How to Run a Bar: Basics of Distilled Spirits and Liqueurs
How to Run a Bar: Beer Inventory
Basic Financial Ramifications of Bar Ownership

Explore Your Options: What Kind of Bar Do You Want?

After you pick what kind of bar to open and develop your concept, you need to create a complete plan to go with it. Create your décor, menu, staff uniforms, and logo to work together.

We definitely recommend taking field trips to existing bars to help you make your decision. So, grab your wallet and get out there and visit some bars.

Sports bar

Sports bars are popular today. They’re usually decorated with extensive sports memorabilia, like hockey sticks, jerseys, action shots of athletes, uniform pieces, and so on.

Typically, their draw is a better selection of televised sports than customers can get at home. Fans who live halfway across the country from their favorite teams can go to a bar to watch the games, even if the local affiliates don’t show them.

Menu options typically include traditional American fare like burgers, sandwiches, chicken wings, and chili. Some may offer pizza and salads as well. Beer and mixed drinks are popular here. Higher-end bars may also choose to include ribs or steaks on the menu. They may also have a line of signature cocktails.

Local drinking establishment

Local drinking establishments are known primarily for good drinks and good conversation. This is the place “where everyone knows your name.” The clientele is fairly regular and low key. Beer and mixed drinks are the “usual” orders here, but a bottle of wine may make an appearance on your menu.

Food is typically much lower on the list of priorities and may only consist of peanuts or pickled eggs served from a huge jar behind the bar. The only entertainment is likely a jukebox, but you may consider expanding the entertainment choices to include a video game, darts, or a pool table. Look for a basic selection of beers and mixed drinks here.

Upscale lounge

Upscale lounge is just a fancy phrase that simply means high-class, expensive bar. Décor is typically what sets this bar apart from the rest. Typically, ultramodern, sleek designs and über-trendy fixtures set the tone.

Bar stools, tables, and chairs may have a retro feel but still be very trendy. Wall décor may include original works of art, artsy photos, and mood lighting. Patrons are often young, trendy, and beautiful. People are often there to see and be seen with the “right” people. Entertainment is often limited to music, often with a trendy DJ to spin it.

The drink menus typically contain only premium and super-premium spirits in house-created craft cocktails. Drink descriptions detail specific ingredients (like Kaffir lime leaves and unrefined sugar), include various processes (like muddled, shaken, and blended), and usually name the liquors by brand.

The staff in this type of bar is known for impeccable service, so if you think you may go this route, you’ll need to hire experienced, quality employees and be ready to pay for their expertise.

Martini bar or lounge

Martini bars tend to be trendy, yet nostalgic. They celebrate the tradition of the cocktail by elevating one of the most beloved, the martini, to renewed heights. They usually have a list of house martinis and may have a list of the house’s take on traditional cocktails like Moscow Mules, French 75, and Negronis.

Many martini bars are furnished with usable antique couches and chairs, set up in conversational groupings rather than a dining room–type floor plan. The décor tends to have a vintage feel, often inspired by time periods such as the 1940s, 1950s, or even the 1960s. The clientele is often a mix of trendy people, hipsters, Mad Men fans, and anyone else who’s interested in the atmosphere.

Wine bar

Oddly enough, as the name suggests, a wine bar specializes in wine. In most cases, a wine bar’s inventory includes a wide variety of wine, varying vintages, many vineyards, and likely many different price points. Some wine bars have 80–150 wines available by the glass, then another 100 (or more) by the bottle. Many wine bars serve only wine; no beer or liquor is available.

Because of the incredible variety and range of wines available worldwide today, more people from all walks of life are interested in wine. The best way to learn about wine is to taste it, so if you’re going to open a wine bar, expect a varied clientele.

But, because wine isn’t cheap, you can assume your clientele will have a decent amount of disposable income. The wine is the entertainment, so other than some soothing music, you can skip the other entertainment options.

Bar and grill

A bar and grill typically has a more expansive menu than just a bar. If you open this type of bar, you’ll have, presumably, a grill to make burgers and sandwiches. You may have a fryer as well for things like, um, fries and wings.

You can choose a theme for a bar and grill and carry it through the menu and décor. You’ll sell quite a bit of beer but will likely have success with select mixed drinks as well.

Entertainment can run the gamut from video games to pool and darts, to live music or even karaoke. Many bar and grills have TVs for the sports enthusiast or the stay-at-home moms who need their soap opera fix with their lunchtime glass of wine. Your entertainment options are open with this kind of bar.

Live entertainment venue

Some bars are absolutely known for their entertainment. (We immediately think of the now-defunct legendary CBGB in the Bowery in New York, the bar that launched hundreds of careers like the Ramones and Blondie in the ’70s and ’80s.) People drink at these places, to be sure, but they’re not typically looking for specialty cocktails; the music is the draw.

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