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How to Open a Sports Bar

Austin Chegini
26 Mar 2021

Sports bars are exciting venues that offer fun for the whole family. They are often lively places with great drinks and tasty food. 

Are you one of the many people who dream of owning their own bar? If so, keep reading to see how to open a sports bar and make it succeed.

Ten steps to open a sports bar

1. Understand what it takes to run a bar

Starting a bar is not an easy undertaking. 

While the idea of pouring drinks for friends and enjoying the big game with customers sounds fun, much more work happens behind the scenes. As the owner, you will constantly be overseeing operations, managing finances, and taking care of legal matters. Even if you hire staff to help with management, the burden of responsibility will ultimately fall on you. 

Now we say this not to scare you but rather, to prepare you for this new venture. By assessing your goals, work ethic, and capabilities, you can determine if opening a sports bar is the right move for you. 

Think about these factors during this stage:

  • Cost: Do you have the capital to open a bar? Are you prepared to take on debt to start your business? 
  • Personality: Do you like working with people? Can you manage staff on a stressful night, entertain customers, and coordinate operations while still staying upbeat? Can you deal with irate customers who have had too many alcoholic beverages?
  • Commitment: Are you willing to spend all your free time building your bar? Will you still be passionate about this venture after a few months or years?

2. Create a business plan

Despite their simple appearance, bars are actually quite complicated businesses. The main hurdle is not in the daily operations; rather, it is in the red tape it takes to get started. Sports bars need various government permits and need to comply with a host of laws — all it takes is one mistake to jeopardize your business. 

To help you prepare for any complications, create a detailed business plan before doing anything else. This document does not need to be complex, but it should clearly spell out your plan and detail how you will accomplish your goals. 

The Small Business Administration list these items as the core elements of a business plan:

  • Executive summary: Give a brief overview of your mission statement, product or services, company’s leadership team, employees, location, and your growth plans.
  • Company description: Provide a detailed description of the food and drinks you provide and how your company is addressing a problem in the market. State who you plan to serve and how you’ll do it.
  • Market analysis: Study your market and demonstrate the demand for your product. If competitors offer similar products, state what advantage you bring to the table.
  • Organization and management: Describe your business structure and list your leadership team. State each person’s duties and professional experience. 
  • Service or product line: Detail your business offerings, including the purpose and benefits of your products, any copyright or patents, and the product lifecycle.
  • Marketing and sales: State your promotional strategy and the sales methods you’ll employ. Detail staffing needs or specific marketing channels.
  • Funding request: Explain your upfront financial needs, how you will obtain funding, and what your debt repayment will look like.
  • Financial projections: Forecast your future financial picture with first-year and five-year projections. Explain how much revenue you expect and attempt to chart out financial obligations. 
  • Appendix: Attach any supporting documentation here.

3. Form a legal entity

Next, you want to create a new business entity. By doing so, you clearly separate your personal assets and liabilities from those of your sports bar. 

This separation is very important, especially when it comes to bars and other establishments. If a patron files a lawsuit against your business or if you incur debt, forming a separate entity can prevent courts from taking your personal assets to repay any obligations. 

Likewise, a separate entity can establish its own credit and hold its own assets. When you need to borrow money, the entity can be the borrower instead of you the individual. 

The most common business structures include:

  • Limited liability companies
  • Partnerships
  • Corporations
  • S-Corporations

You can learn more about these entities from this Internal Revenue Service page. Each structure has unique advantages, so you may want to speak with an attorney to see which option fits your situation best. 

4. Coordinate funding

Bars are expensive to get off the ground. From paying for equipment and decor to staff and training, you will need a good amount of startup capital. 

For most business owners, this money comes in the following forms:

  • Savings
  • Small business loans
  • Co-owners and partners
  • Private investors

A small business loan is one of the safest ways to borrow money, especially if they come from reliable institutions like banks. However, qualifying for these loans is often a major hurdle. Lenders want to be sure you will repay the debt. 

Read over this guide by NAV to learn more about the qualification process.

5. Register with the state and acquire licenses

Your state and local governments will want to know when you create a business, especially because they will want to tax and regulate it. While some businesses can get by without registering, a bar is no exception. The government has harsh penalties for any establishment that sells alcohol unlicensed. 

Some typical licenses you will need include:

  • General business license
  • Liquor license
  • Food safety certificate
  • Occupancy certificate

Be sure to check your Secretary of State and local business community during this process. Some licenses are not easy to find or may require completing additional tasks, such as publishing a public notice in a newspaper. If this is the case and you aren’t sure where to start, many companies will help you with this process for a fee.

6. Choose a location

Finding the right building to open your sports bar is crucial, especially since bars are all about setting the right ambiance. If customers don’t like the “feel” of your establishment, they will go somewhere else for a cold drink. 

Sports bars vary as far as offerings and services go, but most offer these key things:

  • A variety of drinks
  • Food like burgers, nachos, french fries, and tacos
  • Televisions spread throughout the room

So when looking for a location, be sure you have room to install a well-stocked bar. Likewise, you will need plenty of storage space in the back to hold kegs, frozen foods, serving supplies, and more. Lastly, your building needs to have cable and internet access so you TVs can stream sports games. 

7. Invest in the right equipment

Adding on to our last point, sports bars need to create an atmosphere full of fun. This can only happen if you buy the right tools and devices.

In the back of the house, you will need:

  • Freezers and refrigerators
  • Fryers and ovens
  • Kitchen order printers or display screens
  • Dishwashers
  • Utensils

In the front of the house, you will need:

  • A bar point of sale system
  • Bartending tools
  • Cups and cutlery
  • Decor and sports memorabilia
  • Furniture
  • Keg taps and liquor cabinets
  • Ice chests and refrigerators

8. Hire staff

It’s hard to manage a bar on your own, so you will want to find good help. That said, you must have a hiring plan. Otherwise, you might onboard the wrong employees and hinder your chances of success. 

Hospitality businesses rely on customer service. Each employee should be committed to providing outstanding service during each customer interaction. With this in mind, make sure to hire staff who have proven experience in the industry or have personalities that fit well with the industry.

So, what positions should you hire for?

At the very least, your sports bar will need to hire for these positions:

  • Bartenders
  • Cooks
  • Hosts
  • Servers

9. Open your doors

Once you have everything in place, you need to set a grand opening date. Don’t be overly ambitious when planning your launch. It’s better to take an extra week to train staff than to open your doors and leave customers unsatisfied. 

You will want to advertise your grand opening as soon as you set the date. The longer you remind prospective customers about your sports bar, the more excited they will be about it. Each advertisement they see will remind them to save the date for your opening. 

Make sure to use these marketing techniques before your grand opening:

  • Run social media ads
  • Invite influencers to a soft opening
  • Send direct mail flyers to nearby homes
  • Sponsor a community event
  • Offer an incentive for the first 100 people who visit

By following all these tips, you will be well on your way to running the best sports bar in town!

Need a POS system for your sports bar? Contact Epos Now to see your options!

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