What does a Bar Owner do?

Cassie L. Damewood

A bar owner makes the decisions that affect the day-to-day and long-term operations of his eating and drinking establishment. This may include managing alcohol and food inventory, balancing accounting books and maintaining proper licensure. He is frequently the bar manager as well, especially at a small, local venue commonly referred to as neighborhood bar. He normally has the final say on decisions that pertain to staffing, advertising, promotion and customer relations as well.

Some bars only have permission to sell beer and wine, while others are able to serve hard liquor as well.
Some bars only have permission to sell beer and wine, while others are able to serve hard liquor as well.

Owning a bar is normally quite different from owning a restaurant or retail store. A bar owner is typically required to obtain various licenses before he opens his doors. A number of these licenses normally require regular renewal and are often subject to revocation by local or regional authorities.

A bar owner should always be attentive while at their establishment.
A bar owner should always be attentive while at their establishment.

These licenses generally dictate what types of liquor may be sold at the bar. Some bars are authorized to only sell wine and beer, and others have permission to sell hard liquor. If food is to be served to bar patrons, that service typically requires a separate license. In all cases, a local agency that ensures health and safety standards are maintained commonly inspects the premises on a regular basis to verify compliance.

Bar owners work on different ways to make sure customers enjoy the experience.
Bar owners work on different ways to make sure customers enjoy the experience.

In addition to having his licenses and location in order, a bar owner is generally in charge of advertising and promotion. His marketing strategies may include placing ads in local telephone directories and newspapers or advertising on Internet websites. The owner may also collaborate with other local businesses to promote his bar. Participation in local charity events and promoting special deals for holidays and happy hours are normally at the discretion of the bar owner.

Bar owners are responsible for setting the atmosphere of their establishment.
Bar owners are responsible for setting the atmosphere of their establishment.

Staffing a bar with personable and competent employees is normally important to a bar’s success. The bar owner generally carefully screens his potential hires to make sure they are competent and friendly mixologists with solid work histories and reputations for honesty and dependability. If a manager is on staff, he or she may participate in the screening and hiring process.

A bar owner must know how to tap a fresh keg.
A bar owner must know how to tap a fresh keg.

A bar owner is traditionally expected to know how to make cocktails, properly pour beer and tap a fresh keg. Knowledge of inventory control and bookkeeping are generally considered assets for the job. Experience in attracting customers and building friendly relationships that establish a loyal clientele are generally required for a bar owner to run a successful tavern.

A jigger is used to measure alcohol to make a cocktail.
A jigger is used to measure alcohol to make a cocktail.

There are no educational requirements to be a bar owner. Past experience in running a business is typically considered a plus. Personnel management and public relations skills are generally helpful to achieve success in this position.

Bar owners may come up with a small menu of food items for patrons.
Bar owners may come up with a small menu of food items for patrons.
Bar owners often set up special events like happy hours.
Bar owners often set up special events like happy hours.

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Discussion Comments

chivebasil
I was a bartender for a while and the owner always seemed to be stressed out. He would fight with distributors, get pissed off at customers and fly in to a rage if the staff made any mistakes. About three months after I quit the bar closed down so I would imagine that the bar was losing money hand over fist. That probably contributed to his mood.

As much of a jerk as that guy was I have some sympathy for him. Being in the bar I got to see first hand how hard his job was. I'm not sure that if I was in his shoes I wouldn't have run the bar into the ground myself.

whiteplane
One of the biggest reasons that so many bars fail is that their owners mismanage them. They treat them more like a bar and not enough like a business. They will drink for free and give their friends free food and drink. They might turn a blind eye to bartenders drinking on the job or begin to bend the rules about minors or noise ordinances. Basically they lose sight of the bottom line.

It is such a common problem because most people that want to own a bar like to be in a bar. And when you are in a bar you drink. Being drunk and running a business are hard to do simultaneously.

summing
There is a bar that I go to on a pretty regular basis. The owner is a guy named Denny and he spends all day every day sitting in an office chair at the front of the bar holding court and running his various businesses. He basically uses the bar as his office.

I have no idea what kind of stuff that guy has his fingers in. He always looks busy and mildly annoyed. On the flip side he always has a drink and an unlit cigar hanging out of his mouth. Kind of an unconventional way to to business but it seems to work for him.

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