Opening a bar in Atlanta can be a challenging, though ultimately rewarding process. It is a venture that can be costly both financially and emotionally. However, proper planning and preparation can avoid the stress involved. This includes applying for the appropriate licenses to operate a bar, writing a business plan that anticipates the unique challenges of competing in Atlanta’s robust nightlife and doing enough market research in the city’s neighborhoods to find the best venue to lay down roots.
It costs $75 annually to register for a business license in Atlanta. The licensing fee itself is based on the estimates of taxable gross revenue and can be adjusted when the business owner applies for a renewal the next year. In Atlanta, the tax rate is based upon 60 cents per $1,000 in estimated income.
In addition to a business license, a prospective bar owner must also apply for a liquor license from the city. This can be a particularly arduous process in Atlanta. The first obstacle involves the city’s opaque liquor laws, which are often contradictory and difficult to understand. Like many cities in the Deep South, Atlanta prohibits the sale of alcohol within the city limits on Sundays in bars. This "blue Sunday" policy can easily eat into revenue, so it is advisable for you to serve food on Sundays to make up for this loss in income. The liquor license fee in Atlanta is currently $3,200.
The next step is to write a business plan. This should be divided into at least three sections. The first should involve start-up expenses. These expenditures deal with insurance fees, inventory, marketing for a grand opening, legal fees, as well as the cost of a consultant to design the bar itself. The second section must address the cost of all of the operating equipment, beginning with plate and glass chillers, blenders, glassware and racks to stack them and liquor dispensers. The third should deal with how drinks are to be delivered to your customers. If a waitstaff is to be used, then this added expense must be accounted for in your business plan.
Deciding where your bar will be located is an enormously important decision that will have a big impact on how successful it will be in the first six months of operation. In Atlanta, the best place to start a bar has often been considered Buckhead, perhaps the most affluent neighborhood in the city.
Violence in this area in recent years has led to a shutdown of bars and restaurants in the area. Midtown Atlanta, with its high-rise condos and location near Georgia Tech’s Technology Square, has now become the neighborhood of choice. The variety of bars and restaurants in the area, far from being a detriment to the notion of opening a bar, can often be a boon for those established owners seeking to profit from the well-heeled, barhopping customers in this area of the city.