Thousands of nightclubs open across America each year to create a more vibrant nightlife in cities of all sizes. A majority of these nightclubs fail after the first year due to high operating costs, strong competition and a lack of vision by owners. The best nightclubs have themes, bartenders and decorations that stand out from the competition. An understanding of what is needed for success in the nightclub business can help any owner get off on the right foot.


Nightclubs define themselves based on the drinks they serve as well as the environment they offer to patrons. Martini bars and micro breweries may offer broader menus than their names suggest but patrons attend these nightclubs due to their signature products. Some nightclubs have moved away from the cliche of a piano player in the corner with live entertainment ranging from folk to light jazz on a weekly basis. The final characteristic that separates competing nightclubs is the presence of a door charge. Nightclubs that charge patrons before they sit down for drinks can ensure a high-end clientele and discourage bad behavior.


The typical nightclub features separate areas for dancing, drinking and dining. The dance floor may be a small space with hardwood floors but it allows patrons to dance for a little while without leaving for another club. Nightclubs will likely have multiple bars with a longer bar for general patrons and a back room bar for VIPs or special parties. The dining area in most nightclubs is a series of booths lining the walls with two or four-person tables scattered around for late-arriving parties. Nightclub owners select unique features like wall decor, lighting and special seating based on interior designs used by competing clubs.


Nightclubs depend largely on word of mouth and good reviews to create name recognition in their neighborhoods. Club owners should think about exterior signage and advertisements to create instant identification by area patrons. The signature of the typical nightclub is a neon sign with the club name in addition to signs with special drinks, bands and events along the main entrance. The logo and font used on the club's sign are used in advertisements to develop a brand name in cities filled with bars and nightclubs.


The average size of a nightclub ranges from 2,500 square feet to 10,000 square feet depending on the number of expected patrons. The majority of a nightclub's space is assigned to the bar, dining area and entertainment space to accommodate thousands of patrons each night. The remaining space is used for a kitchen if a club serves food, alcohol storage, manager's office and a loading area for daily deliveries. Nightclub owners often buy adjacent spaces in existing buildings to expand their patron spaces without taking on the expense of building new clubs.


Nightclub owners need to consider carefully the employees and alcohol served before flipping on their neon signs. While club owners need to find hard workers for the bar and dining areas, they should also think about the image they send to patrons. Young and attractive workers who can speak casually with patrons can increase repeat business while creating great word of mouth. The success or failure of a nightclub may hinge on serving drinks made from quality vodka, bourbon and other liquor. The initial costs of choosing a high-end vodka over a budget vodka can be recouped as patrons linger all night.