How to open and run a bar in Spain

  ***The following is a tongue in cheek story, based on many, many, many true stories***

 It appears to be the British dream. Give up a well paid job in the UK, fly over to Spain, plough all of your children’s inheritance into a bar, run it for a year, then retire off the earnings. They call it a dream for a reason, you know.
Choose your location well. In practice, this often means either buying a previous bar after the owner “retires” (often leaving a mountain of debt that causes local businessmen to visit you with large sticks in the middle of the night), taking out an exorbitant rent on a new property and spending the rest of your cash “doing it up” (you and two mates start to paint it, but get distracted by the recently delivered drinks – cue the hasty moving of furniture on the opening night to cover up the missed bits) or, in rare cases, opening up in your garage or front room. This often leads to suspicious authorities coming along and causes unnecessary problems. If in doubt, talk loudly and slowly in English to them while offering the policeman 10€ and a beer. That should do the trick!
Getting the licenses
Well, we’re in Spain. Don’t need that, do you? Besides, some chap in the bar last night said not to worry, you open up then ask for the operating license, because otherwise it takes months before you can open. That’s how the locals do it you know!
Those first few steps
Need publicity? Well, let’s start by having a huge party and buy everybody drinks and food! You have to spend money to make money! And look, first night, and my bar is full to bursting of lots of lovely people who are all telling me what a wonderful bar I have!
Funny how you never see any of them again….
Getting the licenses (part 2)
Now, that is just not on. A couple of rozzers in funny tricorn hats came along last night and demanded to see my license! Not a bloody clue what they were on about, can you believe neither of them spoke English? Just after a bribe, I reckon. Poured them a John Smiths and they just looked at me blankly. Old Fred in the corner, he’d had a couple, but he’s been here 20 years and speaks a bit of the lingo, reckons they just wanted to throw their weight around. Bastards.
Hang on, it’s those berks from last night! And they’ve brought a friend, Mr Policía Local.
And a large padlock and some official looking notices to hang on the door? What, they still haven’t brought someone who speaks English? Bastards. Wouldn’t do this if I were a local!
Getting the licenses (part 3)
Well, thank heavens for that lovely lawyer man down the playa. Even spoke English. Rang up the town hall, chop quick, you get Mr Englishman paperwork. Hello, what’s this, his bill? Bastard. Wouldn’t charge me that much if I were a local. Can I get the key to the padlock now?
Starting afresh
You know what we need? Food. Thank god the wife can butter a sandwich. Pickled eggs, lovely. Curries from that supermarket down the road, frozen, you just heat them up and sell em for loadsa dough! Not spending money on catering equipment, just send the wife down to Super Turre to buy a load of knives and boards and stuff. We’re in Spain, right?
Hello, who’s this? An “Inspector de Sanidad”? What’s that, then? What, a health inspector? Already? I only opened two days ago! Bastards, they wouldn’t do this if I were a local. What do you mean, separate and different coloured cutting boards for meat, veg & fish? Who the hell ever got sick eating a bit of raw chicken? What do you mean, different fridges for baked goods and cheeses and raw meat? What do you mean, hair nets and long trousers? It’s too hot to wear a hat in here! Cleaning products? Well, I’ve got some bleach somewhere – what do you mean, proper sanitary cleaning items? I mop it daily! Well, yes, I use the same mop for all floors but… hey, you’re writing a lot on the official looking form… ah well, that lawyer down the playa should be able to deal with it.
Bringing them in
What we need, I said to the missus last night, is a proper big brightly coloured neon board outside saying “ME PUB – SKY TV BINGO QUIZ BANGERS & MASH 4.5€”. That’ll get the punters in. To make it look proper Spanish I’ll stick one of those indally men on it. Bit of John Smiths, fish ‘n’ chips, no need to spend money on menus just write it out longhand on a black board because then they think it’ll be fresh daily! Bar Fred down the road, he does Bingo, so I’m going to do it same time so as to nick his customers. Hope it doesn’t mix with the footie!
Now here’s an idea – let’s offer the food really cheaply. €3.5 for an English breakfast. Yes, I know it costs me more than that to buy it and cook it, but I make it up on the drinks!
Let’s make this place look more like an English place. Beer mats. John Smiths and Tetleys. One of those risqué peanut boards with a naked girl under the packet of peanuts. Hilarious! Keep it smoking of course, everybody smokes in Spain, dunno what the rules are about smoking in bars so I’ll let you do it.
Bringing in the locals
How come we never get Spaniards in here? They just peer in and move on with a shudder. Bastards. Wouldn’t do that if I were a local. Bet they don’t even know what a pickled pigs knuckle is.
Just got a load of plastic tables and chairs off a beer rep! Lovely. I’m going to put them out on the pavement where people have to walk around them. That’ll get their attention!
Hello, it’s Mr Policía Local again. What? Public nuisance? Can’t put them there? Need to get a permit to use the pavement? Never heard of such a thing. What? Got to pay a tax? Bastards. Wouldn’t do that, etc, etc. It’s that swine from Bar Fred who tipped them off, I reckon. Just because I do Bingo same time as him, so we have to split the customers instead of doing it on alternate days.
Hiring of staff
Well, no point getting a flat chested bird I muttered to the wife after she blew up about Betsy the new waitress. Get the punters in, I said. She’ll wear a bikini top if she gets to keep the tips! Classy. Not when tots are about, family place this.
I can do the accounting, no problem there. Right, income versus outgoings. Hmm… slight problem there. How do you pay taxes in this country? Ah, stuff it, not making enough to pay taxes.
The winter
Bloody quiet round here. Where’s all the tourists? Pound’s down again, it’s that bloody Gordon Brown messing things up again. Them Spanish don’t help matters by insisting I pay tax and insurance and social security and then fining you because you don’t. Bastards. Wouldn’t do that, etc, etc.
The reckoning
Scenario A) Yep, great little place this. Humming all year round! Why is it closed? Well, it’s me leg you see. Can’t keep it going. Yup, British dream you now! Hard work, lick of paint, place will hum. Yes, cash is fine. Don’t bother bringing it out to Spain, send it to my UK account, no tax to pay that way! 
Scenario B) Well, that’s it then. Into the car and off we go. No forwarding address. The debtors can have the furniture I left, that’ll see them right.

18 Replies to “How to open and run a bar in Spain”

  1. There are rules in this country for opening a bar, and those rules are for locals and foreigners, believe or not.

    Locals don’t visit your bar? It may be because you don’t speak spanish, how a local is suposed to order their drinks or food?
    Do i have to take english classes to buy you? i’ll go to a spanish speaking bar.

    If you were in London and a spanish opens a bar but don’t speak english, would you take spanish classes to order your drinks? or would you go to the nearest english speaking bar? Do you understand what i mean? If you want to make business in a foreign country you have to follow the local rules and understand the local language.

  2. Paco, buddy, “tongue in cheek” means I’m being funny. In this case, laughing at the Brits who come and open bars without knowing what they’re doing.

  3. To admin, sorry, as my mother language is spanish, my english is not perfect and didn’t know that expression.

  4. all i want to know is what is the youngest you can be to work behind the bar in spain

  5. Topic of your article is very interesting, i have bookmarked your blog

  6. Tongue in cheek or not, you are a grown man who writes like a spoiled teenager. My tongue in cheek comment. You sound like a dumb, bucktooth brit. Buen dia…

  7. This was excellant to read. Me and my gf were thinking about opening a bar in Spain, Im fluent in Spanish but the gf isn’t. There are lots of pros and cons to weigh up. It would be a fantastic lifestyle if it was to work. But you have made me think even harder about what I am doing. Even though I have considered it for 18 months already. Blooy don’t know what to do. But thanks so much for this post. Very true, amusing and gives a lot to think about. Regards and good luck in the future.

  8. Absolutely hilarious! Thanks for a well-written and funny post that really captures the issues well. Cheers!

  9. What a funny story!

    Friends of mine opened a bar in Spain (Costa Del Sol) end of 2008, and by May 2009 it was temporarily closed by the local Police (and a 5,000 euro fine to boot) as they were unaware that they had to soundproof their bar!

    Conveniently the previous owner had neglected to mention it, and the lawyer hadn’t mentioned it either when sold, the consequence of that apart from the 5,000 euro fine and immediate closure until work done was around 3 months loss of trade, and obviously 3 months of money wasted on rent of the bar etc etc!!!

    The moral of the story, is CHECK, CHECK and CHECK again that all is in place, i.e. Disabled Toilet access, Wiring Certificates, Licence for background music, Soundproofing Certificate, Bar Licence (issued at purchase), and obviously NO DEBTS on business before purchase!!!!!!!!!

    Never part with money either without checking out who you are giving it to, FIND your own lawyer from recommendations of other bar owners!

  10. i feel you’ve never run a bar in spain, never become part of the community or considered the laws in a country you’ve never lived in

    just taken a lot of other peoples opinions and written them up as your own


  11. ^ 🙂
    God, comments like this make it worth getting out of bed in the morning for.

  12. Try to seal food and drinks in airtight containers, and take your pet’s food away when not being eaten, as this will also attract insects and rats and mice. London was at his peak after he published White Flag and Sea Wolf. The plans were latter abandoned following agitations from Equity, the Musicians’ Union and theatre owners under the Save London Theatres Campaign.

  13. I do agree with all the ideas you’ve presented in your post. They are really convincing and can definitely work. Still, the posts are too short for beginners. Could you please extend them a little from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.

  14. There is a business in fuengirola named bar in the sun. take a look walk inside and ask ask ask before anything else. Heard good critics about them. Excuse my english I am dutch

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