If you’ve dreamt about having a place where “everybody knows your name,” be prepared. The journey to bar ownership can be a long one. It requires more careful planning and preparation than most businesses. After all, you’re hoping to sell a tightly regulated substance profitably. Still, most successful bar owners can’t imagine doing anything else. So, what do you need to know about opening a bar?
Don’t Fail To Plan
Because bar ownership is complex, you must plan carefully. Carefully map out the type of establishment you hope to run. Will it be a large nightclub? An intimate pub? Something in between? What type of seating will it have? What type of food? Will you have a signature cocktail? How many employees? A nightclub needs DJs, door people, servers, and a host of others, while a pub might only need a few bartenders and servers.
Write out everything you need. You may find inspiration in bars you visited overseas, ones you liked when you were younger, or Pinterest.
The New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS) offers free business courses, including developing a business plan. You will also have a chance to meet with experienced bar owners who can offer their advice. SBS also improves your chances of getting financing. While this can be challenging for any new business, bars have specific risks.
Although it’s easier to operate as a sole proprietor, it’s also risky. You’ll be liable for anything that happens in your bar, from a slip and fall to an intoxicated guest causing an accident. A limited liability company (LLC) can protect your assets and is a fairly simple instrument. It also offers some unique tax advantages.
Once you’ve settled on a name, hire a graphic designer for the logo. You’ll want to retain copyright from the designer and apply for a trademark. You’ll probably want to hire an intellectual property attorney. You may want to put this logo on everything from cocktail napkins to T-shirts (in some bars, merchandise is a significant part of their revenue.)
It’s never too soon to think about marketing. Relying on word of mouth and walk-ins is a recipe for failure. Start building your social media presence early. Although advertising can be costly, some bar owners feel it is vital to their growth.
“Location isn’t everything; it’s the only thing” might be a slight exaggeration. Still, the location may determine your clientele if many of your customers live nearby. You should know how upscale your bar will be and its unique elements, which will also help determine location. Do you need a space with parking, room for tables, proximity to a freeway exit? Keep in mind your projected costs for rent and utilities, along with zoning issues. Take your time to find the best location.
You will need several certificates, permits, and a business license. There are so many that New York City’s Step-by-Step Wizard, which offers small businesses a customized list of applicable licenses and permits (along with State and Federal licenses), takes ten minutes to navigate. Still, if you are opening a bar, you need to get a liquor license. Nothing is as vital. After all, if you can’t sell booze, you don’t have a business.
Although many owners handle the paperwork themselves, hiring an attorney can help you avoid mistakes that could delay your opening, thus costing you more than their fees. You’ll also need to schedule pre-opening inspections, while your employees will need to have certain certifications as well. When it’s all finished, raise a glass and offer a toast –– to yourself!