You love chatting with new people, you’re a pro at blending cocktails, and you just don’t feel cut out for the nine-to-five life. So you want to open a bar. Whether it’s going to be a laid-back sports bar where people will hang out to support their sports teams or a swanky lounge bar, the liveliness and social aspect of the industry have always taken your interest, and now you feel like you’re ready to take the plunge. 


Of course, deciding to open a brand new bar is thrilling, but you probably have some questions. In the end, the complexity of starting any business can be pretty tricky, regardless of your expertise and natural business demeanor. 

Well, to give your bar the best chance of success, here’s a 5-step checklist to help you put your daydream into action and start the business journey of your dreams.

Write Your Bar’s Business Plan 

In the words of Benjamin Franklin—if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail. Unfortunately, opening a bar, restaurant, or nightclub is a type of business where the lack of initial planning can prove expensive to fix. For that reason, you must write down your bar business plan way before you put things into motion. 

The minor details aren’t extremely important at this stage, as they will probably change over time. However, writing out your bar business plan can help you identify flaws in your business model that can be fixed before opening, lowering your risk of failure.

Decide On Your Business Structure 

Once you’re done with your business plan, one of the first big decisions you’ll have to make is deciding how you will register the structure of your business. Starting your bar as a sole proprietorship or a partnership is more accessible, but one problem with these structures is that you’re going to be personally liable for all lawsuits and debt incurred by your bar. To avoid this, perhaps the best option for you is to set up your bar as an LLC or a corporation, as these business structures act as an entity on their own and take on the business’ liabilities.

Get The Proper Licenses

To avoid legal trouble along the way, it’s also crucial that your bar is licensed correctly before you open for business. For example, in the food and drinks services industry, licenses are required to serve food, alcohol and even play some music in your space. 

While some are easy to get, others have pretty complex applying procedures and will cost you both time and money until you obtain them for your bar. However, not getting the proper licenses is a stupid mistake that can cause your bar to close down, so make sure not to skip this step.


Select The Bar’s Location 

In the bar industry, location is everything. Here are the most important things to consider before selecting the right location for your new bar: 

  • Demographics. Keep in mind that different areas of your town appeal to different demographics. For instance, opening up a bar near a university makes sense if you’re willing to appeal to a younger clientele. On the other hand, if you want to attract higher-class clients, setting up a bar in the more affluent part of the city will be a better option. 
  • Parking and accessibility. If you want to attract tourists, parking is not that big of an issue since they’re probably going to call for a cab or use Uber. Nevertheless, tourists are less likely to be repeat customers, so consider this when selecting your final location. 
  • Rent and utility costs. What is the rent cost for the place you’re interested in? Will you be able to make this up in sales with the type of clients you’re going to lure into your bar?

Hire Excellent Staff 

Last but not least, your bar can’t succeed without the right staff. Hire first-class bartenders that respect their craft, are motivated, creative, and excited to come to work each day. And if you plan to have table service as well, alcohol training for servers is essential. You need to hire your bartenders based on skill and personality fit, as bartenders are the face of each bar.     

bartender mixing drink

While you’re looking for staff members, don’t forget about hiring barbacks. Once you have your initial staff, rely on them to find more candidates, as the best employees usually stem from existing networks. 

Final Words

This is by no means a comprehensive checklist on how to start a bar, as there are many other things that you’ll need to settle before you open for business. However, the five essentials above can serve as a good starting point for you and help guide you through the process of starting a successful business.