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Starting a Cocktail Bar: Essentials and Tips

There are lots of bars out there, but luckily, there are also a lot of drinkers. That means you can find success if you play your cards right when opening a cocktail bar. First, however, you have to take some steps to make sure that you’ve got everything in place before you do. If you are too hasty, you could find yourself in trouble. So here are some essentials and tips for opening your cocktail bar. 

Have a Plan 

Before you do anything, make sure that you have a solid business plan in place. That means mapping out the first several years of your business. This will give you a well-considered guide to move forward. Next, plan out your expenses and your expected revenue. If you don’t know, then research how much you can charge, the price for alcohol, and what you might need for staffing. You should also have your marketing strategy included in there. Not only is a plan important to keep you on track, but you will need one to secure funding or loans to help your business get off the ground. 

Location, Location, Location

A location can make or break your business. First, you must take the time to choose the perfect place to set up shop. Does it have enough parking or access to public transportation? Will it get foot traffic walking by, or will people have to travel to get to it? Does it have all the utilities you need? You need to answer all these questions before you make your decision. If you make a good choice on your location, even if you made the best cocktails history has ever known, you will succeed. 

Have All Your Permits In Place

To open a cocktail bar, you will have to have a liquor license. You will also have a health inspector do a walk-through to ensure you follow all the health codes. You may need a permit from your municipality for your business as well. Only plan on launching your business once you have all of these in place and they have been approved. Just be prepared to open up quickly when they are. You can plan well in advance, but if something gets delayed, then you will be left with an egg on your face. Get all your ducks in a row, then you can have a great launch that is also stress-free. 

Decide On Your Branding

This is the fun part of owning a bar. You get to decide what kind of image you want your cocktail bar to show to the public. You can choose a name, get a logo, and select your colors. Your brand should be consistent with everything you do. Your interior decor should reflect it, your signage should reflect it, and your marketing materials should reflect it. It’s fun to have little touches of your branding, like having custom drink stirrers and coasters with your logo, for example. 

Your social media is also a big part of spreading your brand. Every post you make should be written in a specific voice. For instance, don’t use slang and emojis in your posts if you are a high-end bar. Images should be tasteful, as opposed to pics and videos of rowdy drinkers. 


You need to have a good staff if you want to have a successful bar. That’s the bottom line. Your customers should feel welcome when they come into your establishment, so customer service skills are paramount. Then, of course, you have to choose people who you can work with and that will fit well with the team. Your bartenders, they have to know how to make a lot of cocktails. For the ones they don’t know, they will need to be able to pull out a recipe book and make them perfectly on the fly. Making cocktails is an art, and you need some artists on your team if you hope to succeed. 

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Figure Out Your Layout

The layout of your bar will play a surprising part in your success or failure. If people don’t feel comfortable because it’s too cramped, or if there aren’t enough seats to see the TVs, they won’t return. Take measurements of your space, and plot on a scale on a piece of paper. From there, you can sketch out and experiment with how your bar can be laid out. Some software products can do this, so you can get a 3D view of what your bar might look like. 

All your space should be functional, meaning it should be useful for staff or your clientele. There should be easy access for your servers to get around and for your patrons to get to the bathroom. Having too many obstacles could end in disaster. At this time, you should also plan out your lighting fixtures. There should be enough lighting to be safe, but you also want to set a mood.  

You can also use this software to plan out your decor, or you can hire a professional. If you want to have large sculptures or something else that might take up a lot of space, make sure that it will be set securely in place. Everything should support your bar’s brand and the concept you’ve created for the establishment. 

Your Cocktail Bar

There are other details to sort out. For instance, you should have insurance covering you for the unique challenges a cocktail bar presents. You will also have to figure out your accounting and payroll system. Once you have that all in place, your bar is ready to go. Open your doors, mix some drinks, and provide a good time to your customers.

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