The Complete Checklist to Opening a New Bar Other things to consider include whether you’re setting up the bar permanently or temporarily, how many people you can cater for, what you’ll be serving, who your customers are, if you’ll be having a theme or particular design, your budget, and your time frames.
Here’s a checklist of things you’ll need to do to get your bar up and running, including how long they may take:
- Write a business plan (1 week)
It should cover every aspect of your bar’s opening right through to how much money you think it will make.
- Select an architect, interior designer and bar consultant (1-2 weeks)
You’ll require a team of experts to open your bar. Choose those that are best qualified for the job and have a good reputation.
- Find a solicitor and accountant (4 days)
Find a solicitor who has experience in liquor licensing for the state/region your bar will be in. You also need to find an accountant because opening a bar is like opening a business.
- Finish your business plan (2 weeks - 1 month)
You’ll need your solicitor, accountant, architect, interior designer, and bar consultant to help you with finishing up the plan. The plan will now show what still needs to be done, how much it will cost, and who will do the tasks.
- Submit your plan to a financial institution (1 day - 2 weeks)
The business plan is necessary for securing funds from an investor or bank in order to build your bar. So submit the plan to your chosen financial institution to secure the finances.
- Establish your finances (1 week)
As mentioned above, you can get money from an investor or the bank for your bar’s planning process. You can also use your own money if you have a lot and know that it won’t cause a financial burden for you in the long run. Keep in mind that you’ll need sound finances to open up a bar.
- Research local competition (1 week)
Know what your competition are doing, particularly those that are already successful, and find out why they’re successful in the area you plan to open your bar.
- Do market research (2 weeks)
Your bar should be what your target market wants. Get a market research company to conduct research on your target market, including their expectations and needs from a bar like yours.
- Find potential sites for your bar and then choose one (1 week)
Location and accessibility are key things to keep in mind. Think about whether you want to set up your bar in a hotel, restaurant or resort, or at a party or event. Get input from your architect and bar consultant. Once you’ve chosen a venue, negotiate a deal for leasing the site. Get your solicitor to research license restrictions that might apply to the site. For example, you don’t want to open a bar in a spot with early closing restrictions.
- Lease agreement (2-3 days)
Lease property where your bar will be, or you may prefer to buy the venue. You’ll require assistance from your accountant and solicitor with this process.
- Design your bar (1 month)
It’s important that the design for your bar works with the concept of your venue. The interior designer should make an attractive design. The bar consultant should make your bar practical so that staff can work efficiently and effectively. The architect should design the bar’s structure and plans in a way that can be understood by the bar’s builders. Lastly, everyone must agree to the final design.
- Submit a planning application (1 day)
Before you can build your bar, your plans should be approved by your local council. Work with your solicitor in submitting your planning application.
- Building control (1 day - 4 weeks)
Meet with your local council or the individual responsible for looking after building regulations in your bar’s region to get your plans approved. Bring your architect with you.
- Apply for building and liquor licensing (2-3 days)
Work with your solicitor when applying for the licences that your bar needs for building and liquor licensing.
- Meet police (1 day)
It’s important that you establish relations with the police, along with your solicitor, since you’re a) building, and b) opening a business that serves liquor.
- Source builders (1 week)
It’s time to find people who can build your bar. Hire people that are recommended by your architect or interior designer.
- Set building completion handover date (1-2 days)
Work with your architect and the builders to determine how long it will take to finish building your bar. The handover date is when the bar is expected to be completed.
- Build your bar (as required)
Now it’s time to build your bar. Your architect will be required to work with the builders during the building process.
- Set up sound and lighting (2-4 weeks)
Hire professional and qualified electricians to set up all your lighting and music systems.
- IT (2-4 weeks)
Also bring in the IT people to hook up your IT and computer systems. They will also apply stock control systems and install all other bar systems.
- Buy and organise equipment (1 week)
You’ll need to pick the right equipment for the type of bar you’re setting up. For this stage, it’s advised that you seek help from your bar consultant. Common bar equipment you may need includes: jugs, carafes, pots, glasses, bottle/can openers, electric blenders, cocktail shakers, cutting boards, fruit knives, spirit measures, ice scoops, bar spoons, glass cleaning brushes, lemon squeezers, fruit juicers, corkscrews and fridges. Also have protective equipment, such as aprons and anti-slip mats.
For materials, consider getting straws, swizzle sticks, toothpicks, cherry picks, coasters, cocktail napkins, and parasols. Additives and flavourings to consider include: sauces, bitters, cinnamon, nutmeg, cordials, cube sugar, syrups, cream, and fruit. You will also need to source beverage dispensing equipment (these can be portable or fixed, may use in-line refrigeration/insulation, and may dispense predetermined quantities or a variety of drinks).
- Order stock (2-3 days)
Make sure to order all your bar’s stock requirements. Your bar consultant may assist with the orders.
- Buy furniture (1-2 weeks)
Your bar will also need furniture such as bar stools and lounges. Seek advice from your interior designer and bar consultant.
- Building control (1 day)
Once the building is completed and you have all the equipment you need, you should get approval from your local council that the bar is safe. Involve your architect in this.
- Source management (1-2 weeks)
Get your managerial infrastructure in place, which may include a General Manager, Assistant Manager, Human Resource Manager, Bar Manager, Floor Manager, Entertainment Manager, and IT Manager. What you’ll require will depend on the size of your bar. Also plan ahead and book your bar consultant for an additional 3 months to assist in the management of the bar in its early stages.
- Recruit staff (2 weeks)
Working with your bar consultant and venue management, you’ll then need to employ bartenders, bar-backs, floor staff, cleaners, security, supervisors, administration, and other staff that your bar requires.
- Train staff (2 days - 6 weeks)
With the help of management and your bar consultant, train your staff so that they’re ready from the start and are able to make good first impressions. Also, set high standards from the start when training your staff, as if the staff create a bad first impression then your new bar will never make it off the ground.
- Create standard operation procedures (2-4 weeks)
Standards should be in place for all aspects of your bar’s operation, including ordering systems, par stock levels, and bartender service standards. Work with your bar consultant on this one.
- Agree to an opening schedule (1 day - 1 week)
Work together with everyone to plan when your bar will open, as well as when you’ll have your VIP opening party, soft opening, and actual opening to the public.
- Open date and final application approval (1 day - 1 week)
You’ll need to visit your local council again with your solicitor to get the final approval to open your bar.
- Finalise legal requirements (2-4 weeks)
With the help of your solicitor, you should also get final approval for your liquor licence and opening hours.
- Create and print menus (1 week)
Create all the menus required for your bar and print them out. You can get your bar consultant and an appropriate manager to assist you in the process.
- Marketing (1 week)
Hire a professional and reputable marketing company to promote your bar with the help of your General Manager and bar consultant. This can be for a short period like the first month, or can be an ongoing feature.
- Press releases (2-4 days)
Contact relevant media outlets and ask them to write articles about your new bar. Also get your bar consultant and an appropriate manager to help you out.
- Local press (2-3 days)
Also approach the local press with articles about your bar’s opening nights. You can have relevant management assist you with this.
- Entertainment (1 week)
Organise bands, DJs and other entertainment that your bar needs. Seek help from your bar consultant and relevant management.
- Final license approval (as required)
Work with your solicitor to finalise licences that your bar requires.
- Host a VIP opening party (1 night)
Your opening party should be for the press, industry people, celebrities and influential people.
- Open your bar to the public
The wait is finally over and the real life of your bar begins.
Remember, you only get one shot at success. It’s important that your bar can get new customers and repeat customers (and a lot of them too!). With an adequate business plan in place and by following the tips above, you can be sure that your bar will be a success from day one.
NB: It’s important to note that these time-frames are a general guide only, and that many of these tasks can be undertaken simultaneously to save time.