Owning a Small Town Bar – Struggles and Opportunities

bar_owner-160x160Many people imagine owning a bar is a sure way to have money pouring in while they have fun. It is a misconception that once you have the money to set up and you manage to set up, then people will start pouring in to quench their thirst, after all alcohol is man’s companion in misery and celebration and there are many of those.

The reality of owning a small town bar is far from what you would imagine. Getting it set up and opening the doors is only the beginning of your struggle. According to statistics, over 70 percent of bars will close down in their first year because of the challenges. Identifying some of these challenges as well as the opportunities and preparing for them, can, however, help you sail through those struggles and succeed.

Some of the struggles

– Getting people to come in: Many times, bar owners will open their doors for business, but that still does not encourage people to come in. your competitor around the corner or down the road, who has been in the business for longer may still have people going there. Small towns tend to have people who get used to routine, they want to go where they have gone for years ad may not be ready to try somewhere new. It may take a lot of promotions to get clients

– Mixing business and friendship: In small towns everyone knows everyone so even if you have just moved in, you are bound to make friends and these friends will come to your bar. At first it may seem great, but later on because they are your friends, they may expect to be given preferential treatment, like free drinks or drinking on credit, this becomes a real struggle because you will be serving drinks and not getting paid yet it is also hard to be firm as you fear it may chase them away and spoil your reputation.

– People get drunk: That is exactly what people do in bars and usually that is what you are hoping for, that your customers will drink a lot of alcohol and get drunk and stagger off living you richer, but that is not what happens all the time. Drunk people come with all kinds of problems, there are those who get into fights and cause disruption and destruction in your bar, others will get drunk and try to run off without paying or forget they have not cleared their bill, and you find another throwing up all over your floor and someone needs to clean that up. There is so much trouble associated with drunk people, it could be an article on its own.

– Managing workers: It is never easy finding the right people to help you run a small town bar, it is not like there are hundreds of qualified people to choose from so you need to put up with a lot when you manage to get a reasonable team. But some may have poor hospitality skills, others may join the party and get drunk on duty, others are dishonest and may steal from you or your customers and firing such people means you have to go through the task of finding a replacement.

– Small towns have small populations: having a small population means you may not have so many potential customers especially if there are many other bars competing for clients. It also means you need to work twice as hard to make more money from the few customers you get.

But it is not all gloom and doom for the small-town bar owner, there are opportunities you can exploit to see to it that you succeed.


Promotions: There are a lot of opportunities to have promotions in your bar. Promotions ranging from happy hour, right up to different themed celebrations. It could be national holidays, mother’s day or father’s discounts, and much more, it all depends on how creative you can get and how well you know the traditions of the people you are targeting.

Venue hires: Many people would find the local bar a great venue for parties like birthdays, company anniversaries as well as meetings. Providing venue hire or even just letting them use the venue free as long as they spend some money there, is a great opportunity to make some extra money for the bar.

Playing cupid: Small town bars can serve as a local cupid, helping single people get partners. Singles nights can attract a lot of customers.

With a lot of determination and hard work you eventually succeed and actually have fun running you bar.

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