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Opening up a bar....

post #1 of 52
Thread Starter 
Has anyone here done it, know anyone who has? Thoughts, opinions?
post #2 of 52
I know someone who did. He ran a bar/restaurant near the water. It had a decent restaurant inside with a bar, and an outdoor tiki-style bar. It did well for a while, but it ultimately failed. Bars and restaurants are notorious for failure. It's not the 90%, or whatever statistic people like to throw around, but well over 50% don't make it.

I also have an uncle who opened a couple of sports bar type restaurants. One failed completely, despite the fact that it always seemed busy. The other was still open last I heard, but he has since left because of the hassle.

With regard to places that are exclusively bars, I have another friend who recently opened a bar near me, but it's so new that there's really no way to tell if he'll be successful.

Bottom line, unless you have a new idea for an area (e.g. bringing the first bar to a formerly-dry county), or are passionate about running a bar on top of being exceptionally tolerant of long hours and high risk, it's probably not worth it. It also helps to have a thorough knowledge of the market, both from a demand side and networks within the hospitality community in your area.
post #3 of 52
You will need experience in the business. Have you worked at a bar before? Most restaurants and bars fail because of poor planning. They open it because it's their dream, but don't have the experience. And not just managing a bar, but also bartending etc. that way you'll know the tricks and stuff to watch out for stealing etc.
post #4 of 52
My friend's dad bought a bar a year or 2 ago. He sold it after about 6 months because it was too much of a hassle and all his friends would come in and expect free beer since they helped invest in it.
post #5 of 52
The failure rate for bars are notoriously high.

I say, either do something very well and unique (or at least seems unique to folks) or just run a dive bar if the area will allow it and sustain one.

If you are in a big city, make it your first priority to hire a good staff, meaning experienced good looking people.
post #6 of 52
Are there turnkey programs available for running a register that would theoretically meter out the shots/bottle usage if rung up?

I one day hope to own a bar myself, but the market parameters and culture that go along with that here in the kind of bar I want to start are very different. I wouldn't want to sell any beer, just cocktails, whisky, and wine - a real bar. It'd make for a less rowdy, sit-down kind of place, and the tickets for a few $20 drinks come in a bit higher than selling 4 beers off the tap.
Would not need to worry about your people or your customers stealing from you, and they make an alright amount of money, I think - but you gotta come really hard and spend a bunch of money before you even open your doors. The place I like drinking at has a huge wall of bottles by the shot, hundreds of cocktails on the menu, and then a wine cellar full of 1er cru bordeauxs and a bunch of champs, a few five-figure bottles of whisky and cognac that are only available if you buy the whole bottle - and there are people to buy these things.
post #7 of 52
Bars and restaurants have notoriously tight margins. iirc, restaurants are worse. The people I know who own bars tell me that you need experience in all aspects of the business, good personnel, and a very firm hand on the financial tiller. I'd like to own a restaurant someday, but only when I'm rich, and can do it essentially as a hobby/ego-trip.
post #8 of 52
so a man opened up a bar


ouch!






I don't have much real experience in the bar world but based on a little from restaurants, it's one of the toughest businesses out there. Real serious experience is a bare minimum, The short story is it's complex because you have both product, service, and real estate. You basically own or rent property, have huge startup costs including marketing dollars which aren't recoverable, you're working with food/bev that's perishable and variable every time (eg every drink you make could be good or bad), you're in the HR business and have to manage a team of staff, etc... and you can't leave for a second. As Ramsey puts it, either you RUN your business or it runs you. Ie if you miss anything it'll come back to bite you, so you need to know what you're doing and be merciless with the details.

no joke, I'd suggest watching a bunch of shows like Opening Soon, Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares (the original UK version), the Opener (David Adgie) etc and reading books like Kitchen Confidential (Anthony Bourdain).
post #9 of 52
It's interesting that many of us (myself included) have daydreamed about owning a restaurant or bar. I wonder what the precise appeal is when it's apparent that it'd be really hard and not necessarily as fun as, say, being a regular customer at a bar or restaurant. Realizing our idea of a perfect place? Showing people exactly what our own idea of a great place is? Or do we always feel that, even at our favorite bars and restaurants, the staff is always be more at home than the customers?
post #10 of 52
Everyone wants to open up their own bar. I have my own bright idea right now that isn't being done in DC and even has a funky ass name, I won't try to make it happen until I have a bucket load of money to burn though.
Edited by Joffrey - 1/17/12 at 7:34pm
post #11 of 52
have friends who opened bars, clubs, etc... through the years. just don't give up your day job if you really wanna do this.
post #12 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joffrey View Post

I have my own bright idea right now that isn't being done in DC and even has a funky ass name, I won't try to make it happen until I have a bucket load of money to burn though.

Hurry up, dammit!
post #13 of 52
Interesting, the topic of how difficult it is to run bars or restaurants is always mentioned and I wonder if it is something inherent and out of control of the owner, or is it that just some savvy business person hasn't "cracked the code."

Of course there are those who seem to do just this and end up being called "moguls" and "barons of the night life."
post #14 of 52
Based upon my casual observation, the bars that do really well are sports bars. Which makes sense, because they are able to expand their prime money-making time to weekday nights and weekend days. Bonus if you can become known as the go-to bar of fans of a particular sports team.
post #15 of 52
All guys want to own a bar because bars are cool and fun and seem like a great place to "work" and also there's catching all the loose pussy that's around.

In reality, it's brutal slogging, you have to be around all the time unless you go really corporate, it's hard to sustain the energy after some time and the trends change and the place isn't fresh anymore and you're working long hours and tired of all the fucktard dropouts who work for you.

If I really knew how to do it, I would really enjoy creating concepts, building spaces, and running hot fresh places but only for a short time. I've often thought a dream job would be owning 3 restaurant concepts at a time - 1 on the drawing board, 1 being built out, and 1 actually up and running. Doing the marketing, creating the idea, having fun with the production... if you were good at it and built a personal brand ("Did you hear about the new Douglas place opening next year in Harbor East?") you could dispose of one to fund the next and so on and so forth. But I don't have much interest in running just one bar for years on end.
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