Larimer Square in Denver, the Plaza in Santa Fe, the Garden District in Toronto. What do they have in common? Lights! Specifically, string lights strung throughout the streets and the restaurants, where diners enjoy dinner and drinks al fresco under the combination of twinkling stars and string lights.
Whether you’re a restaurant looking to add ambiance to a patio dining area or a bar seeking a little more pizazz in a roof-top deck, string lights are a great looking decorating option. Attractive and functional, they brighten up your space with soft, evenly distributed light that is perfect for dinners out on the town or friends chilling on a rooftop late into the night.
One of the most important considerations when looking at using outdoor string lighting in a restaurant or bar setting is to be consistent. Generally, you’ll want to match the ambiance of the indoor and outdoor areas, so that your outside environment is an extension of the overall experience. So, if your space if bright and airy with lots of light, the adjoining outdoor space should be well lit as well. Similarly, if your space is darker and more intimate you’ll want to have a similar feel to your outdoor space.
Planning for Outdoor String Lighting. Consider the variety of ways that light can enhance the space. There is the practical benefit of providing light to guests who are enjoying drinks or dinner, but there may also be other things that you want to highlight to show off the unique character of your space. If you have a unique building design, running lights along architectural features will not only illuminate your space, but will also serve to draw attention to the architecture itself. Similarly, if you have a design feature like a fountain or fire pit, a concentration of lights in that area or centered around it, can help draw attention to that space. Along the same lines, if your outdoor space includes trees, wrapping them in lights is a great festive look and helps to highlight a feature that might be less noticeable at night.
Choosing the String Lights. String style and bulb selection are an important decision. There are a variety of string options and bulb shapes and styles to choose from that can help convey mood or theme. The choice of strings and lights will always be quite personal and subjective, but we definitely notice certain trends. Currently, for medium base string lights, Vintage Edison-style Bulbs are considered a more "trendy” or “edgy" choice, whereas the popular S14 Sign Bulbs are a bit more "traditional" or “rustic.” Alternatively, the C9 Base String Lights typically have bulbs that are smaller and sockets are closer together, which would tend to make them the more "romantic" and intimate option, and they would be particularly good for smaller spaces.
Regardless of style, there are numerous options in both incandescent and LED bulbs. We recommend LED Bulbs as the best long-term purchase given that they last about 10 times longer than comparable incandescent bulbs and use less energy. For more complete information on choosing LED vs. incandescent bulbs, read this post.
As to the strings themselves, for restaurant and bar use we highly recommend Commercial Grade String Lights over standard string lights. The difference is not in the bulbs, but rather the quality of the cord and the socket design. So long as they’re the same socket size, bulbs are interchangeable between standard and commercial grade cords. Commercial grade strings use heavy duty wire, and use special sockets that seal out water. Commercial grade string lights are best suited for long-term or permanent installations and will stand up to the elements throughout the years.
Strings that will be hung under the eaves of a building or along construction beams, can be supported by connecting to the structure every few feet, but for installations that will span open spaces, a Cable Guide Wire should be hung to provide support and prevent sagging. Our guide wires are rated to handle up to a 100 lb. load and are ideally suited to this task.
While there a number of considerations to keep in mind when looking to add outdoor lighting (make sure to check local codes!), the most important thing to keep in mind is getting the right feel to your space. Just as your overall decor is carefully chosen to enhance your customers’ experience, so too should your outdoor lighting..
Have a great picture of your restaurant or bar light installation? We’d love to see what you’ve done! Email us or post a picture and tag us on Facebook (@partylightscom) or Instagram (@partylights_com).