Mobile bartending, also known as portable bartending, involves taking a mobile bar to indoor or outdoor venues and selling alcohol. Setting up a mobile bartending service involves acquiring alcohol licenses and permits, bartending equipment, alcohol vendors and sales venues. With these items in place, you’ll have your mobile bartending business up and serving in no time. But first, you must qualify to sell alcohol in your city and state, which requires submitting multiple applications.

Acquire an Alcohol Permit

Regardless of the state you live in, you have to obtain a permit to serve beer, wine and hard alcohol to the public. Serving beer and wine, and serving liquor, are usually separate permits. In most states, there will be some extra steps to go through to sell hard alcohol. The application process can require everything from a background check to the submission of financial statements and a business plan, depending your state’s requirements. Your county and city may also require special permits for establishing a mobile bartending business. Check what you need before you begin, as it's unlawful to operate without having the proper permits in place.

Attend to the Business Basics

Write a mobile bartending business plan. The plan will cover how you will operate your business and what you will need to get started so that you will have a sense of the cost of starting a bartending business. Create financial projections based on your estimated revenues and expenses; this will give you an idea how much you can afford for equipment to get started, and whether you will need a loan. Obtain liability and business insurance and a mobile bartending business licence from your municipality.

Purchase Equipment and Transportation

Your mobile bar needs all types of glasses along with the bar itself, plus equipment that allows you to hold and serve beer. Other items you need include a jigger, muddler, cocktail shaker and electric blender, as well as a truck and trailer. Some mobile bartenders actually use vehicles that are hybrid bars/vans or trucks instead of bars on rollers, making it easier to get from one venue to another. The transportation and bar type you select directly impacts your profit margin, because the cost of gas to get from one venue to another is one of your most important operating expenses.

Find Alcohol Wholesalers

You need a variety of beers, wines and spirits to sell at your bar, requiring you to find alcohol wholesalers. You can buy alcohol from a variety of establishments specializing in business-to-business alcohol sales, including large discount retailers, microbreweries, home brewers and online wholesale distributors. If your business starts to take off and you need to solidify your supply chain, you can enter into supplier contracts to make it easier for you to manage your business and increase your bottom line.

Find Sales Venues

Mobile bartending businesses are a big hit at venues such as corporate team-building events and business conventions as well as places where large groups of adults get together to celebrate holidays or special events. Finding sales venues is a function of promoting your bar, which can be done in face-to-face meetings with venue owners where you discuss contracts, pricing and the benefits of your services. You can also offer free tastings as a means of promoting your bar and getting the word out about your services.