Opening a bar can be a rewarding, yet risky business. At first thought, it may seem like an opportunity to party and get paid for it. However, opening and running a successful bar requires planning and organization. Each county and municipality in Tennessee has its own laws regarding opening up a bar.

Find a location. You can choose to purchase a building, lease a building or space, or build from the ground up. Each city and county in Tennessee will have its own code requirements. Avoid opening your bar in a residential setting as the noise likely will not sit well with neighbors.

Obtain a sales tax number. Tennessee requires you submit a application for sales and use tax certificate of registration. You can do this online at the Tennessee Department of Revenue website or by visiting your county clerk.

Obtain a liquor license. The Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission issues licenses to sell and dispense alcoholic beverages that contain an alcoholic content greater than 5 percent by weight. You will need to fill out the appropriate forms on the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission website. Your employees will be required to fill out a form if they are serving liquor to the public. If you wish to serve only beer, contact the local beer board.

Develop a business plan. You will need startup capital. Plan to have at least four to six months' worth of rent and operating costs saved up. Plan to hire and train staff members before the bar opens. Research the area in Tennessee that you plan to open your bar in. A bar located on a college campus or an inner city likely will serve very different groups of people. Decide if you will serve food. Adding special items such as karaoke, billiards or darts may help draw additional customers.

Prepare your business for opening. Your staff should be trained and your shelves should be stocked. Check all code requirements for your building including electrical outlets, plumbing and security. Make sure you have adequate parking space.


If this is your first business venture, try asking a partner to join you in opening a bar. Choose someone with business experience to help guide you.


Your staff should be trained to check customer IDs at the door and recognize fake IDs. Serving minors can result in significant penalties with the law.