How to Start a Sports Bar Business

Sports bars offer patrons options for watching their favorite sporting events, while enjoying cold drinks and hot food in a lively atmosphere.

Learn how to start your own Sports Bar Business and whether it is the right fit for you.


Start a sports bar business by following these 9 steps:

You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple step guide to starting your sports bar business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.

STEP 1: Plan your Business

A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:

  • What are the startup and ongoing costs?
  • Who is your target market?
  • How long it will take you to break even?
  • What will you name your business?

Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.

What are the costs involved in opening a sports bar business?

The start up costs for a sports bar can range anywhere from $100,000 to $1 million, depending on the size and scope of the operation. An average sports bar start up can usually be estimated around $400,000. Rental of an existing building, or construction and ownership of a new building, will affect some of your costs. Your liquor license will also add an initial fee to the total, somewhere between $15,000 and $400,000, depending on the location and local or regional laws. The build-out of your bar and kitchen, the tables and seating, electronics, and games, such as arcade style, pool, darts, etc. will also need to be purchased with the seed money.

What are the ongoing expenses for a sports bar business?

A majority of your expenses will pertain to the restocking of food and drinks. Liquor, beer, and wine restocks, along with whatever bar food you may offer, will need to be ordered weekly, if not more often. You should be able to estimate your needs, based on customer patronage, within a 6 month period of operations.

Who is the target market?

Your customer base are sports fans who enjoy having some drinks while watching their teams compete. Most customers will also gravitate to a local bar for location and familiarity.

How does a sports bar business make money?

Sports bars make money off of the food and drinks sold to customers.

How much can you charge customers?

Customers should be charged according to market prices of restaurants and bars in your region. Research the average mean pricing of your potential competition and find a fair, yet profitable price point for your food and drink.

How much profit can a sports bar business make?

Depending on the location and size of your establishment, an average bar will make $20,000-$30,000 per week. That adds up to more than $1 million per year. Much of this money will go back into the maintenance of the bar and paying your bar and wait staff, but sports bars can prove to be quite lucrative businesses, if managed correctly.

How can you make your business more profitable?

Offer clubs and organizations options for hosting their meetings at your establishment. Create special nights for sports competitions and trivia nights. Offer weekly specials to get more customers through your doors. Offer catering services, once you’re established, and continue to reach out to the local community. Becoming a staple of a community will go a long way in creating good will and keeping customers positive about your business, ensuring more customers for more sports bar visits.

What will you name your business?

Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.

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After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account (@yourcompany.com). Google's G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free

STEP 2: Form a legal entity

Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your sports bar business is sued. There are many business structures to choose from including: Corporations, LLC's, and DBA's.

You should also consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.

A cube with LLC printed on its sides

For most small businesses forming an LLC is a great option, and it's easy enough to form by yourself, or check out the top business formation services.

STEP 3: Register for taxes

You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.

In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!

A cube with LLC printed on its sides

You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.

STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card

Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

Open a business bank account

  • This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
  • It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.

Get a business credit card

  • This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
  • It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.

STEP 5: Set up business accounting

Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.

STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses

Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.

Federal Business Licensing Requirements

There are federal regulations regarding what can and cannot be added to, sold as, and processed with food. Attached is a resource from the Food and Drug Administration detailing the process of starting a food business: How to Start a Food Business

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a sports bar business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.

Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

For information about local licenses and permits:

Certificate of Occupancy

A sports bar business is generally run out of a standalone building. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO).  A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.

  • If you plan to lease a location:
    • It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
    • Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a sports bar business.
    • After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
  • If you plan to purchase or build a location:
    • You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
    • Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your sports bar business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.

Food Regulations

When selling food, you will need licensing from a local health department; all establishments serving food are required to pass a health inspection. Tips for faring well on a health inspections

Liquor Licensing

Businesses involved in the sale of alcoholic beverages are required to obtain a liquor license from the appropriate state or local agency. A comprehensive list of laws by state (including necessary licenses, zoning laws, etc), curated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, is included here.

STEP 7: Get Business Insurance

Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.

STEP 8: Define your brand

Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.

How to promote & market a sports bar business

Often, word of mouth will be your best advertising service. Keep a pulse on customer responses to your bar. Additionally, websites, social media, and print advertising are all acceptable, and frequently low cost, options for spreading the word about your business. Finally, signage for your sports bar will bring in new customers who find you on a whim or via exploration.

Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.

How to keep customers coming back

As mentioned above, customers are the lifeblood of your business and are critical to having a successful sports bar. Return customers happen when they feel comfortable and appreciated. It is critical to be consistent in quality and service to your customers. Make sure they leave each time with a positive outlook on your establishment. Offer incentives for return customers in the form of free drinks or food, discount certificates and recognition of their continued patronage.

STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence

A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.

Start A Sports Bar Business In Your State

A cube with LLC printed on its sides

Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.

Is this Business Right For You?

Successful sports bar owners must be quite knowledgeable about the restaurant and bar business. A background in either of these fields of work is highly recommended. Managerial experience and a detailed eye, regarding finances, are also positive attributes.

What happens during a typical day at a sports bar business?

Customers are the goal of any successful business, especially a restaurant. Day to day activities at a sports bar, then, focus on this aspect. Restocking the bar and kitchen are regular activities, along with maintenance of the bar, in general. Contacting distributors and ordering supplies ahead of time ensures you don’t run out of customer favorites. Cleaning and updating the establishment’s amenities, such as televisions and sound system(s), are also necessary to maintain customer patronage.

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful sports bar business?

As mentioned above, extensive knowledge of the restaurant and bar business is essential for striking out on your own. You will also need to create and maintain relationships with your distributors, as they will almost work as an outside partner in your business. Understanding and following trends in these industries is also critical, as is knowing the sports world. Your knowledge of your bar’s specialties, sports, food, and drinks, will help draw customers who share those same passions.

Finally, make yourself available to your patrons. Having more personal relationships with the people who frequent your establishment is an important aspect of your job. These customers will become more like friends and family over the years of maintaining a successful business.

What is the growth potential for a sports bar business?

With the popularity and exposure of sports constantly expanding, bars which cater to sports fans can be quite popular, as well. This also means there can and will be added competition. Your sports bar can be very successful if you have a good location, offer top quality entertainment, food, and drinks. Research your area to see which sports are most popular, if you would have enough regular customers, and what food and drinks fare best with your potential customers. The initial leg work will best prepare you for establishing a successful sports bar. Your growth potential will hinge on these numbers.

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Take the Next Step

Find a business mentor

One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.

Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.

Resources to Help Women in Business

There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:

  • Funding
  • Events
  • Guides
  • Support

If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.

What are some insider tips for jump starting a sports bar business?

Customers are your number one concern. Initially, you will be looking to attract, with retention being the long term goal. Stay aware of what customers want and don’t be afraid to ask your regulars what they like or might change. Make the bar and sports industries your business and become a student of both.

  • Offer weekly specials and incentives to get people through the door.
  • Create club or organization nights in which groups will meet up at your bar.
  • Advertise with upcoming sporting events on a bar calendar.
  • Host trivia or sports competition nights, such as pool or dart tournaments.

How and when to build a team

A sports bar will need a capable bar and wait staff from the beginning, although the size of your team can be minimal to start, depending on the size of your establishment. As your business grows, you’ll be able to continue adding capable members to your team.

Next Steps

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