How to Open a Bar in as Little as 60 Days

A lot can be said about a bar being about enjoying relationships over a casual and relaxing environment.  The English have perfected the bar – called a pub; short for “public house” – where it is often still the center of a small community.  Successful bars in your local community don’t have to be the center of town, but it should offer something more than just drinks to be successful.

How to start a bar or how to start a nightclub business requires a focus on certain success factors that propel it forward.  What makes a successful bar?  Opening your own bar ultimately is about meeting your customer’s expectations so that they return again and again.  What customers expect may vary depending on the type of clientele you are targeting, so the full answer to this question is really up to you.  For some it is a place to talk; for others, a place to meet people; for others it may be a place to have fun and watching sports; and for the remaining it’s just a place to get a drink and relax.

This leads us to the decision of your bar theme.  Of course a bar or a nightclub is not a bar or a nightclub unless it serves drinks, but the theme of the bar or nightclub will drive the decision of which drinks, as well as almost everything else about starting your bar or nightclub business.  So before you embark on starting a bar or nightclub business, decide on a theme; think it through as to what your theme may mean in every aspect of your business.

Let’s spend a moment on themes.

Often we get stuck on only one theme type.  Today in America, when we think of a bar, we picture a casual place with high-top tables, and either a range of common American brews or a twist of micro-brews.  Virtually every one of these types of bars has a television with sports event on display.  This American themed bar is what you see a lot of, and it comes in many variations.  You could have the memorabilia themed American bar, or you could go with the sports themed version.  There are probably a dozen other themes you could think of, but the one thing that is common among all these American themed bars is that the television tends to dominate the atmosphere.

Maybe you could branch out and think of other themes for starting a bar business.  Perhaps it is the classic lounge bar theme, or the upscale metropolitan approach.  If you are in a small town, maybe your theme could be simply a country bar that is classy, comfortable, and clean, offering great food and drinks.  The point is to expand your thinking to choose a theme that your customers want in the community you serve.

Theme decided…Now the 60-day action plan:

  1. [Day 1] Choose a Name
    Your bar name is very important.  Choose a name that is easy to remember, easy to pronounce, and relevant to your theme.  Don’t go too off track with the name, as some names tend to lose their appeal after a short time.
  2. [Day 2] Paperwork
    The first of these logistics is to get the paperwork started for your licenses and permits.  You may need building permits if you are doing significant construction; you will need a business license, and you may need other permits depending on what type of alcoholic drinks in your district that you plan to sell.   The key is to start the paperwork early once all systems are “go!”
  3. [Day 6] Select a Good Location
    If you are a bar that may not depend entirely on foot traffic than an easy and convenient location is fine.  On the other hand, if you are a bar that will be dependent on foot traffic then choose your location wisely.  Better to pay a little more in your lease that will be covered in added business than by killing the business due to a poor location.
  4. [Day 12] Arrange Financing
    If you are using your own money to get started then financing won’t be needed.  However, if you need financing the time to speak with your local bank or investor is early.  Before you sign your lease having found the right location, make sure your finances are arranged.  If you are considering a loan, start with your local banks, and get multiple offers before making a decision on a lender.
  5. [Day 20] Build and Setup Shop
    The bulk of your 60 day plan will be spent building out and preparing for opening day.  Once you have access to your facility, and if necessary, have your building permits in hand, get moving!  One thing to keep in mind as you build out your bar or nightclub is to include in your construction support for your technology such as wiring, equipment location, and so on – keep this in mind!
  6. [Day 25] Technology
    A productive bar includes technology to help your bar run smoothly.  Usually centered around the point-of-sales system, ensure that you make the right choice with a system that is designed for your type of business.  Think about what you want, but also talk to an expert who can provide you with ideas you may not have thought about.  There are many POS dealers and vendors to choose from.  Along with your POS system, include other technology as well such as accounting, payroll, time cards, wi-fi, phone system, website, and more.
  7. [Day 40] Start Hiring
    Your people who you hire are a big part of your success.  It is not just hiring someone who is good at what they do, but also to get someone you can trust and who is positive in nature.  A bar or nightclub is supposed to be a happy place, so hire happy people!  Also hire your back office staff if needed.  Someone needs to know how to crunch the numbers and to make sure all your revenue earned is received.
  8. [Day 45] Preparing for Opening Day
    At the 45 day mark, you have about 2 weeks before opening day.  If you’ve already started on your website as part of your technology play, then great!  However, now is the time to start making sure the content on your website is what will draw customers to your business.  Many web designers are not bar owners, so if you expect them to write your content; think again!  Other than your website, also consider opening day promotions, local advertising, and setting up social sites like Facebook and Instagram promotion to get the word out that you’re about to be in business.
  9. [Day 58] Training
    The last step before you open your doors is training.  Bring all your staff together and make sure you get them trained.  There are different types of training you should do.  Start with technology training, such as entering orders into your point-of-sales system, how to run payments, and most importantly, what to do in exception cases, such as with a declined card payment, or problematic customer.  Also, train your staff in the expectations of customer service, such as what to say, do, and respond in different situations.
  10. [Day 60] Opening Day!
    Have fun and welcome everyone to your new bar or nightclub!

Opening your own bar or starting a nightclub is an exciting adventure and should be highly profitable in many ways.  Do it right; think it through, and listen to your customers; then in 60 days you will start a new venture that can be a rewarding experience for many years to come.