You’re thinking about opening a bar — but don’t know quite where to start. It seems like there is so much to do, and your head starts spinning every time you try to begin making a solid plan. Don’t worry: you are not alone. All founders of any kind of business start in this same spot.
Take the energy of panic and aim it towards the five steps to opening a bar laid out below. Follow them one by one, and before you know it you will be opening the doors of your very own bar for the first time.
This list can be your guidance from the first moment the idea of opening a bar comes to your mind, to the moment you publicize your opening event. It is a rough outline of the whole process, with some tips along the way.
So shake off the stress from your shoulders, concentrate, and read on.
Step 1: Create the concept, name, and location of your bar.
While this step sounds like the most entertaining one, it may also be the hardest. After all, the choices are unlimited and it’s where you really need to fine-tune what kind of place your bar will be.
The concept: Do you want a cocktail bar? An English-themed pub? Or perhaps a Spanish bar where Sangria flows freely and Latin music fills the room? This is where you need to decide on the concept of your bar.
The name: With the concept in place you can now decide on the name of your bar. Make sure it’s something unique, but catchy. After all, you want people to mention it every Friday night when asked where they’ll go after work.
The location: A location can either make or break any business. Same goes for bars. Look at the concept of your bar and see where the clientele that would be interested is located. And if you need more guidance, bondstreet.com has a great guide to choosing the right location for your bar.
Step 2: Create a detailed business plan.
This is where the process gets a little more official. It is time to create a detailed and official business plan that explains what you want to do and how you are going to do it. A strategy that will get you where you want to be.
And if you’d like a little more guidance, entrepreneur.com has great resources that can help you with your first business plan, as does Rewards Network.
Step 3: Get the licenses for your business, food service and liquor.
So now that you have your bar’s location and concept sorted, and your business plan is finished, you have a clear direction of where you are going. It’s time to get the licenses that will allow your bar to operate.
Business License: This is the main license that will allow your business to open its doors to the public. Without it, your bar would not be allowed to operate at all. It’s by far the most important license that you’ll need to acquire.
Food Service License: This license is given by the health department and it will allow your bar to serve food to public. The application process is usually fairly easy, and as long as your bar meets all of the food safety regulations, getting food service license shouldn’t be a problem.
Liquor License: For this license, you will have to contact liquor licensing authorities and fill out the needed forms. Again, the process is usually fairly simple, and as long as your bar meets the needed requirements, acquiring liquor license should not be that hard.
There are tons of resources from companies like Upserve that help you go through the process of applying for restaurant and bar licenses when opening a bar.
Step 4: Create the menu, acquire necessary equipment, and hire staff.
Now that you have your licenses sorted, you can finally begin finishing up opening a bar. You can finally create a menu for food and drinks you’ll be serving that would represent the concept of your bar. You can build up your bar inventory. You can get the rest of the equipment you’ll need to make sure your business is running smoothly (such as good quality kitchen appliances and a reliable bar POS system). You can also finally hire your staff.
Step 5: Marketing!
It is finally time to let the world know that your bar is ready to open its door to the public. There are so many different ways of marketing a bar that you may want to hire specialists or try some things out yourself. Gourmet Marketing has some ideas of how to successfully market a bar, so take a look and get started!
And hopefully, before you know it, your bar will become the place that everyone knows and where everyone goes. Good luck!
Need a leg up on counting down your opening? Download our free tool “The Essential Checklist to Opening a Restaurant” today!
Vania Silva is a lifelong lover of food (especially Portuguese)! She enjoys helping restaurants succeed & has been published in various restaurant industry publications such as Upserve’s Restaurant Insider.