Your Guide to Starting a Pub

If you’ve read our general guide to starting a hospitality business, you’re probably ready to learn a bit more about opening your specific pub venue. This guide will give you more information about pub-specific licences, rules and regulations. You can also find out how to pick the right venue and staff.

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The Pros and Cons of Running a Pub

  • Ability to be your own boss and have more control over your career
  • If successful, financial reward will be superior to working for somebody else
  • Opportunity to be creative in relation to ‘pub’ concept, including menus and fit outs
  • Ability to utilise a range of different skills that you may not get as a regular employee of a pub
  • Ability to meet a lot of new people, and establish the ‘goodwill’ of the local community
  • Spending in pubs and bars is on the rise, according to IBISWorld
  • Running a pub is not a job and ‘business hours’ don’t exist: it requires a significant investment of personal time and planning
  • Pubs can fail – meaning huge drain and stress on financial resources and time lost
  • Subject to seasonal variances meaning cash flow a notable stress point for pub owners
  • You will need a range of different capabilities beyond hospitality to be a successful owner of a bar or restaurant; including business and finance management skills
  • Employee tenure can be lower than other industries; meaning higher time investment required to find and train staff
  • Additional liquor and gaming (if you have poker machines at your venue) licenses are required, in addition to other hospitality licensing requirements

Which Pub Licences Do I Need?

Food business licensing ensures your pub can produce safe food before it is supplied or prepared for the local community.



Licensing requirements vary depending on the size of the pub and state or territory where you’re establishing the business. You can view the relevant licensing requirements for your bar or nightclub here:


Liquor Licensing

Pubs must ensure they have the right type of licence to serve or sell liquor (alcohol). Licences may include an On Premises licence, Primary Service Authorisation, and/or a Liquor Approved Manager licence. But requirements will vary depending on:

  • The state or territory you’re in
  • Where the alcohol will be consumed
  • Council requirements around land use
  • Your business intentions

Before you lodge an application for a liquor license, 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:


Business Licensing

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:

These can be viewed here:

There are also a number of other licenses you may need, so it’s best to seek advice. For example, if you plan to play music at your coffee shop, you may need a music license to cover copyright issues.

  • Your food business classification
  • The type of food to be served
  • Whether food is pre-packaged
  • The name of your food safety representative

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, possibly including:

  • A zoning certificate
  • A construction certificate
  • A fire safety certificate
  • A compliance certificate
  • An occupation certificate

You’ll then need to pay the associated fees and fill out the required paperwork.

There are also several other licenses that you may require, so it’s best to seek advice. For example, you may want to play music at your pub, so you may need a music license to cover copyright issues.

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Owning a Pub: Rules and Regulations

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:

  • Lock out law requirements: For example in Sydney, there are 1.30am lockouts and 3am last drinks at bars and clubs in the Sydney CBD Entertainment precinct
  • Security staff requirements: Security staff will require their own licence under the state-specific Act. They must also dress to distinguish themselves from other staff and patrons
  • Use and management of CCTV recordings: Required for bars and nightclubs that trade after a certain time or that have a specific condition on their licence
  • Use of ID scanners at licensed venues: May be required for venues that trade after a certain hour

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 of 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.




The sale or supply of liquor to minors under 18 years at pubs is illegal, as is liquor consumption by minors on licensed premises.

Liquor licenced venues are required to display certain signage.




If your pub has a gaming licence for poker machines, you will also need to comply with gaming regulations in your state or territory.


How to Find Your Perfect Pub:
Choosing Your Location



A corner pub is a quintessential part of any suburb in Australia. Whether you are looking to move into an established heritage pub or convert a building into a modern iteration of an Australian classic, location can make all the difference.


Here are some of the top questions to ask yourself before making the leap:


Where are your customers coming from?

Are your patrons coming in after a long day at work for ice-cold beer? Or are they going out for some classic pub food and a pint? Consider the population centres in the vicinity of the pub, as these will impact the kind of patron you will have.

What does your pub have to offer?

Finding a niche is a great way to make your mark and ensure patrons return. Whether you go for interesting interior décor, cool live music, a microbrew exclusive to your pub, or a unique menu, there is always something you can do differently to your competitors.

Competitors aren’t necessarily a drawback

Normally you wouldn’t want to be located near competitors. But as long as you have found your niche, being close to other pubs can be a plus.

If you are within walking distance of other pubs, you will see a lot of business from pub crawls. Make a good impression, and you will find yourself with a new bunch of regulars.

How to Choose the Right Staff for Your Pub



Pubs benefit from having charismatic, jovial and dedicated staff who can have a joke with regulars and present well to new patrons. Atmosphere is everything to a pub, and this often relies on staff. Building a good team is essential to any pub.

These are some of the best tips for hiring great bar and wait staff:


Keep your eyes peeled for good staff

Finding staff can be a lot of work, but once you know what qualities you are looking for, it can be a lot easier. Advertising online is one way to go. It gives you a big pool of qualified staff to draw from, but putting up a Help Wanted sign can result in some great and enthusiastic staff.

Invest in your staff

If you have trouble finding qualified staff, don’t discount enthusiastic underqualified staff who are eager to learn. Training staff is a great investment in the future. You can even take on Pub Apprentices.

Look for the best qualities

Running a pub requires staff to have excellent teamwork skills, and a good work ethic. Your staff should be dedicated and enthusiastic about the business and have great interpersonal skills.

Employing staff with leadership experience will allow you to rest easy when you take a day off. Just don’t forget to check that they have their Responsible Service of Alcohol certificate before you hire them.

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