So you want to open a bar at a low-cost but you’re afraid that’s not doable? Let us be the first to tell you that with a touch of creativity it’s not an impossible feat. There are many bar business ideas out there that don’t require you to shell out a huge amount of money for rent, equipment, or staff.
Here are nine bar business ideas you can choose from:
- Craft Brewery
- Mobile Bar
- Weekend Bartender
- Brewery / Winery Tour Guide
- Nightclub DJ or MC
- Bar and Drink Review Blogger
- Bartending Classes
- Karaoke Bars
- Paint and Sip Bars
Don’t think starting a craft brewery is possible? Sam Coor, the founder of Drumconrath Brewing Company in North Dakota started his own beer brand for only $50,000. You can learn exactly how Sam got started along with the challenges and legal process of opening a small brewery in this audio lesson.
While $50,000 is still a big chunk of change, it’s far less than what most people spend to get started. Many brewers require a million dollars in funding before tapping their first keg of beer. But it doesn’t need to be that way if you understand where you can cut costs.
Craft breweries, though considered a microbrewery, saw a 4% growth rate by volume in sales in 2019. According to the Brewers Association, out of the $116 billion of America’s beer market, 25% now come from craft retail dollar sales. The demand for this product continues to grow.
We understand though this is not exactly low-cost, it’s better than putting up a large-scaled brewery that can cost you $2.5 million. This is a realistic opportunity for anyone with a solid credit score with access to bank loans or the ability to tap into savings.
Have you ever been to an event where there’s a minibar station at the side serving cocktails, wine and beer? These mobile bars are growing in popularity and create a unique experience at weddings, concerts, and other outdoor events. They’re additional attractions for your parties and it’s one bar business idea that has a low-cost startup that you can get started for $15,000 – $50,000.
The main cost is the price of the vehicle. Like all types of vehicles the startup cost will vary depending the the model, brand, and age of the unit. You’ll also need to make the decision of whether you want to buy a truck, trailer, van, or a portable bar. A portable bar can be acquired for well under $15,000 all-in, but you’ll need to find a way to carry the equipment to events.
Why do we say that? Well, for a mobile bar, all you need is your cart, your license and permits, that sleek and eye-catching branding or design, glasses, and a lot of booze. It can also run on just one or two temporary staff. This is really appealing as a business owner since you only need to pay employees when you have an event.
The startup cost for a mobile bar depends on the materials you use to build up your cart but can start around $15,000. You don’t need to worry about rent or promotion since most nights since you’ll be operating as a temporary employee at weddings or corporate parties. Investing money into the designs of your mobile cart, the service you provide, and the promotional materials used is the best way to keep this mobile bar business booked every weekend. Click here to explore our business name ideas for a mobile bartender.
Think of being a weekend bartender like of a side hustle or business where you’re selling your time. While you’ll be limited in the amount of money you can earn part-time in this business you can parlay this role into bigger things if you’re smart.
For example, as a bartender you’ll be gaining experience mixing drinks and working with customers. This experience can help you get paid to understand the basics of operating a mobile bar or craft brewery in the future. You’ll also be expanding your network and could be asked to work at weddings, corporate functions or other events.
Related Reading: 101 Epic Biker Bar Name Ideas for the Easy Rider
The startup costs for this will depend on how much you’ve paid for your license and bartending permit as well as the bartending classes you’ve taken to further deepen your skills and expertise. In some states, you may not even need to get a license and being 21 years of age or older could be the only requirement.
A weekend bartender’s rates can start at an hourly rate of $13.46 but this depends on where you’re working since rates differ between a restaurant, a bar, or a casino. You’ll also get the benefit of being able to make cash tips.
If you have no savings on hand and need cash quickly this is a great option. Just make sure to remember that this work should only be temporary if your goal is to become a business owner. Save the extra money you make and create a savings plan to invest the profit into your next business opportunity.
Brewery / Winery Tour Guide
If you know your alcohol, particularly beers and wines, then you might consider being a winery or brewery tour guide as a bar business idea. This is another opportunity that can be started with zero investment aside from your time.
This position is also sometimes known as a tasting room associate. The job description requires you to lead tours, host wine tasting classes, and assist customers when they want to purchase wines at the end of the tour. Tours can be intimate or can be in large groups of 50 people.
While you can get started as an employee with this role, you can also become an independent tour guide of local bars, wineries, or breweries. If you live in a city or area that attracts a steady stream of tourists this can be a legitimate business opportunity. If you can become extremely knowledgable about the local food, drink, and can share some historical facts about the area, you’ve got the basic skills you need to operate a guide business like this.
Startup costs for being a winery tour guide will be the training and expertise you’ve built along the way. There’s no special permits required to start this business aside from a business license. You’ll also have to take tips into consideration and any income you’re able to make establishing partnerships with local businesses. Keep in mind that the amount of expertise and knowledge in this area along with confidence is the key to being an exceptional winery tour guide. You’ve got to be a people person to make this business work.
Nightclub DJ or MC
If you have a talent for mixing, spinning, or helping to get the party started, you might want to give being a nightclub DJ or an MC a try. Like the weekend bartender we mentioned above, DJs are the busiest on weekends where everyone hits the bars and nightclubs. You’ll want to partner with event coordinators so they book you on other nights too.
The same goes for being an MC. But unlike being a DJ wherein they’ll just receive a list of songs the bar or the event coordinator will give them to play for the night, it would be best if MCs get to sit down with the coordinators or the couple (if it’s a wedding) to give the event an intimate feel.
One important point is that you’ll want to develop a niche DJ or MC service. The way you MC a wedding is going to be a lot different than a packed nightclub. The song selection will be different, how you interact with the audience will be different, what you wear is going to be different. It will take a bit of time to understand these nuances of how you interact at different gigs.
Rates for being a nightclub DJ start at $22.34 an hour while being an MC for events starts an hourly average rate of $25. Again, this will depend on the location where you’re working. It’s not uncommon for a DJ with their own sound equipment and lights to command $500 per night for a 3 hour event. The cost of starting this type of entertainment business has come down a lot of the past few years and you could get started for less than $5,000 after paying for audio equipment, lighting, and a laptop to play music.
Bar and Drink Review Blogger
If you prefer staying at home as opposed to going out becoming a beverage blogger could be the right choice for you. By writing content or recording videos about different drinks, you’re essentially starting a type a specialty food blog. Ideas for this type of business include creating and publishing recipes for different drinks, providing reviews of local bars or wineries, or becoming a niche industry publication.
The cost of starting this type of business is extremely low. You probably already own a cell phone and laptop computer with access to the internet. This really is the only thing you need to launch a publishing empire of your own. If you want, you can register a domain name and get hosting for $20 – $30 per month.
Keep in mind a written blog isn’t the only type of blogging you can do. You could create video blogs and host them on sites that will bring in revenue from YouTube, Instagram, or starting a podcast on the subject. If you get started using a platform like this you won’t need to invest any money to get started.
Keep in mind this type of business takes time to gain traction and build an audience. Based on my own experience as a food blogger, expect 3 years of consistent publishing on a blog to build a full-time income around $30,000 – $40,000 annually. As with any business, there’s no guarantee you’ll make any money at all… especially in the first year running the business.
There is a market for people who want to learn how to mix drinks. A low-cost bar business idea is to put up bartending classes ranging from beginners to advance levels. Topics would include:
- Flair bartending
- Bar etiquette
- Alcohol awareness
- Liquor Types and their usage
Think of them as offering basic crash courses covering each topic for 1 – 2 hours. You can start selling these course for no financial investment thanks to YouTube (free video / class hosting) and Google Docs to create a slide presentation.
Another ideas would be to build a more ambitious bartending prep course. A 40-hour bartending certification can range from $400 to $800 in cost. If you’re able to consistently fill your class with students at this price point, you can make a nice income from this business. This can be particularly effective if you create an online course and market the program with your blog (see previous opportunity). According to industry data, there’s 453,000 bartenders in the United States. This creates a huge opportunity to sell products.
Mobile Karaoke Bars
Similar to a DJ, a mobile karaoke bar can be opened for under $15,000. This all-in expense can cover microphones, PA system, professional lighting and business licenses. This is another entertainment business that can be operated in bars across your town or special events.
Karaoke bars are fun hangout places for those who want to belt tunes all night long with friends. Food is served along with alcoholic beverages. Closed karaoke bars give you a minimum of three hours to rent their private booths while open karaoke bars have a usual bar setup where someone takes the stage and sings to an audience. The advantage of offering private equipment rental for parties or weddings is it allows you setup the equipment and be hands off until the conclusion of the event. Check out our list of unforgettable karaoke bar business name ideas here.
Paint and Sip Bars
Paint and sip bars are places where you can take art classes while having wine. It’s a relaxing way to unwind wherein you just simply sit there and paint on a canvas with a glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage you prefer by your side. This can be a fun business to operate that brings together art, like minded people and wine.
One appealing aspect about the paint and sip model is you can get started on a budget hosting events at your home or a rented space. The concept doesn’t require any staff to get started either. Your job is to organize paints, canvas, and brushes before customers arrive for an event. Don’t forget about the cleanup after an event too!
The paint bar is appealing because you can get into small retail art sales as well. Something that paints their own Rembrandt may decide they want to explore their talents more at home and may need supplies like paint, brushes, frame, or paper. You can up sell your patrons at each event.
If you’re interested in this bar business idea but you’re not sure how it works yet, you can sign up for a franchise. One well-known bar Painting With A Twist has a franchising fee of $25,000.
These low-cost small bar business ideas should get you started in becoming an entrepreneur fast. Which one of these looked interesting to you? Let us know in the comments below! Don’t forget to join our community of 40,000+ active members to get a new case study with a food and beverage business owner delivered to your inbox each week.