Beer caves used to be little more than a walk-in cooler with the doors removed, Lawshe says. It wasn’t perfect, but the setup was enough to start a trend. “In spite of the hellish look, they kind of worked,” he says.

The concept has changed dramatically over the years. First, Lawshe says, operators opened the space by raising the ceiling to match the height of the rest of the store, which makes the space more inviting and allows customers to feel less cramped. From there, retailers increased light levels in beer caves by about 30% to get rid of shadows and highlight the products.

Now that retailers have lighting and ambience down, they are optimizing product assortment both in and out of the walk-in coolers based on customer behavior, Lawshe says. Many beer shoppers will enter a beer cave to grab a case of domestic beer for a group over the weekend, he says; once they finish in the beer cave, they are receptive to making an impulse purchase for themselves.

“If you place the imports, the craft beers and local beers by the exit of the beer cave, they’re going to say, ‘Huh, look at that. I’ve always wanted to try that,’ ” Lawshe says. With that, impulse shopping has moved to the beer cave. 


Parker’s draws customers to its beer cave with modern signage.