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Setting Up A Micro Pub

With the rise of the micro pub ever upon us, you may have noticed these pint sized properties appearing from almost nowhere.  An old cafe, disused laundrette or a shop that has since closed down are all prime examples of micro pub locations. That said, the quirkier the better when it comes to some micro pubs, it all adds to the charm.  Banks, butcher shops, doctors surgeries, book shops and record shops are all being transformed, so if you’re looking to expand your horizons and dive into the world of micro pubs then you’re in good company my friend, read on to find out how.

I have a dream

Whether owning a pub (of any size) has been a lifelong dream, or it’s a new venture you are keen to explore, there are a few questions that must be answered before you step it up a notch.

  1. Are you in it for the long haul?  If you are looking for a quick win then setting up a micro pub is not for you.  It takes blood, sweat and tears to get up and running so if this doesn’t appeal then the dream ends here.
  2. Are you prepared for the unsociable hours?  The beauty of a micro pub is just that, it’s micro, meaning you will most likely not have much need for many staff, if any at all which of course leaves the majority of things down to your good self.  People might pitch in in the early days but long term, this is your dream. From planning and installation to the day to day running, a micro pub needs constant attention in the form of deliveries, cleaning, maintenance, stock takes, accounts, banking, the list goes on.
  3. How much do you know?  In terms of running a pub, and of course the beer itself.  Micro pubs pride themselves on quality beers and ales so it’s only natural that customers would expect a knowledgeable owner.  If the brewery world is new to you then it’s a good idea to gain some first hand experience behind a bar as well as taking a pub management course, that way you are more than ready.

How much does setting up a micro pub cost?

This is where the magic starts to happen. . . .If you have sufficient financial backing.  Whether it’s a self funded investment or a cash injection in the form of a bank loan, start up loan, a grant or family and friends, you should factor in every potential cost before getting the ball rolling as things can soon escalate with little or no warning without proper planning.  So let's look into this in a little more detail below.  

Building Costs

By far, your biggest expense, and ultimately the most important decision you’ll make is where to invest your cash.  Remember, this doesn’t have to be a ready made pub, just a small space that can be converted. Things to consider are:

  • Will you rent or buy?
  • Does the property require any renovations?
  • Redecoration and new signage costs
  • Change of use permission from the council if necessary

Licence & Insurance Costs 

First things first, you need to apply for a personal licence.  This entitles you to sell alcohol as the DPS (Designated Premises Supervisor).  Having a personal licence does not limit you to a specific venue, therefore you can apply for one without having secured a premises.  Your personal licence can be obtained in a day by taking a short course and exam at the end of the day.

Secondly, you’ll need to apply for an alcohol licence for the premises.  This is applicable to any business that wishes to sell alcohol and can be obtained from your local authority.  

Finally, no business would be complete without insurance, this includes buildings and contents, public liability, and employers liability insurance.  Remember to shop around as this can vary widely.

Business Rates

These are charged on non-domestic properties such as shops, offices and pubs, think of them as the business version of council tax.  

Equipment Costs

This is an area that can escalate quickly so spreadsheets at the ready!  If there isn’t already, you will need to factor in the cost of fitting a bar, and not just the part the punters see, I’m talking the works, beer taps, lines, storage, possibly a cellar.  Then your customers need somewhere to sit and enjoy your incredible selection, so you’ll need tables, chairs, benches. A top tip is to use old barrels as tables, not only do they bring an industrial vibe to the pub, it's a huge cost saving too.  And finally, there’s the day to day equipment. You’ll need a number of bar supplies including glassware, bar mats, drip trays, shelf liners, spirit measurers and pourers if you choose to sell spirits. It’s also worth mentioning the importance of beer glasses.  As with the Gin culture, certain beers demand their own glass so it’s only fitting to have the correct glassware in stock.  A few examples are tulips glasses, stemmed beer glasses, pilsner glasses, chalice beer glasses, cin cin glasses.

Writing Your Micro Pub Business Plan

The main purpose of a business plan is to outline your objectives, strategies, forecasts and of course how you plan to achieve them. This might feel extremely daunting, especially if it’s your first one, but this is a fantastic opportunity to explore all avenues of your future business in detail.  We recommend updating your business plan as you go to keep a true reflection of events. A business plan is essential for securing finance and may also be useful when contacting local authorities and suppliers in the early days.

Choose your location and secure your premises

This is it.  This is the part where your dreams become a reality, it’s time to choose your premises.  Remember, it doesn’t have to be a ready made bar, just a funky space with lots of potential.  This creates hype, curiosity and of course publicity with people wondering how it will turn out.  Foot fall plays a large part when choosing a location. A thriving area may seem the obvious location but could result in higher rates so think outside the box here.  Always keep your budget in mind too, an old lock up may have tonnes of appeal but the renovation costs may price you out of the market. Consider the area, is there a gap in the market here, you wouldn’t open a like for like business next door to each other.  Local clientele, who do you want to attract, who already frequents the area? This will give you an idea of potential customers and how to market your new business.

Planning, modifications and advice

Once you have found your dream location it’s time to start planning.  Think about layout, modifications, space etc. Get these ideas down on paper and start contacting local businesses for quotes, this again will give you an indication into costs and whether it’s achievable.  Reputable builders should be able to give you an indication as to whether you would require planning permission but if you are unsure then it’s worth contacting the local council for advice. Never go ahead with any work without adhering to the proper guidelines or this could put a stop to your dream before you’ve had the chance to pull your first pint.  Any modifications that require planning permission must meet current building regulations, and must be signed off by the appropriate person.

Interior decor and finishing touches

The appeal of a micro pub is what sets it apart from your typical establishment.  Here, you will find a more back to basics approach no loud music, flashing fruit machines or gastro pub food, just good old fashioned conversation, shock horror!  Micro pubs are focused on serving unique, quite often local beers and ales, from independent breweries so the aim of the game when planning your interior is to create an inviting space where people can chat freely over a perfectly pulled pint.  You may opt for traditional pub look with low lighting, an industrial vibe with reclaimed furniture, or a mixture of old and new, either way it’s your pub so why not show a little personality, stand out from the crowd and dare to be different. 

To Do List

Now that you have the big things ticked off, it’s time to turn to that ever increasing to-do list, full of people to contact, things to apply for, things to chase so to make this easier for you, we have compiled a handy checklist for you to cross off as you go:

✓ Register your business with the HMRC as either a sole trader, partnership or limited company.

✓ Open a business bank account.  This can take several weeks, so it’s best to plan ahead.

✓ Register with environmental health.  This can be done up to 28 days before opening.

✓ Contact utility providers for gas, electric, water and internet if you wish to provide wifi.

✓ Complete a risk assessment for both fire and health & safety, this is a legal requirement.

✓ Become First Aid qualified.

✓ Apply for a music licence if you want to play background music or host live music.

✓ Contact suppliers to arrange the all important alcohol delivery. 

✓ Decide on a way of taking payment.  Card readers are very advanced these days, linking to almost any device you own for on the spot information.

Top Tip:

  • Keep a record and more importantly all receipts for business transactions.  These can be deducted from your profit, meaning you will pay less tax. You will need to register for VAT if your total turnover exceed £85,000 in a rolling 12 months.