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Ice Bars Can Heat Up Winter Profits

Ice Bars Can Heat Up Winter Profits

The Ice Hotel in Swedish Lapland and its subsidiary Ice Bars found everywhere from Istanbul to Orlando have proven there’s a market for below-freezing venues. But Tundra, a just-opened restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, is taking ice-theming to a new level.

So many fans of cold weather fun flock to the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, that its owners have been able to spin off five Ice Bars across Europe. They’re located in Copenhagen, Istanbul, London, Oslo and Stockholm. (Click here to see if an Ice Hotel vacation would appeal to you:

Here in the U.S. a few dedicated takes on the concept, such as the Minus 5 Ice Bars at the Mandalay Las Vegas and the nearby Monte Carlo resort, have also found success. Typically, these places equip patrons with fur parkas and trapper hats so they stay warm while they imbibe, with vodka being the drink of choice. The $15.96 ticket fee at ICEBAR Orlando gets customers a 45-minute “ICEBAR Experience” and the use of capes and gloves. Drinks are extra.

The ambient temperature inside Tundra’s 120-seat dining room won’t require patrons to don cold weather gear. But they’ll be surrounded by plenty of ice—not just ice sculptures, but light fixtures, serving dishes and plenty more. “You’ve never seen anyone pair ice and food like this before,” chef/owner David Berman tells the Orlando Sentinel. The dining room “won’t be too cold for customers,” he promises.

Berman has a unique set of skills. His 12-year run as executive chef at the Broward County Convention Center polished his culinary skills to the point where he can offer the 16-item Tundra Taste Tour ($59) small plate tasting menu for his customers. Other items on the Tundra menu range from $5 to $40. He’s also the owner of Sculptured Ice Occasions, a thriving ice-design company in nearby Deerfield Beach, FL.

Berman and his business partner hope to expand their ice-themed restaurant holdings very soon with an upscale operation called Chill and a casual restaurant dubbed Alaska Ice Lodge. Both will be located in South Florida.

A different approach to ice-theming took place last winter at the Donovan House Hotel in Washington, DC, home to chef Susur Lee’s Zentan restaurant. The hotel converted its rooftop pool bar ADC (Above DC) to the Winter Ice Bar, where parka-clad patrons would gather around fire pits and sip vodka and other drinks served from a hand-carved ice bar while taking in views of the city.

The message here: if you think the end of summer means the end of revenue from your patio or other outdoor venue, there may be a way around it. There’s proven demand for cold-weather partying venues, at least for a few months of the year. Why not think about how you can tap it?