Committing to the wrong spot can sink a bar before it even gets off the ground…

Last month, we helped you make sense of the complicated licensing and permitting process to open the bar of your dreams. Now, with the complicated legal matters out of the way, we can get to the fun stuff—finding the right location for your new bar.

Choosing the wrong location, however, can be a disastrous misstep. So before rushing out to sign a lease on the nearest empty space, here’s how would-be bar owners can lock down a location.

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Understand local demographics

Who do you want walking through the door on a regular basis? We ask because, as one survey of 800 U.S. consumers found, “pubs & bars are considered less essential and will therefore struggle to attract as much business from outside the immediate local area.” It’s critical to choose a location near the people you wish to attract. Census data is helpful for this, but the best way is to get to know the different communities in an area you’re eyeing and choosing the best one for your business.

Research the local competition

Before establishing roots of your own, get to know the neighborhood’s business climate. For instance, if a neighborhood you’re eyeing has 10 bars with similar concepts, perhaps that’s not an ideal locale. That said, being near to your competition can be a good thing. If a similar bar is operating successfully in the area, they could serve as proof of concept for your own.

Consider the building’s bones

The physical space itself matters. Choose a location with clear visibility so passersby can’t miss your bar. Unless you’re going for a hidden-in-plain-sight location like Portland’s Novare Res Bier Café. Consider available parking and public transportation around you. Without either, you have to rely entirely on foot traffic, which can work, but it’s limiting. When it comes to the interior space itself, look for a building that best aligns with your business plan.

Sign on the dotted line

Signing a lease is arguably the most important step in your location search. But, be prepared! Before signing anything, calculate what you’re able to realistically afford. You don’t want to lock yourself into a lengthy lease before you know how successful you’ll be in the given location. This is especially important for new bar owners who can’t rely on their reputation to bring people in the door.

We’re interested in hearing from you too. What has pushed you away from, or drawn you to a location for your bar? How can bar owners prepare themselves for the hurdles that may come their way?

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