Nothing brings friends, coworkers and strangers together better than a good old fashioned bar crawl. But behind every good bar crawl is an ambitious bar crawl planner slaving away at the logistics. If you’re the one stepping up to organize a night out on the town, you need to make sure your bar crawl is legendary for all the right reasons. You don’t want your guests to remember the event as a disorganized evening spent trying to get into crowded bars and getting lost; you want them to barely remember it because they were having too epic of a time. So before you send out those invites for the party of the century, check out these pro tips for making sure your bar crawl is a success.
Be Smart About Planning Your Route
While this may seem like an obvious one, too many bar crawls fall apart due to a lack of proper planning ahead of time. First, decide on the four to six bars you want to hit—any more and people will tucker out; any less and it’s hardly a “crawl.” Look for bars that the group would actually enjoy, whether they’re dive bars or trendy hotspots, and try to maintain a consistent vibe, all while picking places that are ideally within walking distance or a short ride on public transportation (don’t rely too heavily on cabs). Also, consider the ease of getting served at these bars, avoiding ones that typically have a line stretching out the door or notoriously fickle bouncers. Pad in some time between stops for mishaps, closing out tabs and getting everyone out the door. And if possible, coordinate your last stop somewhere near a public transportation hub that runs late at night. Once you’ve mapped the route, share it with your guests, along with a (flexible) timed schedule and your contact info, in case people want to join later in the crawl.
Give the Bar a Heads Up in Advance
It’s incredibly important to let the bars know that you will be coming beforehand, ideally several days in advance. It’s not just polite; it’s practical. Make sure each bar will be able to accommodate a larger group. While you typically don’t need to book a reservation for your standard bar, the bars you contact may be able to dedicate a specific area for you if you ask ahead of time. Plus, the bar may already be rented out for a private event, in which case you and the rest of the crawl are out of luck. Calling ahead will ensure the bar is prepared to host you. Who knows? You may even get a group discount, or some food and drink specials.
If You Want to Have a Theme, Choose Carefully
Everyone loves a good theme, but doing one for your bar crawl isn’t completely necessary. Your friends will be just as glad to drink in the name of drinking without the hassle of having to put together a tacky costume. (You could have T-shirts made to commemorate the special occasion instead.) But if you do want to make things a little more wacky and fun, choose a theme that is fun yet easy to participate in, lest only one awkwardly enthusiastic attendee show up in costume. Also, if you’re going with a theme, try to pick one that doesn’t lend itself to trashy, frat party-esque interpretations (read: themes like SantaCon).
Give People Incentive to Hit All of the Stops
Nothing is worse than half of the attendees deciding to just stay put at one of the first stops―or worse, hailing a cab home early. Inspire everyone to hit all of the stops on the itinerary by creating a form of incentive. You could make a passport for everyone to get stamped at each of the locations, or have a scavenger hunt to complete before the night is up. Consider awarding a prize or hosting a raffle at the end of the night for those who make it to every stop.
Embrace Social Media With a #BarCrawlHashtag
Say what you will about millennials, but they’ve documented more experiences and memories than any generation before them. Embrace social media by creating a special hashtag for the group. That way attendees can easily share all of the photos and browse them the next morning. If all of the bars are in a concentrated area, you could even design a custom Snapchat Geofilter for the night.
Plan for Food Early on and Late at Night
The biggest mistake you could make while organizing a bar crawl is not factoring in time for everybody to eat. It’s important that your attendees have food early on to pad their stomachs, so make sure the first or second bar you attend has good food and arrange for rounds of appetizers and snacks to be brought to your table. It’s also a great idea to end the night with a stop at a late-night fast food joint or food truck. Not only will it help the group sober up and aid in hangover prevention, but it’ll also help lure stragglers out of the final bar come last call, like a breadcrumb trail made of tacos.
Have Fun, but Make Sure the Group Behaves
Remember, you’re embarking on a marathon of drinking with a large group of people; things are bound to get a little crazy, and they should. The spirit of a bar crawl is an epic, legendary night, so it’s expected for everyone to cut loose, especially when they’re five bars deep. But as the organizer, you need to make an effort to keep a clear(ish) head throughout the night to monitor the group’s behavior. Stay on top of everyone’s pace of consumption, and try to move the group along to the next location if you see people pounding back too many rounds per bar. Be prepared to call someone an Uber if they look like they’ve reached their limit, before there’s a fight that breaks out or a mess to clean up.
Have a Set Schedule, but Be Flexible if Plans Fall Through
No matter how much everyone loves bar number two of six, encourage everyone to stay on schedule by keeping the group excited to move on, even if it means having to play bad cop. That said, if you reach bar number four, and it’s beyond packed, or you get there and everyone agrees it sucks, be flexible and move on. If the next bar is expecting you at a certain time, pull up Yelp to find a nearby alternative to your current dud, or call the next stop to see if it’s OK if your group shows up a little early. Things happen. Plans change. Have a drink, relax and roll with the crawl.