Increase Your Bar Biz with Groundhog Day

Published 01/04/2022

Using a non-federal holiday as an excuse to add something unique to your patrons’ experience is a great way to bring in more business. In addition to offering food and beverage specials, hire a DJ, karaoke host, or pub game host who can whip up a playlist and/or trivia questions to suit the occasion. The objective is to draw a growing crowd who, year after year, make it a point to spend the holiday-in-question at your establishment!

Consider Groundhog Day, for example...

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While it has absolutely no basis in fact, Groundhog Day tradition centers around a Pennsylvania Dutch superstition that if a groundhog climbs above ground on February 2 and sees its shadow (due to a clear sky) it will return to its burrow, ushering in 6 more weeks of winter. However, if it doesn’t see its shadow (due to a cloudy or overcast sky), spring will come early.

The annual Groundhog Day ceremony, held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania (where as many as 40,000 people have gathered in years past), is filled with music and food. The highlight of the festivities is a campy, staged spectacle of a live groundhog name Punxsutawney Phil and his Inner Circle (a troupe of men clad in tuxedos and top hats who purport to communicate with the rodent). Together they perform the ritual and announce the groundhog’s findings.

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Given that Punxsutawney Phil’s big reveal happens in the morning (during Eastern Standard Time) we suggest holding your Groundhog Day celebration the night before. Yep…Groundhog Day Eve. Why? The reason will become evident as you read on…

Groundhog Day Eve celebration – February 1st

For about $.25 each, have customized hand fans made (you’ll find plenty of sites online that sell them) with the word “Shadow” on one side and the words “No Shadow” on the other. Every hour, have your DJ play the first 30 seconds or so of Sonny & Cher’s I Got You Babe (which features prominently in the movie Groundhog Day). This will signal to your customers that it’s time to vote.

Ask them to hold up the side of their choosing and count the results. If “Shadow” (longer winter) wins, offer a wintery warm cocktail special - Hot Toddy, Hot Buttered Rum, Irish Coffee, etc. for the remainder of that hour. If “No Shadow” (early spring) wins, offer a chilled spring special - Tom Collins, Mint Julep, Cherry Blossom, etc. (Or just offer any drink specials of your choice - one for Shadow, one for No Shadow.) Ask your vendors if they’d like to collaborate by doing a promotion with you on Groundhog Day Eve.

Announce regularly throughout the night that before leaving, everyone should make their prediction for Punxsutawney Phil’s outcome by circling either Shadow or No Shadow on their hand fan and printing their full name alongside it. Your bartender will collect the fans and keep them in a safe place for the next 7 days. Then from Groundhog Day on, whoever guessed correctly can return to claim their prize. Prizes can include bar swag, vendor merchandise, or a $5 gift certificate. After 7 days, the fans are thrown out.

Other Groundhog Day Ideas

Give a raffle ticket to everyone who arrives wearing a top hat. Winner gets $5 off their bar tab.

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If you’re able to play movies at your establishment, screen the Bill Murry film Groundhog Day on a loop, without sound but with subtitles. You're likely to hear patrons reciting the movie's most memorable quotes during the night!