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Thinking About the Bar Business?

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The great thing about the bar business it that you can sell 50 cents worth of liquid for ten bucks.  It also tends to be recession proof.  That said, there are quite a few negatives.  In NJ it is heavily regulated; the manual of regulations is 84 pages.  It is easy for employees to steal by pocketing cash or by giving away drinks.  If the establishment is located in a “rough around the edges” area, there are often fights and female customers “selling it” in the parking lot.  Finally, insurance costs are high given the legal liability; if one of your customers gets trashed and kills someone, you have got problems.  Nevertheless, there is money to be made.


The sale of alcohol is regulated by the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission or ABC in New Jersey.  Most of its enforcement activities are delegated to the local police departments. If you decide to purchase a bar or a liquor license, you will be checked out by the local police department.  As a smart bar owner, you will want to become friendly with the local constabulary; that way, they will not sit outside your place at 2 AM and bust all of your customers as they drive out of the parking lot.  A bar owner whom the cops do not like is not going to be in business very long. Never hesitate to give them free booze; it is well worth it.  As a purchaser of a bar, you will also want to retain a local lawyer who is familiar with liquor license transfers.

There are nine different types of liquor licenses in New Jersey.  The most common ones are for liquor stores, restaurants, and bars, and for bars that also sell packaged goods.  There is also a license for restaurants that are not permitted to have a bar, but that can serve alcohol at the table; this is known as a table license.

The liquor laws are archaic and go back to the early 1930s when prohibition ended.  As a bar owner, you are going to have to practically memorize the regulations.  Good luck.

For further advice and information, call Brad Palmer at 908-931-9300.


Article by Brad Palmer

Content Edited and Posted by Geoff Caplan

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