Before we go any further, let me open with some honesty – we’re not going to give you actual numbers in this post. There are plenty of websites and articles giving you precise costs and numbers explaining what’s involved in how much it costs when opening a restaurant or bar. In reality, those numbers have shifted three times since I started writing this paragraph.

The costs of opening a bar can vary wildly, depending on location, size of the establishment, restaurant licenses, expected stock, food offerings, storage space and about 1,000 other variables. To try and offer precise numbers to a wide audience from myriad locations would be irresponsible. Instead, the only place to get accurate cost figures is from your local business bureau.

That said, we can still discuss all the things you’ll need to get started, so you can then plug in these numbers into your budgeting tool, and make decisions accordingly.



Here are some of the key things you’ll need to open a bar.

Restaurant licenses and permits

Assuming the property is already paid for, at the bare minimum, new bar owners will need the following:

Of course, most bars require more than just beer and wine to be successful, so also prepare to have:

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In other words, have a significant licensing budget in place before you start pouring celebratory shots. Each of the above is key – especially the liability insurance, considering the nature of the bar business.


If you’re building a bar from scratch, you probably know what you need to buy. But, if you’re buying an existing bar, you might be able to bypass some of the equipment costs, but truth be told, a new business should have its own gear. Chances are the previous owners didn’t find much success with their format – otherwise, why were they selling?

Realistically, any new bar business should refresh the following:

  • Glassware
  • Bar POS system
  • Ice machines
  • Coolers/refrigeration
  • Appliances
  • Televisions
  • Security systems

About that last one. Maybe you think your new bouncer Maurice is enough security for any small business. But bars have tremendous cash flow, making them a constant target for nefarious deeds. Plus, security video implemented with a POS system can help you quickly nail down and identify any bad behavior … from either side of the bar.

Making a name for yourself

In the age of social media and targeted marketing through a POS system, the promotion doesn’t have to be expensive, but if you spend money on promotions and merchandise, you could soon have a loyal group of regulars wearing your company logo all over town.

Additionally, paid email and social marketing tactics – targeted to relevant audiences – will only draw more attention to your establishment with a click of the button.

Making the bar your own

Any slab of wood with drinks can technically be called a “bar,” but we all know successful bars and taverns are all about atmosphere. Whether it’s a sports bar with 40 TVs, or a gastropub with amazing snacks and craft beers, whatever space you create needs to reflect your preferences, as well as those that reflect the neighborhood.

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As a professional copywriter, Dan typically spends his days buried in a booth at a local coffee shop. Ideas flow best with a cup of coffee in one hand and a bagel in the other. Dan has written for Entrepreneur Magazine,, and other media publications.