Now you’re familiar with the general information about starting your business, you’re ready to delve into the more in-depth information around opening a bar or nightclub. Read on to find out about bar licences, rules and regulations, as well as tips for finding the right venue and employees.
You can also download this guide for the perfect reference point throughout your journey. Our downloadable version comes with a comprehensive startup checklist so you can track your progress!
Liquor licensing will be the main type of licensing requirement for bars and nightclubs. Venues that intend to serve or sell liquor (alcohol) must ensure they have the right license. Licences may include:
But requirements will vary depending on the state or territory you’re in, where the alcohol will be consumed, council requirements around land use, and your business intentions.
Before you lodge an application for a liquor licence, you’ll need a National Police Certificate which will include a criminal record check. You can find out more about liquor licensing in each state here:
You’ll need to apply for a business licence and registration from the local council. The local council will ask you to provide information such as:
For information on the process with your local council, visit the Australian Business Licence and Information Service.
You’ll also need to apply for a number of certificates from the local council, including:
You’ll then need to pay the associated fees and fill out the required paperwork.
If you plan to serve food in your bar or nightclub, you’ll need to follow food business licensing requirements, which also vary from state to state.
Food business licensing ensures your venue can produce safe food before it is supplied or prepared for the local community. Licensing requirements vary depending on the size of the venue and state or territory where you’re establishing the business. You can view the relevant licensing requirements for your bar or nightclub here:
There are also several other licenses that you may require, so it’s best to seek advice. For example, you’ll likely be playing music at the bar or nightclub, so you may need a music license to cover copyright issues.
Licensees must provide a safe environment for customers and employees in and around the business premises. Depending on your licence conditions and the state or territory you’re in, you may need to comply with:
All employees (including security staff) will also require Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) training, and you may need to appoint a Liquor Approved Manager.
Smoking is banned in enclosed public spaces (defined as having 75 percent notional walls and ceiling) in bars and nightclubs in all states and territories in Australia. Designated smoking areas are allowed, but regulations prevent these from being within a certain proximity to seating or dining areas.
Liquor licenced venues are required to display certain signage.
The sale or supply of liquor to minors under 18 years at bars or nightclubs is illegal, as is liquor consumption by minors on licensed premises.
If your nightclub has a gaming licence for poker machines, you will also need to comply with gaming regulations in your state or territory.
Nightclubs and bars are unique in the hospitality world when it comes to location. Unlike other businesses, a secret or hidden bar location can add to the mystique. Of course, the success of these bars still rely on being in places that are hip enough to warrant it. Other bars and nightclubs benefit from being out in the open, easy to find and get to.
Ideally, you want to be close to public transport or alternative transport options. If your patrons need to drive to your location, they’re unlikely to drink much – which isn’t good for business!
Before moving into a hidden bar, you will need to think about how you will promote it. These bars often require a bigger advertising budget than one located on a main street.
Are you planning on serving Happy Hour drinks for the after-work crowd? You will need to be within walking distance of some office buildings. If it’s the student crowd you’re targeting, you’ll want to have at least one university nearby.
Many cities will make life hard for nightclubs or bars that are in residentially-zoned areas. Some areas may impose late night curfews, so it’s best to research the area before you invest in your venue, just in case it turns out to be more hassle than it’s worth.
Good staff are essential to keeping a bar or nightclub running smoothly. Running a bar or nightclub can be a lot of work, so your staff should make it easier, not harder.
Staff who are easily overwhelmed need not apply for a job in a club or bar. Bars and nightclubs get busy quickly and the peak hour can last all night. Many people struggle to begin with, but if they don’t find their footing after a couple of weeks you may have to make a tough decision.
Good bar staff can be hard to find, so advertising online will give you a large pool to draw from. Whether they need to know how to expertly pour a beer, or need to be able to list a dozen cocktail recipes, sifting through job applications to find the star hospitality staff is a worthwhile pursuit.
Make sure they have their Responsible Service of Alcohol certificate.
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