There are several main types of bar atmospheres, and each one has its pros and cons. Figure out what yours is going to be before you get started, so you don't have to make costly changes to your plan (and business) later.
This is the most common type of bar, and what everyone thinks of as the model for what a bar should be- the Cheers model of a bar. This is the kind of place people come to relax after work, see friends, and hang out. The menu is usually fairly simple, and so are the drinks. This kind of bar never makes a huge pile of money, but it usually does well, and stays in business long after the fancy places comes and go.
The most important thing about having a good neighborhood bar is friendly service and a location where a lot of people live near enough or work near enough. Lots of times people will walk to these kinds of bars so they don’t have to worry about driving. A neighborhood bar won’t survive long in a place people have to drive a long way to or where most of the traffic is daytime traffic and it gets dead at night.
This kind of bar is the least expensive to open, as you don’t have to spend much on decorations or stocking fancy liquor. You also don’t have to run a lot of promotions or marketing deals, once your client base is established- just keep good word of mouth in the neighborhood and sponsor local events and organizations.
These kinds of bars are often for sale, and if you can establish a good rapport with the regulars, you can make a smooth transition and be earning good money right away if the previous owner was doing well.
Nightclubs do most of their business on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and tend to be very subject to fads and trends- hot one minute and then out of favor the next. When they are working, they can be huge cash producers, as people tend to spend freely and you also have income from cover charges to boost your income.
The challenge with nightclubs is keeping them hot and making sure you have enough people. Once a club falls under a certain attendance level, it is very hard to grow, because people come in, see that it “looks” empty, and decide to leave, and tell other people “that place is dead”. Unless you have experience and a very good bankroll, a nightclub is not a good venture for a first time bar owner.
A music bar is simply one that frequently features music, and usually has space for a band and dancing. You can have DJs and live bands, and if you can consistently book good acts, you can charge a cover and boost your income, and become known as a destination for music entertainment. Most places must choose a general type of music, as it is difficult to host a Samba band one night and a punk band the next, because the people who drop in will expect to find something at least somewhat similar to what was there in previous nights.
This type of bar, as its name implies, features pool tables as a main attraction. If there aren’t too many places to play already, having a pool hall can create an added reason for your customers to come to your establishment, and stay longer than they otherwise might.
The downside is pool tables are expensive and take up a fair amount of space. Many bars choose to just have one or two tables to entertain patrons and make a little side revenue, but if your town or city has the opportunity for you to put a pool hall in without significant competition, you might consider it.
In a big city or a place with a healthy amount of competition, sometimes a theme bar is a way to stand out. Sometimes, but not always related to music, a theme bar can also be related to its environment (a nearby landmark, team, historical event, etc. ) or a particular interest or hobby of the owner. An example might be a collection of horse racing memorabilia in Kentucky, near the site of the Derby, a jazz themed bar, with Jazz bands and Jazz on the jukebox, or a beer bar, with a 100 varieties of beer and a beer drinkers club. The ideas are limitless, just make sure your theme won’t get you in trouble (using team names without permission) and will interest enough other people to stop in and see what its about.
A sports bar is just a theme bar centered on sports, usually with TVs so patrons can watch the action, and usually memorabilia related to the sport or sports in question. These can be great moneymakers, as long as there aren’t too many in the same town focused on the same team or teams.
This is a bar that has the equipment to brew its own beer. These can be successful, and were very popular in the early 90’s, but since have become harder and harder to make work, due to market saturation. It is difficult to recruit a master brewer, and the added expense of the equipment and brewing operation often puts these bars out of business.
The upside is if you can find a market for your beer outside just your bar location, you can make a lot of extra money from beer sales. This is not the best type of operation to open for the new bar owner, because of the high cost of startup and slow time to break even. If you can find a successful microbrewery for sale, however, you might be able to do quite well.
All of these concepts will work under the right circumstances, or can fail if they are put in the wrong place. It is important to have a place you love, but you also need to take into account what the market needs and what it lacks if you want your bar to be a success as a business and not just as a personal hobby.
Put a successful business plan together, run the numbers, and with some work and a little effort, you will definitely be able to find success if you want it.
The ultimate guide to creating a “guaranteed to get funded" plan for Starting a Bar quickly and easily was created by the author, former restaurant owner, owner of the Starting a Restaurant website and full time startup business consultant Matt Remuzzi, also owner of the website CapForge.com, one of the top web hubs for information on starting a business