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Buying A Bar - 4 Tips Worth Reading Before You Buy Your Bar

Buying A Bar 4 Tips Worth Reading

A lot of people think buying a bar would be a fun, easy business to get into. Your job would basically be to provide a place for people to have fun, right? 

Maybe, but bars are one of the riskiest businesses to buy into. The bar business is highly competitive and it tends to rely on contemporary trends within the area. Many owners find the most difficult part in buying a bar is to sustain consistent growth beyond the "buzz" factor.

Also, the laws that ban smoking in public places have changed the game for many bars, hurting profits, but at the end of the day there is no greater markup than that of liquor so there is potential to make money in this business.

Here are a few more things to take in consideration when exploring the possibility of buying a bar from a business broker or direct from a bar business owner:

Food Or No Food?

As I said, competition in this industry is high. You are not only competing with other small businesses but also the large chains that offer both food and liquor.  True bars, establishments that don't offer food, just liquor, are becoming less profitable. Bars in good, dense, urban locations are still strong but suburban bars are struggling. The absence of a kitchen increases the risk of losing hungry customers to other venues. So, while liquor is always more profitable than food and not having the expenses of a kitchen can be good for the bottom line, not having food can also hurt, so consider this option closely.

Liquor Licenses

Regardless of whether or not you offer food, without a liquor license you lose your greatest source of revenue, if not all of it. Not having a liquor license can completely stop your access to this industry so you need to make sure that the existing owner's license can be transferred to you. Liquor licenses in certain areas where there are high concentrations of establishments within major cities have become extremely difficult to obtain, thus driving the value of those licenses very high. In some states, such as New Jersey, they only offer a specific amount of licenses. Once those are gone, they do not issue more.

Owner Involvement, Staff, Inventory Control And Your Customers

If you plan to be involved in the day to day business, be prepared for some potential headaches. Most bars are open until the early morning hours and at least 6 days a week.  With so many operating hours, you have to be adequately staffed. Not only do you have to be staffed for all those hours but you also have to make sure your staff is friendly, hardworking and most importantly honest.

This can be a difficult business to control inventory as pouring an extra drink here and there can easily go unnoticed. Given that most bars do a lot of cash business, it is also easy for dishonest employees to pocket your cash. The bar and restaurant industry is also known for having high turnover, so be prepared for staffing challenges.

Let's not forget to talk about customers. While your customers are the life of your business, they can also be your biggest headache.  When buying a bar, you will encounter customers that come in, have a few too many drinks and become unruly. You also have to worry about how these unruly customers will leave your establishment. With new drunk driving laws being introduced every day, customers like these could up being a big problem.  Not everyone will be a problem, but it's important to ask the current owner what procedures are in place should one of these customers come in.

In my opinion a high degree of owner involvement on a day-to-day basis will make a bar business most successful as it will give you the ability to contain costs and prevent "˜shrinkage. As the Owner, you must have excellent people skills. This is not a business for introverts.


Successful bars and nightclubs can usually generate up to $5,000 per well on a good night. As you are reviewing financials, keep in mind that the cost of goods should be below 28% of sales in a tavern/bar with little or no food. Payroll should be less than 20%.  Look closely at the rent, it should be about 6% to 8% of gross sales. Serving alcohol should be an extremely profitable endeavor, with average pour costs running as low as 16 percent for liquor, 21 percent for draft beer, 25 percent for bottled beer, and 28 percent for wine but despite these great numbers you have to make sure you have the right management and staff in place to run the operation efficiently.

Peter Siegel, MBAAbout The Author: Peter Siegel, MBA is the Founder (of & the Director Of the BizBen California Network (founded in 1994!) consisting of business buyers, owner/sellers, business brokers, agents, intermediaries, and advisors (there are over 90,000 users, and 8,000+ listings posted on To join (FREE) the BizBen California Network, phone Peter Siegel direct at 866-270-6278 - get signed up for business for sale listings (Email Alerts) before they hit the market, view requests from serious business buyers - wanted notices, notices about upcoming FREE online webinars on the topic of buying and selling California small and mid-sized businesses and much more! Call 866-270-6278 to get info about bars, taverns, and nightclubs for sale in your area.

Categories: BizBen Blog Contributor, Buying A Business, How To Buy A Business

  Helpful Resources To Assist In Selling And Buying California Businesses
Mark Chatow, Esq.: Legal Services For Buying, Selling Businesses

Mark has a broad range of small business purchase & sale experience from analyzing potential acquisition targets to successfully guiding buyers and sellers through the purchase & sale of small businesses. Mark can assist with contracts, negotiations, legal matters, etc. Reach Mark at 949-478-8393.

Helen Yoo: Escrow & Bulk Sale Services - Southern California

New Century Escrow, Inc. is a fully licensed & bonded independent escrow company. Over 20 years combined experience in handling bulk escrow transactions. Multi-lingual staff that speaks your language, including Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese. Call Helen Yoo direct at 626-890-1151.

Jeff Sacher, Business Broker - North Bay Restaurant, Retail Specialist

Jeff is a leader in business brokering in the North Bay. Since joining Santa Rosa Business And Commercial in 1999 he has assisted Buyers and Sellers in over 200 business sales and acquisitions. Jeff provides other services for his clients as well. Reach Jeff and his team at 707-888-4972.

Ryan Clark, Business Broker, Southern California

The Veld Group provides a refreshing approach to Business Brokerage, Mergers & Acquisitions and Business Consulting and Valuations. From Your Street to Wall Street, we cater to Main Street Businesses as well as more complex Strategic Firms and Start-Ups. Phone Ryan at 310-652-8353.

Joe Ranieri, Business Broker, Orange County Area

Having owned retail/restaurant businesses for over 20 years, my interest turned to listing and selling businesses rather than owning them. I specialize tend to specialize in Orange County high volume restaurants, fast food independents and chains, bars and liquor stores. Call 714-292-5448.

Jeff Back, Broker: Restaurant Specialist - SF Bay Area

J. Back & Associates Restaurant Real Estate was founded in 1988 as the first bay area real estate company to specialize exclusively in restaurant real estate. I am the past President of Charley Browns restaurants and have been involved in the restaurant business for over 35 years. 925-736-8200.

Janet Carrera - Escrow & Bulk Sale Services - SF Bay Area

Redwood Escrow Services, Inc. is a full service, licensed independent escrow company. We are EAFC Fidelity bonded, fully insured & licensed with the Department of Corporations. Committed to offering our clients the most comprehensive variety of escrow services available. Phone Janet at 510-247-0741.

Brad Steinberg, Broker - Laundromat Specialists

Laundry specialists - founded in 1968 by three laundry professionals, PWS is a family-owned corporation. Through the years it has grown to become the largest vended laundry equipment distributor in the United States. Call Brad Steinberg at 323-721-8832 to sell or buy a coin or card laundromat.

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