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Start your own bar

The competition is stiff, but you\\\'ll get ahead if you offer something unique and choose your niche carefully.
By Kia Ortiz-Luis |

Putting up and running your own bar sounds like a good business idea. One intrepid businessman, Ricky Velasco, had always dreamed of it, so he put up Jivaro on Bayani Road in Fort Bonifacio over a year ago, betting the area would be Metro Manila’s next hot spot. But are you up to it? Running your own bar requires meticulous planning, hard work and long hours, among other things. “It’s a good business if you like meeting people and like serving,” says Jinko Misa, one of a trio of partners operating City Jam on Katipunan Road, Quezon City.

Getting down to business

“Any business that you want should be good. All you have to do is research carefully and set your goals properly,” says Philip Chua, co-owner of Cluvb V, a rhythm-and-blues and hip-hop bar along Amorsolo Street in Makati. “If you are setting up a bar, my first suggestion is to get a couple of partners. Some people don’t want to partner with friends, but in the bar business it would be better for you because you need help in spreading the word.”


The number of partners you need will depend on the bar’s size and concept. Three to four should do—more if you fancy a big one that requires more money to set up. Having partners allows you to divide the workload; more heads also permit a regular exchange of ideas aimed at introducing something unique to your target market.

Choosing your location

Before location hunting, decide on what you want your bar to look like and the kind of customers you want. “Then make sure it is accessible and has sufficient parking,” says Chua. After you’ve found a potential site, study the area and its demographics, your competitors and other establishments. Jivaro sits in an unlikely neighborhood, but Velasco says his feasibility study indicated it would be one of the liveliest places this year. 

Nevertheless, an incredible spot may still lead to ruin if your bar’s management or service is lousy or the rent is punitive. “The rent is going to kill you if it’s too high,” says Chua. Your bar may be packed night after night, but you’ll have to close it eventually if you’re making just enough money to pay the rent.


Deciding on your concept

Your partners and your location taken care of, decide next on exactly what kind of bar you want. Know the latest trends by reading lifestyle magazines and bar hopping. Put a finger on the kind of drinks people like to order and the music they prefer. Concentrate on a niche. “Define your image and your concept and stick to it,” says Misa. “The tendency of many people in the service business is to please everyone. However, if you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing on one.”

Your name should also embody your image. Jivaro, for example, has a tribal setup: its name was derived from a beer-loving North American tribe.

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