Opening a Bar? Sip Back and Read Our 5 Key Legal Tips.

  • 18 May 2024
  • Studio Legal

Written by Lucy Diggle, Alyce Evans and Principal, Jennifer Tutty.

1. Negotiate a Really Good Lease For Your Premise

Signing a lease is one of the most important parts of running a bar.

Make sure you get legal advice before signing your lease and don’t be afraid to negotiate better terms. For example, try to negotiate a rent-free period, so you don’t pay rent while preparing the space for launch.

Ideally the lease is conditional upon firstly obtaining the following:

– A transfer of the liquor licence for the premises;

– Obtaining the necessary planning permissions required to operate your bar at the premises;

– Council approving any works you wish to do at the premises before moving in; and

– The landlord completing necessary works or maintenance before you take it over.

2. Get to Know The Hospitality Award and Make Sure You Comply

Before hiring staff, its important you understand your obligations under the Fair Work Act and the Hospitality Industry (General) Award, which stipulates minimum pay rates and conditions of employment.

It’s important to also understand whether employees are hired as permanent or casuals, and what classification levels they fall into. You can always call Fair Work to help classify the level of a particular employee (make sure you have a copy of their proposed job description and resume when you make the call).

Directors can be held personally liable for some mistakes, so make sure to carefully read the fine print.

3. Do Your Trade Mark Due Diligence

Before you begin trading under your new bar name, we recommend undertaking a ‘brand check’. The purpose of this checks is to ensure someone else hasn’t already registered the name of your bar as a trade mark, in the same or similar classes.

Also, make sure you haven’t chosen a name that’s descriptive of your business or contains a geographical reference. For example, applying for a registered trade mark for ‘The French Wine Bar’ or ‘Windsor Wine’ is unlikely to be accepted.  

4. Get All Of Your Licences And Permits Before Launch

Key licences and permits you will require include:

– A liquor licence: An on-premises liquor licence will authorise the supply of liquor for consumption at your bar. If you wish to serve alcohol after 1am, a late night (on-premises) licence will be required.

– A food permit:  If you intend to serve food at the premises, you will need a food permit in place from your local council.

– Outside dining permit: This allows people to dine and eat outside your bar. We note that you might have to consider opening without this initially, as obtaining these permits can take some time.

– A licence to play music: Having permission to play music at your bar is a legal requirement under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth), as playing copyrighted music in a business setting constitutes a public performance.

5. Make Sure You Have An Agreement In Place With Your Business Partners

If you have set up a company or a unit trust for your business and there are multiple business partners involved, a Shareholders Agreement or Unitholders Agreement will ensure the smooth control and governance of your company.  

It’s best to get this locked in at the start, while everyone is excited to work together.

These agreements should include the following key clauses:

– When profits will be distributed;

– Responsibilities of each business partner;

– How decisions should be made; and

– What happens if someone wants to leave the business.

Written by Lucy Diggle, Alyce Evans and Principal, Jennifer Tutty.

Published 3 April 2023. 

Photo by Adam Jaime on Unsplash.

Further Information:

If you’re looking for legal assistance in this area, please contact us through our online form or via email at


The information in this article is of a general nature. It does not constitute formal legal advice, and should not be relied on as such. Please see the full disclaimer in our website terms. Please contact Studio Legal if you are seeking advice about a specific legal matter.