How to Start a Bar in New York City

You need a location close to where you plan to serve your customers. Ideally, this is within walking distance of where you live and work. If you’re in a more remote location, you may want to consider opening a tiny bar or an alcohol cocktail lounge.

New York City has a lot to offer in terms of bars, clubs, and restaurants, so even if you don’t live close by, it shouldn’t stop you from opening a bar. We suggest starting small. Once you’ve gotten your foot in the door, you can expand on your options.

How to Start a Bar in New York City

Decide Where to Open a Bar in New York City

Picking the perfect location for your new bar can be one of the most daunting aspects of opening a business in New York City. Not only do you have to consider the noise level from nearby restaurants, bars and nightclubs, but you also have to factor in traffic, parking and access for your staff.

You want to be as close to Times Square as possible, so you’ll want to consider the following: proximity to subway and bus lines nearest major shopping areas, access to trains and the city’s bike lane network location close to public transportation.You’ll also want to know all about the Zoning Requirements.

Decide What You’ll Be Serving

You’ll need to decide what kinds of drinks you’ll be serving. This will help you determine what merchandise you’ll need to stock. We recommend a rotating selection of high-quality alcohol and an affordable price range.

For example, if you want to open a snappy American bar, you’ll need a lineup of signature cocktails such as the Manhattan, the Americano, and the Negroni.

On the other hand, a classic English bar may only serve classic cocktails, emphasizing London dry whiskies such as the Olde English, the Cognac, and the Scotch.

Set Up the Right Inventory

When deciding where to open a bar, you’ll want to ensure you have the right inventory at the right time. You’ll need to learn all the inventory and purchasing rules in New York. Did you know that as a licensed retailer – you can only buy alcoholic beverages from wholesalers or manufacturers who have a license in NY?

If you don’t have an inventory policy in place, your staff may have too much to do. And with an increased workload comes increased employee stress, which can lead to burnout. That’s where a bar inventory management system comes into play.

These tools keep track of everything from bar inventory to alcohol. You can use them to create forward-looking work schedules, easily track service times, and access customer data in real-time.

When you have an inventory management system in place, you’ll be able to: Schedule service times automatically based on stock levels. Manage cash flow with ease. Set up production and staff schedules to avoid bottlenecks.

Choose the Right Beer or Wine Brand

You’ll need to find a beer, or wine brand that you think will succeed in New York City. Generally, you’ll want to consider your target audience and the type of customers you want to attract. For example, if you plan on serving craft beer, you’ll want to choose a craft beer brand.

The same goes for imported beers, wine and liquor. When choosing the right beer or wine brand, you want to think about whether it will be a long-lasting investment or a quick transition.

You Need a Liquor License

If you plan to serve alcohol, you’ll need to acquire a liquor license. This official document allows you to serve alcohol in New York City. You can apply for a license at the New York City Department of Health by filling out a form on their website. You’ll need to pay $1000 and provide a bond to guarantee that you’ll obey the law and pay all taxes, fees, and fines.

Once you’ve applied for a license, you’ll be given a certain number of days to apply. If you miss the deadline, you’ll need to apply again later. After you’re approved for a license, you’ll be required to sign a “no-liability” agreement, or NLL, that prevents you from being held responsible for anything wrong.

You Need to Get Insurance

Bars are supposed to be safe places, but how many times have you heard about a bar robbed because there wasn’t enough security to prevent it? Or maybe a customer was too drunk to leave when told to leave and caused a fight that resulted in a physical assault?

You should get insurance if you have even the slightest inkling of how hard it can be to start a bar in New York City. Yes, you should have liability insurance if anything goes wrong, but you should also have medical insurance, PIA, or personal injury insurance.

As with most businesses, if you get into an accident while operating a bar, you’ll be responsible for medical bills, lost wages, and any other damages. A good insurance company will cover all of these things – plus more.

Think About How You’ll Provide Your Menu, e.g. Digitally

One of the most challenging things about starting a bar in New York City is choosing the perfect menu to cater to the ever-growing number of customers. Fortunately, this is an easy task when you think about it from a technological standpoint.

The world’s best and most popular drinks are already listed in the New York City cocktail pyramid. There’s room for only the best drink combinations. Your digital cocktail book will be the center of attraction at your new bar. It will allow you to choose the perfect drink combinations for customers.

The best thing about your digital menus is that they will always be up-to-date. You won’t have to go to the liquor store or supermarket and buy the same drinks every time. You can check out Untappd for Business to download custom digital menus that will allow your customers to get a wider variety of choices when they enter your bar.

The liquor industry is a multi-billion dollar enterprise. You can start earning your share of this market by starting your bar in New York City. The city has a unique style and culture that must be reflected in the bar’s decor, drinks and food menu. Everything has to be perfect to attract customers and make them return for more.

The hardest part about starting a bar in New York City is choosing the right location. We’ve got you covered, from deciding where to open a bar in New York City to selecting the right beer or wine brand. Now all you have to do is start planning your new bar, bring in the customers, and announce the first happy hour!

Finally, check out this wonderful video about a good guy who opened a bar on his NYC rooftop – for a great cause:

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