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Pop-up cocktail bar - ideas, etc


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#1 Hassouni

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 12:37 PM

So, I'm toying with the idea of setting up a pop-up cocktail bar along the lines of what Danny Bowien did with Mission Chinese in SF - find a small restaurant with an underutilised liquor license (I can think of a few of them in DC - places that have a few crusty bottles of spirits that are rarely ever made into drinks and served), and essentially take over their bar. I'd provide my own supplies, offer the establishment a cut of the profits, and offer the restaurant's food - the idea is that it'll increase visitors to the resto, boost their food sales, and, because I wouldn't be paying much in overhead, allow me to sell good drinks at under the average price.

 

As for what I'd offer, I'd probably take my inspiration from the 12 Bottle Bar site and just keep things simple - classic or modern drinks that can be made with a limited number of ingredients, maybe rotate the drinks week to week or day to day, and/or have demand-driven prices (there's a bar in DC that already does that for beer).

 

Additionally, I'm not sure how I'd structure it legally - it would operate under the existing license of the host establishment, and I guess sales sold under that license would have to be credited to the licensee? Anyone have any insight on this?

 

Re: everything else, does this sound like something that would work? What are some other things to consider, be they legal, practical, or whatever else?

 

 

 



#2 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 12:47 PM

Hassouni,

 

My first thought is that this sounds like a ton of fun; I really wish I could join you as a guest or behind the bar!

 

Have you ever bartended outside of your home bar?



#3 Hassouni

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 12:52 PM

Other than bringing some stuff to friends' places and shaking up a bit there, no, I haven't.

 

I was thinking of maybe just seeing about doing it only on weekends, until it because seriously profitable, and also maybe doing just a trial run of a night or two at a place without obligation to continue (though if it goes well, of course, i'd ask them to consider continuing the relationship)



#4 Lisa Shock

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 01:59 PM

You need to look into your local area's laws about managing/working in a bar. Here in AZ, managers (which is what I guess you'd be during the project) have to be certified by the state:  take a class, have a background check, and get fingerprinted. A bar owner would be insane to let someone run their place without the certification; the penalty if an owner is caught include large sums of cash, jail time, and, losing the right to ever own or work in a licensed establishment in AZ ever again.

 

You'll probably also need a food handler's card.

 

You're going to need to develop a relationship with an owner. I think what they would want is an assurance that it will make money, and, that you won't require any extra work on the part of the owner or staff. They are not going to want to do anything much extra just to indulge your dream.

 

Also, they will definitely want to retain control of cash handling, so, you'll have to work out how to direct the customers to pay. But, then, if they pay with a credit card, you need to get your cut from those receipts. Whoever does the books is going to have be able to work out your split easily.



#5 IndyRob

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 04:54 PM

I like the idea of filling a void in this way, but it sounds like a legal nightmare. 

 

The biggest issue I imagine (and I must stress that I Am Not A Lawyer) will be liability.  When that guy breaks up with his GF and storms out in a huff and crashes his Lambo into a schoolyard, his lawyer is going to be looking for someone to blame.  Preferably, someone with deep pockets - which probably means your benefactor.

 

That's why it can be really hard to use someone's commercial kitchen to bake bread for the County Fair, much less slinging Mai Tais on premises.

 

The local community might also be an issue.  Often, a liquor license is granted based on some limitations demanded by the local residents.  I've seen this in drugstores that just want to expand a bit of shelf space for expanded adult beverage offerings.  The most recent case is Dollar General (of all things) offering beer and wine.  Lot's of accusations of broken promises there in the zoning hearings.

 

So I'm saying that if the liquor license seems underutilized, there might be a reason for that.


Edited by IndyRob, 09 July 2013 - 04:59 PM.


#6 lesliec

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 06:49 PM

Legal considerations aside, this could be either a lot of fun or a lot of work, and quite possibly both.

 

But to concentrate on the fun side, have you thought about a theme for the enterprise?  Maybe just serve drinks containing gin.  Or only gin drinks one night, rum drinks the next, and so on.  Mojito Mondays, Tiki Tuesdays, Whiskey Wednesdays (or has all this been done already?).

 

I'm having great fun just now making a lot of my own ingredients - orgeat, falernum, allspice dram, vermouth, amari.  I'm not sure what your inclinations or capabilities are in that line, but 'I made all the additives' could be another point of difference for you.

 

Good luck - I hope it comes together for you.


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#7 heidih

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 08:10 PM

This topic about manager Chris Amirault's experiences as a novice bartender might give you some great insight: http://forums.egulle...behind-the-bar/



#8 Hassouni

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 08:47 PM

I like the idea of filling a void in this way, but it sounds like a legal nightmare. 

 

The biggest issue I imagine (and I must stress that I Am Not A Lawyer) will be liability.  When that guy breaks up with his GF and storms out in a huff and crashes his Lambo into a schoolyard, his lawyer is going to be looking for someone to blame.  Preferably, someone with deep pockets - which probably means your benefactor.

 

That's why it can be really hard to use someone's commercial kitchen to bake bread for the County Fair, much less slinging Mai Tais on premises.

 

The local community might also be an issue.  Often, a liquor license is granted based on some limitations demanded by the local residents.  I've seen this in drugstores that just want to expand a bit of shelf space for expanded adult beverage offerings.  The most recent case is Dollar General (of all things) offering beer and wine.  Lot's of accusations of broken promises there in the zoning hearings.

 

So I'm saying that if the liquor license seems underutilized, there might be a reason for that.

 

The sort of liquor license I mean is not one for sale of bottles of booze, but for the sale of drinks. In other words, I'd look for a restaurant that was not making much of its liquor license, or something along those lines. There's a specific place I have in mind - not that I'll necessarily set up shop there, but it's what set off my idea - it's a Salvadoran restaurant, serves great food, reasonably priced, and has a pretty solid customer base. They have a liquor license - they serve beer, margaritas, and whatever else, but mostly people just have beer, horchata, or other aguas frescas.  They have a few bottles of tequila, bacardi, and whatever else, but I hardly ever see anyone having a mixed drink. This is what I mean by an underutilised license.

 

Legal considerations aside, this could be either a lot of fun or a lot of work, and quite possibly both.

 

But to concentrate on the fun side, have you thought about a theme for the enterprise?  Maybe just serve drinks containing gin.  Or only gin drinks one night, rum drinks the next, and so on.  Mojito Mondays, Tiki Tuesdays, Whiskey Wednesdays (or has all this been done already?).

 

I'm having great fun just now making a lot of my own ingredients - orgeat, falernum, allspice dram, vermouth, amari.  I'm not sure what your inclinations or capabilities are in that line, but 'I made all the additives' could be another point of difference for you.

 

Good luck - I hope it comes together for you.

 

Yeah, I've thought of the rotating themes - one night whisky, one night gin, one night rum, one night tiki, etc. To my knowledge in DC such a thing hasn't be done.

 

This topic about manager Chris Amirault's experiences as a novice bartender might give you some great insight: http://forums.egulle...behind-the-bar/

 

Thanks, will check it out