October 25, 2021

How pubs can make the most of Halloween

If you’ve been in the pub business for any length of time, you’ll know how important Christmas and bank holidays are when it comes to boosting trade. But what about those dates in the calendar with no holiday attached? With Halloween just around the corner, we offer some ideas for how it can boost business for your pub or bar.

Pubs with a spooky reputation

If your pub is known for being haunted, the groundwork has been done for you. Then it’s a matter of using your reputation and adding a little imagination, some planning and a small investment in decorations and perhaps a host for your event.

Hiring a storyteller to spin ghostly tales is an alternative to fancy dress competitions and an option for pubs and bars where customers are unlikely to want to paint their faces like ghouls or don a witch’s hat. Ideally you’ll have a separate bar or function room to hold the event and be able to decorate it (more on this below) to create an appropriately spooky atmosphere for ghost stories to be told. Try the Society for Storytelling to find a storyteller near you, or see if you have a local storytelling club┬áthat might be able to help.

Dressing or decorating your pub

Decorating your pub for Halloween can be so much more than hanging up a plastic skeleton and a few bats. If you think you can get a return on investment – whether simply from extra custom or by holding an event – ‘dressing’ your pub can alter the atmosphere and create the sort of spooky feel punters crave at this time of year. Again, a separate function room where you can do this is a bonus, but you could focus on one area of your premises.

See if your local college or university has an art department and ask if they are doing any Halloween or gothic themed projects – and might need a space to exhibit them. Local artists or art groups might also be keen. Of course, you need to know in advance what they plan to do – and be sure it’s going to be of a good standard – but you might be pleasantly surprised at what they come up with. Life size models of witches and ghouls, frighteningly realistic cobwebs and ghostly lighting effects all fall within the sort of thing art students might need to practice as part of their coursework. Or reach for the simplicity of carved pumpkin lanterns – part of the typical seasonal decor. Holding a competition for the best lantern could bring in punters and pumpkins – giving you both a decorated pub and extra customers. (It goes without saying that you need to risk assess such events, and decorations, and be sure to take any necessary fire/health and safety precautions.)

Is your pub haunted?

Whether it’s as a hook for Halloween or general curiosity, finding out about your pub’s history can be helpful for pulling in the punters. Start at your local library – which may have a local history centre as part of the service. With luck, you may find a librarian or archivist who can help you with your research.

Old trade directories such as Kelly’s and its predecessor, the Post Office directory, are often good starting points. These quite often list former licensees of pubs, which can then help with further searches, such as in local newspaper archives. It’s also worth inviting local historians or history buffs in for a pint and picking their brains.

Researching local history takes time – and sometimes luck – but uncovering a spooky tale or simply a great story from your pub’s past could turn out to be promotional tool that pays off long after Halloween has passed.

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