On the Line / Bar & Nightclub / What is a Bar?

What is a Bar?

A bar is a retail business where alcoholic drinks and sometimes food is served.

Opening a Bar Checklist

Opening a Bar Checklist

So many things go into opening a bar. Use this free PDF checklist to set your new bar up for success.

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1. What is a bar?

A bar is a retail business where alcoholic drinks and sometimes food is served. A defining characteristic is the possession of a liquor license, which is a permit from the government to sell alcoholic beverages to the public.

 The word “bar” is a blanket term for many types of establishments, and most states offer various liquor licenses for different purposes. A bar can be a beer-only pub, a wine bar, a club, a hotel bar, or more — and they all require a license. 

Restaurants or establishments that serve food fall under the “bar” umbrella when alcohol sales are more than 50% of total sales. The age limit to enter a bar is between 18 and 21 years old, depending on the country.

2. What is the history of bars?

Bars date back to Colonial America and were known as taverns, providing food and lodging in addition to alcoholic drinks. Early laws fixed the amount that could be charged for a drink to keep prices down, and all members of the community were welcomed, including women and children. 

Alcohol-only saloons eventually emerged as men-only establishments and sold spirits over a long “bar,” which is where the name comes from. With Prohibition in the 1920s, “illicit” speakeasies popped up, attracting both men and women, and bartenders introduced drinks made with mixers to enhance bootleg alcohol. 

The popularity of these “cocktails” took off after Prohibition, and we now have all kinds of bars today.

3. What is typically on a bar menu?

A bar menu typically comprises drinks and food and can encompass many alcoholic beverages. You’ll find specialty cocktails, spirits, beer, wine, and even kombucha or spiked seltzer on tap. 

Bars also offer various food menus, from appetizers to a short list of entrees designed to complement the drink program. The key is knowing your customer. 

Casual sports bars often serve typical “Game Day” comfort food such as pizza and wings. Gastropubs are more upscale, specializing in boldly flavored entrees to stand up to the beer. At wine bars, cheese and charcuterie plates are a common sight. A tiki bar might have inventive finger food to rival the cocktails. What a bar serves depends on what kind of place it is, and successful menus tie into the overall bar concept.

4. How do you start a bar?

Opening a bar is a multi-step process that requires organization and planning. Once the concept for the bar is established, the first step is to create a business plan

The business plan is a roadmap for bar owners and investors to guide them through the opening process. Here are some of the critical decisions and actions potential bar owners will need to make: 

  • Trademark the name and logo of the bar with the United States Patent and Trademark Association. 
  • Choose a location that makes sense with the bar’s concept and desired demographic. 
  • Obtain the appropriate liquor licenses. 
  • Create a hiring plan.

5. How much does it cost to start a bar?

The bar startup costs depend on many factors and falls within certain ranges. According to Investopedia, the amount needed to open a bar in 2022 ranged between $100,000 and $850,000. 

The exact answer depends on the bar type, size, location, inventory, and waitstaff needs. When creating a breakdown of potential costs, it’s essential to budget for certain key expenses. 

Consider whether the space will require construction or renovation, what the utility bill will be, the type of technology needed to run the bar smoothly, the number of staff, and the costs for marketing and PR.

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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.