A Bar With Changing Prices

Reader Thomas Barker writes in about a bar called D Street in Encinitas, Calif., that prices its drinks based on demand:

I was recently at a bar for 25-cent wing night that I had not gone to in a while, and saw something I thought you guys would be interested in. It was a drink price index ticker and they had them on TV’s all over the bar. It seemed that if a drink wasn’t ordered in a 15-minute time span the drink would go down a few cents. When we showed up my friend had his eye on an irish car bomb which was over $5 at the time, in the hour or so we were there it went down to his target range of about $3.75. As soon as his was ordered it jumped back up over $4.

I had a few thoughts on this idea:

  • First if you buy a round for your friends and want the same round twice, the second round will be significantly higher which has got to lead to some weird situations when the check comes.
  • Second, this is a good incentive for going in when it is slow because drinks will be considerably lower and vice versa for when it is busy.

Here’s a picture of the “drink ticker”:


Doug Huber

I am going to shot Seagrams 7 Whiskey and by some calls on Green Flash Draft.

Doug Huber

*short Seagrams 7 Whiskey


Tat's pretty much how the yield management system works at some low cost airlines such as easyJet

Salvador Smith

There is a similar bar like this is Barcelona, Spain. I think it was called, rightfully so, Dow Jones.


This seems a perfect opportunity for the bar to sell drink "futures" wherein a patron can buy drinks in advance tracked using a gift card. If the spot price is lower than the pre-paid price the patron will pay cash; otherwise they will use their card. The bar gets free use of the patron's money until the drink is purchased. I look forward to hearing about how this bar's usage of technology progresses.


Exchange in Manhattan does this as well. Every now and then the "market crashes" and everything is very cheap for 5 minutes.


I wonder how much of a bump in sales they are getting due to the "game" elements? "I wasn't going to have another, but that Cab is down to $4".


Each drink should have a time-to-make associated with it, and what you bid on is the bartenders' time. Jack and coke is 30 seconds, long island is 60 seconds, frozen daquiri is 90 seconds, etc. The bar sets a floor and ceiling for the cost of the bartenders' time. You'd have to work out an algorithm for rounds that consist of the same drink (since they take less time).

Doug Huber

I would think that they would want to integrate the age of the ingredients. If the olives are about to go bad (or they got a great deal on a truckload of them), then the price would drop accordingly.


We have parties like this at the economics department in Aarhus, Denmark :D


I've been to a similar bar when I was touring Europe almost 10 years ago. Once an hour or so, they'd sound sirens and set off police lights to signal a "crash" in the market and prices would reset or drop significantly.

David Chappell

A bar here in Austin, TX is doing the same thing...a pretty cool concept. It looks like theyre even running the same software!



I don't think I want to think that much when I'm hanging out for drinks. Also, it brings to mind an image of a bunch of plastered day traders.


That would be illegal in Ontario. Bars are legally prohibited from lowering prices in order to encourage increased drinking. That means no half-price happy hours, no "ladies nights", and no all-inclusive resorts.


In the 1980s was a bar in Madrid, Spain called La Bolsa (the Stock exchange) that operated just like that. It ended up closing down.


Sounds like a good bar gimmick to me. For those bored at the bar then it's something interesting. It's similar to the bars in Berlin where you have your beer total in a ticker running over your table. But isn't a bar about meeting people and socialising; drinking is a secondary event... Or am I getting old? Any how's, my supposition about it being a secondary goal to the purpose of a bar would be born out by the popularity of it.


What kind of bar has a small enough drink selection that all the drinks can be listed on screens that are readable around the room? Or perhaps only a subset of the drinks available participate in the market?


These nights have been going in British university Student Unions (and I'm guessing other places but I've not seen them elsewhere) for years. My uni called the night Bar FTSE.

However these are really busy nights in club like environments not smallish bars where trends not individual orders should affect prices.

Also every so often the market would crash (presumably on purpose) and you'd get a lot of the stuff dirt cheap.


I remember going to a bar like this when I studied abroad in Paris!
...some google searching helped remind me that it is called Footsie.
Here's a funny article about it: http://www.youcefbanouni.com/120/le-footsie-bar-for-finance-workoholics-only/

...certainly a fun place for a non-picky drinker looking to save some money!


I think this is price discrimination pure and simple. If you really want your drink of choice, you'll have it now at full price. Otherwise you'll have something cheaper now, or wait