Running a Bar For Dummies
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Location, location, location is the cardinal rule in real estate. But what does that have to do with how to run your bar? Ultimately, you have to choose which location fits your business, your patrons, and your goals. And remember, the better the location, the more expensive it is. You get what you pay for, so be creative and you can save money.

Is location truly everything?

Most people look at the real estate market and potential locations in one of two ways:

  • A sure thing: Many people start a bar in an already hip, trendy area of town and hope to make some profit. Locations where people are often mingling provide a built-in customer base. But these locations come at a price, usually in the form of high rent.

  • Speculation on neighborhood turnaround: Some folks choose to be prospectors and hit an area before it becomes an entertainment neighborhood. If you go this route, you typically pay less rent, but you won’t initially have a built-in customer base. You may need to spend more on marketing to get people to your door. Keep in mind that with the greatest potential for profit comes the greatest possibility of failure.

What locations to avoid

Avoid locations that feature:

  • Businesses that your customers may find unsavory. Consider the impact of close proximity to places such as adult video or bookstores, free clinics, and pawn shops. Your patrons may feel uncomfortable and may stop coming altogether.

  • Permanent construction zones. You don’t want heavy machinery and trucks going through the area during prime business hours. Patrons may have a tough time navigating their way through the construction mess. If the construction is short-term or pervasive throughout your area, you may not be able to avoid it. But if your heart is set on the area, give it your best shot.

    On the flip side, you may be able to negotiate a better deal if the site is going through a transitional time. Eventually, the construction is going to clear up, and until it does, you may be able to draw the construction workers in for a brewski after a long day on the job.

  • Remote or hard-to-find addresses. If they can’t find it, they won’t! (Did Yogi say that?) Don’t locate your bar in a remote or hard-to-get-to location. Customers are unlikely to walk through alleys or drive more than 10 or 15 minutes. People are less likely these days to venture far from home when drinking.

    On the other hand, some patrons look for out-of-the-way places or getaways. Do an Internet search for “hideaway bar,” and you’ll find many successful, longstanding establishments. Whether they’re hiding from their spouse, boss, or AA sponsor, many people like to drink at remote and hard-to-find places.

Basics of traffic and parking in the area

Traffic is the movement of vehicles and people along a route. Consider foot traffic, private vehicles, and public transportation when you evaluate the ease of getting to your place.

Here are some things to look for to ensure you have good traffic flow and ample parking:

  • Consider the sheer number of people. Granted you can’t stand there all day with a counter watching people walk by, but if your business plan requires you to have 200 people a night to break even and you don’t have a single person of drinking age near your place, you need to know right away.

  • Figure out where people are going. Are they commuting, shopping, or eating and drinking in nearby establishments? Formulate ideas about how you can lure them into your new bar. Think about what may keep them in the bar stools and keep them coming back.

  • Look at the pace at which they’re moving. Are people harried, or are they strolling leisurely? Do they look like they may be interested in stopping in for a beer, or are they in too much of a hurry? If people are driving, are the vehicles moving fairly steadily? Do people need to wait for a left-turn arrow to turn into your parking lot?

  • Make sure you have parking near your bar. Your patrons shouldn’t have more than a three-block walk to your bar. If parking is free, even better.

  • Consider whether patrons have easy access to your location. If they have to drive past your bar, turn left at the next light, and then backtrack to get to you, they may not bother.

Basics of bar security

Security is a key concern for any business owner. Bars tend to be cash rich, although credit and debit cards definitely claim their share of sales. When the cash flows (or at least the perception is that it flows), bars can be a tempting target for thieves.

No matter where your bar is located you can keep yourself, your managers, your employees, and your patrons safe by heeding this advice:

  • Avoid buildings with blind interior and exterior corners. Blind corners, like blind driveways, are corners that can’t be seen from the normal flow of traffic. These spots are a perfect place for a thief to ambush someone.

  • Stay away from buildings with poorly lit stairwells and hallways. If you do choose a location that’s poorly lit, make sure you immediately make improvements to remedy the situation.

  • Consider potential terrorist targets when selecting your location. This particular point may not be the most important one in making your decision, but if you’re considering a location near a courthouse, a power plant, or a federal building, you run the risk that you may have to temporarily close your doors during bomb threats, evacuations, and the like.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Ray Foley, a former Marine with more than 30 years of bartending and restaurant experience, is the founder and publisher of BARTENDER magazine. Heather Dismore is a veteran of both the restaurant and publishing industries. Her published works include Running a Restaurant For Dummies.

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