Running a pub is a pipe dream for many. But have you got what it takes to get a business like this off the ground?

Ted Mosby, fictional spokesperson for a generation, describes "we should buy a bar" as being one of the "ill-advised five word sentences every man eventually says in his life". Being a pub landlord is certainly a great deal more hard work than a lot of people realise—but it also comes with a massive potential for fulfilment and reward. If this is a pipe dream you'd like to see come true, there are a few things you're going to need.

  1. How to keep the books in order. Alright, so maybe there is something in this list about the money--but at least it'll be over and done with early on! The thing is, it costs a lot more to run a pub than many people imagine--and it's easy to forget about the business aspects when you're daydreaming about the idyllic landlord lifestyle. It's actually a very demanding and technical job, and being a small business owner has a lot of pitfalls. If you'd love to make your dream a reality but you're worried about the business side, it's worth looking into brushing up your skills with an entry-level diploma. The Australian Institute of Management has a comprehensive database of available courses.  
  2. Great people skills. Pub landlords are in contact with people all day, every day. Some days you'll be in the bar from when you open at eleven to when you close at midnight, and everyone who sees you will expect you to be as warm and welcoming as you were ten hours earlier. If you're a people person this can be immensely rewarding, but it's worth bearing it in mind while trying to figure out if owning a pub is right for you. There are things you can do to get around this if you're worried about it, though; have you considered going into business alongside a friend or relative who is better equipped to deal with front-of-house than you are?  
  3. A thick skin. Most of those people will ultimately be on your side, and pubs are often really integral parts of the communities they serve. Eventually, though, you're going to meet customers who treat you poorly. You'll need to be able to handle that without letting your emotions flare up too much: it's fine to chuck them out, obviously, but if you let them get to you too much first you're going to have some long, hard nights. The good news about this is that it actually develops over time--the longer you run a pub the better you'll be at it.  
  4. Not one but two licenses - at least. Everyone knows that a pub landlord needs a license--but in truth you're going to need more than one. Your personal license is what allows you to run a pub from a licenced premises; you're also going to need a premises license to cover the pub itself, and in many areas you'll also need licenses to serve food, play music or screen sports matches. If you're interested in having live entertainment in the house you'll usually need another license for that, too. If you're concerned about getting it wrong, look into a partnership with a specific brewery; many have resources in place to help new landlords with confusion about this.  
  5. Some links to the local community. The greatest joy of a real pub is that it's linked intrinsically to the community it's in. Good pubs are practically community centres; they're places for people to meet each other and get to know each other, places where friendships are forged and group bonds are solidified. If you're just starting out as a pub landlord, it's important that you begin to make links with the local community: are there groups who meet nearby who might be amenable to having their meetings on your premises? Can you reach out to local sports clubs and find out if they'd like to watch games together in your pub, or hang out there after their own matches?