Do Business At The Bar

Best Business Bars

It sure beats the conference room. Here, our 2016 guide to the best places to impress investors and clients, the business-savvy bartenders worth knowing, the drinks worth drinking and what to do when you spill it all on your pants.

By Jeffery Lindenmuth, Ross Mccammon and Kate Rock Wood
Above Image | Carlton Davis

Best Bars to Meet with a VC

From Left: Photograph by Aubrie Pick (Burritt Room); Photograph by Dina Avila (Multnomah); Photograph by Clayton Hauck (Milk Room); Photograph by Scott Suchman (Columbia Room); Photograph by Daniel Krieger (the Nomad Bar)

Burritt Room + Tavern

San Francisco

It’s on the second floor of the Mystic Hotel—just elusive enough to keep tourists away. Request one of the six private booths with velvet curtains so you can plot world domination over a Berlinetta (bourbon, Cynar, Carpano Antica).

Multnomah Whiskey Library

Portland, Ore.

The public generally has to endure a long wait to recline in the rich leather club chairs and Chesterfield couches; only members can make reservations (memberships run $600 a year, and there’s a wait list). But once inside, the exhaustive wall of whiskeys and other spirits evokes unlimited possibilities.



Nothing says “exclusive opportunity” like this eight-seat microbar on the second floor of the new Chicago Athletic Association, serving designer cocktails replete with rare vintage spirits. Plan ahead—admission requires an advance ticket.

Columbia Room, Washington


Whether you choose the open seating of the Punch Garden or opt for paired courses of cocktails and Asian-inspired bites in the reservations-only Tasting Room, this Japanese-inspired bar shows vision, sophistication and meticulous execution.

The Nomad Bar

New York City

At once upscale and high-energy, this always-crowded hotel bar impresses with some of the best cocktails in the city, created by Leo Robitschek and accompanied by chef Daniel Humm’s haute bar food, like chicken pot pie with truffles and foie gras.

The Psychology of Closing the Deal

Rule No. 1: Get to the bar early, so you control the tiny details of who sits where. And then…

Avoid the windows.
Researchers find that when we’re warmer, we’re more likely to judge people as trustworthy and to be generous. Don’t order a round of hot mulled wine, but do sit far from drafty doorways or windows.
Pick a smooth table.
For a study in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, participants touched rough or smooth surfaces before judging social interactions. Those who’d touched rough ones viewed others as more difficult and adversarial
Find a soft seat (for them).
When researchers from Harvard, MIT and Yale asked people to haggle over the price of a car, participants who were parked in a wooden chair held out for more money than those seated in cushioned chairs. Take the hard seat and put its rigidity in your favor.
Put your phone away.
It takes the average brain just 200 milliseconds to determine a person’s emotional state based on facial expressions, according to research from the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. While waiting, make small talk with a server so you’re not caught slack-jawed on Candy Crush.
No slouching.
People with strong posture are more likely than their hunchbacked counterparts to feel good about themselves, according to an Ohio State University study. So sit up straight (and avoid a low table), and have the confidence to seal that deal.

Business Tips from the ‘Tender

Bartenders are known for their listening skills, which makes them a font of knowledge. These three barkeeps turned ’treps reveal how they built their boozy businesses.


"When you’re bartending, someone is always watching you. You may have had a terrible day, but you never let it show. And when conducting business, you're also on a stage and need to put everything into your performance and maintain the positive energy.” —Simon Ford, cofounder of spirits brand The 86 Co.


"You have to be prepared. If you don’t come in early and do your prep work, then you’re going to be toast. Most people think that entrepreneurs are big risk- takers, but a more important trait is to be detail-oriented. Bartenders thrive on that.” —Henry Sidel, founder and president of Joto Sake


"It’s important to relate to everybody on some level. Just like in a bar, it’s the people who believe in you—the regulars—who become the most valuable supporters.” —Doc Hendley, founder and president of Wine To Water, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing clean water and sanitation to the world

Battle Tales from the Bar

Don Draper ain’t the only one to do work over whiskey. Three founders share the drink-fueled moments they’ll never forget.

Business born of martinis

“My good friend and I were sitting at a bar in a Chicago steakhouse, drinking dirty martinis and commiserating about the pressures of never being able to get anything done with small kids around. After a round she said, ‘What if we created a concierge service that helped parents get stuff done?’ I was like, Yes! Of course! As the martinis flowed, so did the ideas, and the next day we started the business.” —Natalie DuBrow, cofounder, Momeeze

Cocktail courage

“I attended a financial planner conference in New Orleans, hoping to get guidance on starting my own firm. I’m an introvert, but I signed up for the brewery and cocktails tour. We went to the first place, where I had a beer, and then the second, where I had a Pimm’s cup, and then the third. I was a little bit looser by that point, so I introduced myself to someone I wanted to connect with. Talking to her in that bar encouraged me, and we’ve since formed a strategy group that meets twice a month. We call ourselves the Lady Bosses.” —Cathy Derus, founder, Brightwater Financial

Spritely swing and a miss

“I don’t drink, but I met the team from .Co at a bar in San Francisco to talk about a partnership. Bartenders usually want to make it really obvious I didn’t order a drink, and this one poured my Sprite in a little-kid glass. I sat down with the CEO, feeling silly, and he asked why my company’s site had a dot-com domain instead of dot-co. So I tried to make a joke of it, but basically said that dot-com was cooler. Immediately, I thought, Dang it, I’ve been too honest. The deal was teed up, and I totally whiffed. They’ve never talked with me again.” —Derek Andersen, founder, Startup Grind

The best bars to…


Meadhall, Boston

Located near the Kendall/MIT subway station, this massive beer hall buzzes with MIT and Harvard seniors, joined by an after-work crowd of biotechs and engineers. The average IQ in this place will outshine the best job fair—even with the numbing influence of 100-plus craft brews.

Image | Courtesy of Aretsky's Patroon


Aretsky's Patroon, New York City

Pluck a cigar from the Spanish-cedar-lined private humidor and take in the skyline views from the rooftop terrace of this midtown steakhouse. The private Match Room showcases Cuban cigars and vintage cigar-themed artwork for the true enthusiast.

Image | Courtesy of Buffalo Wild Wings


Buffalo Wild Wings

With free wi-fi and locations in all 50 states (and now Dubai), B-Dubs has the ubiquity of Starbucks with the bonus of draft beer. Every U.S. location features tablets for fast ordering and payment with paperless receipts, so accounting won’t gripe about your undocumented expenses.

Image | Amerykah Trevino-Martinez (King Bee)


King Bee Lounge, Austin, Tex.

This artsy dive conjures creativity with its perpetually dark interior and long tradition of live blues. With a genuinely friendly vibe and conversation starters like a tequila sunrise served from a frozen drink machine, it’s a place to let your imagination run wild.


Minnibar, Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport

Concourse G is a major Delta hub, making it convenient to almost everywhere, and it offers some of the best drinks and dining in the city—like a Minnesota pork belly banh mi. Every seat includes power, a USB port and an iPad with web access so you can track your next flight.

…Bonus Pretentiousness!


Maison Premiere, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Dapper gents flaunt their individual take on a strict code of vintage attire: dark suit, wingtip shoes, vest, tie bar and parted hair. Ladies wear red lipstick and a flower in their hair.


Aviary, Chicago

Beyond the whiskey with hand-chipped spheres, elaborate craft cocktails rely on a nightly assortment of 25 to 35 types of ice. And you thought it was just frozen water.


Harvard & Stone, Hollywood

This hipster haunt slings inventive cocktails and cheap beer for an under-35 crowd. No shorts or flip-flops allowed, but beards, buns and burlesque are clearly welcomed.

Image | Shutterstock/Kamira

Spilled-drink First Aid

Quick tips on how to save your…


“It’s the dissolved solids that remain that do the damage, and beer and wine have lots of them,” says Joseph Kouyoumjian, president of MicroReplay, which restores liquid-damaged electronics. When that IPA spills, turn your laptop off and upside down, and remove the battery. If you can’t get to a repair shop, wait 24 hours (rice might speed up drying, but it won’t mitigate damage). If it restarts, even once, quickly back up your data first. “It could run for two years or two minutes,” he says. “So be ready.”

Mobile device:

Phones and tablets are more tolerant of spills, and your data is likely backed up in the cloud or on your SIM card. Power down the device, pop the SIM tray and dry the card and inside the slot, Kouyoumjian says.


According to the American Chemical Society, red wine gets its color from anthocyanins, which are great for heart health—but not for cashmere. If you’re the victim of a red wine spill, order a very dry vodka martini. Higher-proof alcohol will dissolve the wine stain and dry faster than water alone.

Quiz: Should You Order a Third Drink?

Take this handy quiz to determine whether you should be having a third drink at your meeting.

Are you drinking an alcoholic beverage?
❍ Yes ❍ No

Can you “hold your liquor”?
❍ Yes ❍ No

Is everyone else having a third drink?
❍ Yes ❍ No

Hey, bartender, are Frangelico and Mrs. Butterworth’s, like, sisters or what?
❍ Yes ❍ No

If you answered yes or no to any of the above questions, you should not be having a third drink.

The Dos and Don’ts of Doing Business in a Bar

How to make a meeting go smoothly

Eat the free stuff. Peanuts, pretzels, roasted almonds, popcorn. Eat that stuff. Fortify yourself. (Easy there, a handful is fine.)

Order appetizers for the group. Just tell the waiter or bartender to “bring a few things for the table.” Menu reading is wasted time, and your server will deliver only the best they have to offer.

Order the drink the bar serves the most of. Beer bar? Then beer. Wine bar? Then wine. Whiskey bar? Then whiskey. Tiki bar? Move the meeting to a beer, wine or whiskey bar.

Order water with your drink. Fortify yourself.

Keep your device off the table. No texting. No emailing. No Yahtzee with Buddies.

Get to the business early. The longer you wait, the less able you are to discern the right way forward.

Don’t present. Instead: talk.

“This is my song!” No.

“This is my jam!” Absolutely not.

No touching. No convivial back-slapping. No convivial hugging. No convivial hand, arm or knee touching. Easy on the convivial.

Don’t announce a decision. You can make one. Just don’t announce it.

On second thought, don’t make a decision. Make the decision in the morning.

Leave earlier than you want to. Are things going well? Have bonds been strengthened, plans been hatched? Then leave. Leave! In business and in bars: Get out ahead.

Advice for the Nondrinker

You don’t want to drink? Here’s a tip: Don’t drink. Order what you want. Club soda is nice—with the bubbles and the lime wedge—and has the advantage of looking like a drink. Blends in. So does tonic and bitters, which also happens to be absolutely delicious. Or order a Coke if you want. Orange soda. Chocolate milk. It doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that it’s what you want to drink. Anyway, there are more important things than what you’re drinking—like the business you’re here to discuss and the personal comfort you feel when discussing it. (Note: If you are able to successfully order chocolate milk at a bar, then you have picked the wrong bar. And you are probably at Denny’s.)