Home is Where the Bar Is

By MNR News posted 06-23-2022 15:02

Creating your own personal pub, saloon, or basement dive bar is limited only by your budget and imagination
Ernest Hemingway once quipped that he drank “to make other people more interesting.” Whatever your perspective about people—or drinking for that matter—there’s no doubt a home bar adds interest and a bit of sparkle, fizz, and fun to your domain. Whether you stock it with top shelf liquors or nothing harder than soda and seltzer, it can be a focal point for entertaining in your home.

Like hangovers, home bars come in all sizes—and budgets, from cheap beams and plywood to ornate hand-crafted Irish pubs. According to Home Advisor, price tags for these uber-local watering holes average about $8,000 but can soar to $23,000 and up for professionally designed custom work. If you’re handy and enjoy a DIY project, you can put together a functional home-style dive bar for about $500 bucks. Before the spirits move you to transform a corner of your domain into a private drinking club, here are a few things to consider.

Dry bars fit every budget

The most basic and economical home bars are dry, meaning they don’t have a sink and running water. Because they’re not tethered to plumbing, dry bars offer more flexibility for placement. All you need to do is clear a space, install your cantina, and serve up beverages until last call. If the area has outlets nearby, a mini fridge can chill your beer and wine, and freeze a few ice-cubes for margaritas, martinis, and other artisan creations.
At the center of it all is the bar itself. If you’re not handy, there are lots of prefabricated options. 

  • Bar carts and simple bar cabinets range from about $150 to $350. Some of them are portable and easily broken down for transport to the next tail-gate party.
  • Full bars with a footrest, room for a couple stools, and shelving for wine bottles and other supplies start around $300 and quickly escalate to $800, $1,500 or even $2,000 depending on materials and build quality. You can even drown your Minnesota winter blues at a bamboo tiki bar that comes with a roof and two torches. You supply the Hawaiian shirts.

Want something grander? One of the big-box hardware stores offers a mini English pub featuring a paneled pine bar with pillars and a canopy that connects to a mirrored back counter. It can store enough bottles to serve a small, thirsty wedding party. If you’re ready to drop $6,300 for this spot of British pub life in your basement, be sure to invite over your burliest friends to help assemble the 800-pound behemoth. Then again, it’s probably cheaper to fly from Minneapolis to London and toast the Queen in one of the city’s 3,500+ pubs.

Wet bars keep the cash flowing (out of your pocket)

Minimally, wet bars are equipped with a sink, running water, and lines that bring water in and out. Depending on where the bar is in your house, plumbing costs could be as little as $600, but quickly escalate. Basement setups add expense—as much as $1,000 to $5,000—because drainage can be more complex. Incorporating features like a refrigerator with an ice maker, and a dishwasher can also be expensive. And don’t forget you might have to factor electrical work for outlets and lighting into your budget. Plus, there’s the cost of the sink, appliances, and the bar itself. It’s easy to see how a homeowner can fork out $10,000 to $20,000 and more for a fully operational wet bar.

Dream, drink, repeat

Whether you set up a cheap beer cart and a couple stools by the basement TV, or tap your pot of gold to build an authentic in-house Irish pub, there’s no doubt a home bar is a welcoming spot to entertain, relax, and share good times with friends and family. With a little vision and planning, you can create a barrelhouse, bottle joint, or cozy dive that’s always close, always open, and always has room for one more.