I'll just put this out there up front and then I'll talk about our reasoning behind both what we started with and what we've very recently done (last night, in fact).
In response to customer comments, we've made the bar darker; it's now at least half as bright as it used to be.
One of the first complaints we had about the bar was variations on "It's so bright in here!" At the time, we didn't quite know what to do about it.
I know it seems like a simple problem to fix--turn off some lights. We tried turning off some lights around the beginning of August. Unfortunately, all that did (in our opinion) was made parts of the bar really bright while others stayed really dark and it just looked weird. In fact, one time we tried turning off some of the lights, a customer said something like, "They must be turning off the lights to save money"; a completely different reaction than we thought we'd get (especially since most of the lights are LEDs). The lights went back on as we considered other options. (In hind sight, we probably might have tried leaving those lights off to see if opinion changed.)
Over the next several weeks we made adjustments to the lighting in the bar. We removed the rope light from under the bar over the diamond plate, added a valance over the rope light on the wall behind the bear flag, lowered the light level from the track lights over the bar, and turned off two of our brightest signs.
Here's what we were thinking in our lighting; both originally and with the newest changes in roughly chronological order of when we made the changes.
We were (and are) very happy with the way the diamond plate looks on the bar and kinda wanted to both highlight it ("Ooh, shiny!") and add some indirect lighting to the bar. So, we put up the rope light under the bar on the customer side. It's bright white LED lighting so it doesn't cost a lot to run. I was very pleased with the way it looked and I *really* wanted this rope light to work out but it added too much ambient light and now it's gone. I cried a little.
(Actually, this rope light has just moved to the other side of the bar--the bartender side--I think it works out a lot better back there than on the customer side. Besides, it lights up the bartender's crotch nicely.)
We also turned off the beer sign near the front window. It's a nice enough sign with a color-changing effect but the damn thing was like staring into the sun and couldn't be made any less bright. It's now turned off.
Last week--and this is something that we'd been thinking about for a while but just finally got around to it--Karl added a valance on the wall opposite the bar which, basically, blocks the rope light there from glaring you in the eyes. (Now, about the only way you can see the rope light is if you stand underneath it and look up.) It's now what we think is the right amount of light on that wall.
We've also reduced the light coming from the track lights over the bar itself. (They're on a dimmer; if they're still too bright when you come in, let the bartender know; turning them down may have just slipped his mind.)
And the most recent change last night was the turning off of the Bud Light sign on the west wall. This was the first sign our distributor brought to us and we've loved the sign from the beginning. It's the right colors, the right size, it's LED, it's dimmable. In other words, everything we wanted. But, after turning off the sign for Halloween last month and the Bears' black out party two weeks ago we realized that leaving this sign off makes the bar look--well--more like a bar and less like the world's tiniest indoor football stadium.
We're a little embarrassed that it took us this long to make these changes but they've been made now. If you've stayed away from us because you our lighting had blinded you, give us another shot. If it's *still* not quite to your liking, there are still more changes we can make so let us know that it's still not quite right.
If you come in during daylight hours, there's a good chance you may catch us with our front curtain open and you may not see all these changes. But, that should only happen in the less-than-scorching and less-than-freezing weather of Fall and Spring. (We close it by the time dusk comes around.)
(On a related note, we really, really do want to hear what our customers think of the bar. If something's not quite right, we can't fix it for you unless we know what it is. So, please, let us know. We have our online suggestion box on our website where you can give us your anonymous suggestion or complaint if you think we'll not like you any more if you say something.)