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How to Open a Bar: Lists & Resources

Sarah Ward

How to Open a Bar: Lists & Resources

Anyone looking into how to open a bar probably has an image in their mind of a well-established, local favorite spot. But how do you get to that well-loved location? Well, through opening up your bar! And that's not as easy as pouring a few drinks and putting out pretzels, but with this guide, it's easier than you might think.

Opening a Bar Business Plan

You'll need to start with a business plan. While there are many common aspects to writing a business plan, an opening a bar business plan will have many bar-specific qualities. The overall goal of a business plan is to help you prepare and show you where you'll need to work the hardest. These bar-specific spots will be especially important as you answer the question: what do you need to open a bar? 

Your business plan will need to include:

  • Your company and concept description, as a base for the plan.
  • An analysis of the market and your competitors to see what you're up against.
  • Your service and product line, to show what you'll offer and where you'll find profit.
  • A management structure and overall system to fill the gaps and find your team.
  • Your financial analysis and projections to see how your finances will shake out.
  • Your executive summary, to sum it all up and know where your plan stands.

As you're writing up your plan, something important to figure out is what type of legal establishment you want. Whether it's an LLC, a partnership, or something else, you'll need to know. 

The specifics of your plan on how to open a bar are:

  • Figuring out liquor licensing costs.
  • Sourcing beverages and related supplies.
  • Evaluating the market to promote your bar.

Legal Requirements for Opening a Bar

The main thing you need to know for bar-specific legal purposes is how to get a liquor license. Of course, depending on where you're opening your bar, this could be nearly impossible. However, there are options out there, and learning all about them before buying your first row of whiskey will help.

The License Specifics

The main thing you need to prepare for about the license is the cost. It can vary from state to state, and you might not be able to buy one immediately, depending on your location. In many places, you'll have to either wait for a bar to close or buy a business with an active license. 

Beyond the cost of the license, it's important to know which type you'll need. What you need may vary, but the general types are:

  • Beer and wine license (no spirits).
  • Tavern liquor license (food sales, but more liquor revenue).
  • Restaurant or liquor license (most common, covers everything).
  • Brewpub liquor license (for places that manufacture their own to sell).
  • Server license (required for each server in some states).

Beyond Bar Specifics

You'll also face the costs of covering potential issues and working out your worker and customer safety responsibilities around liquor. You'll need a plan for all scenarios, including sexual harassment, violence, and injuries. You'll also need safety plans for any potential situations. 

Licenses to play music in the background, health and safety compliance plans, and a property permit will also come in handy.

Depending on location and what your bar will be, this won't all apply to you, but they're all important to understand. It will be very beneficial to get a lawyer with bar experience to make sure you're checking all the boxes. 

Opening a Bar Checklist

So, your checklist on how to open a bar stands as follows:

  • Write up your business plan.
  • Choose your name and logo, and look into trademarks.
  • Get your licensing squared away.
  • Choose your spot (licensing issues may influence this choice).
  • For the fun stuff, design your bar.
  • Hire your staff, and away you go!

Best Books for Starting a Bar

With all that in mind, having a written resource you can keep on hand is a good place to start. Some of the best books for starting a bar are:

  • Raise The Bar by Jon Taffer
  • Straight Up by Ramona Pettygrave Shah
  • Restaurant Success by the Numbers, Second Edition by Roger Fields
  • Running A Bar For Dummies by Heather Dismore
  • How To Open A Bar by Simon Pasco
  • The Essential Bar Book: An A-To-Z Guide to Spirits, Cocktails, and Wine, with 115 Recipes for the World's Great Drinks by Jennifer Fiedler
  • The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique by Jeffrey Morgenthaler

These books range all across your bar opening needs. Having these resources on hand will give you a solid foundation for your opening a bar checklist.

Overall, the best bar books are the ones that give you the most support throughout your whole bar-owning experience. 

How to Open a Bar: Opening the Doors

So, you've got your licensing in order, you've stocked the bar, your staff is eager to start pouring, what's next? Once it's time to open your bar, you'll have all this knowledge, resources to review, and legal checklists to fulfill. Therefore, you'll be able to fall back on that information whenever you're unsure.

Even as you're checking your lists and reviewing your resources, don't forget to enjoy this because you've opened your very own bar! This article has taught you how to open a bar, but only you can enjoy making your bar all your own.