Stories produced by students in the Meek School of Journalism & New Media
It’s no secret that there is an active bar scene in Oxford, but at least one local drinking establishment is something of a secret itself.
“The Downstairs Bar” doesn’t advertise in a traditional way. Friends tell friends, but the owner says he doesn’t really want a crowd.
“It’s about only allowing a minimum number of people in here to keep the customers happy and satisfied. We just didn’t want elbow-to-elbow crowds looking for 2-for-1 specials.
We’re not about binge drinkers or forcing sales through specials,” said the owner, who wants to keep his name a secret, too.
Chris Sparks, an assistant professor in the integrated marketing communications program at Ole Miss, says that word of mouth is a very effective way to communicate and make people aware of a business.
“People are more likely to frequent a business that is recommended to them by a friend. It also creates a little bit of mystique, I think, around the business, if it’s a certain type of business,” stated Sparks.
Ole Miss student James Donaldson has been to The Downstairs Bar multiple times and says he enjoys going because of the delicious grilled cheese sandwiches. “I also really like the atmosphere, the hospitality, and the fact that it’s not always overly crowded like all of the other bars around here.”
The bar’s owner says his inspiration for the bar’s atmosphere comes his travels.
“I’ve gone to France, England, Argentina, Taipei, Singapore, Australia, so I’ll go to all of these places. I think it’s just a combination of all of these small aspects of these bars that I’ve visited all over the world,” the owner stated.
The owner also stated that he has no plans to ever publicly advertise the bar.
Sparks says that will only work if the bar wants to stay small and private.
“As it gets to be large, and more commercial, it’ll lose its mystique and then it could be in danger. If the brand doesn’t evolve a little more it could be in danger of losing that ‘I’m on the inside track, and I know about something that others don’t’ which is part of, it sounds like, what their advertising plan would be.”
Sparks says that if the owner did want to take more steps into advertising the bar while also keeping its secrecy, they would have to evolve their tactics and provide more meaning to the word “secret.”
“Not just the location, but maybe there’s a secret drink you can get at the bar, or a secret appetizer, or there’s a secret happy hour that you have to be on the inside track or receive a text or something to know about,” she said.
For now, it’s all hush-hush.