second location because there was already name recognition. This has offered additional benefits. He’s combined the social media—Instagram, Facebook and Twitter—for the two and used it to market the Williamsburg bar.

Retail area inside Amor y Amargo bitters bar in NYC

Doing so has meant he hasn’t had to add to his own already-packed day with yet more social media. “I don’t have the bandwidth to do two,” he says. And because of word-of-mouth spreading, news of the second location was quickly picked up by local publications like Eater and GrubStreet.

There has also been a staffing benefit. Some employees from the original location are temporarily in Brooklyn, “to get it off the ground and help us maintain standards,” Teague says. “To have my team that’s been working with me for a long time has really calmed my nerves.”

And while Teague himself has been at the new location more over the opening period, he’s empowering employees there to make it theirs. “I am the face of the original bar. We are letting people build their reputation and empowering them at the Williamsburg Amor y Amargo, and I want them to be invested in my bar. I want us all to grow and move forward, and it’s about a team. I want people to have a presence, to have an impact, to have some pride in their work.”

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