How (not) to open your own bar

04 October 2022

How not to
It’s a dream shared by many: opening an independent bar that reflects your personality, captures customer hearts, and wins you global fame. Sounds easy? We asked Johan Evers, co-founder of A Bar Called Gemma – the multi-award-winning venue with space for 36 in a chi-chi Stockholm backstreet – if it’s really that simple.
Don't... wait for something perfect

Sometimes you think about that perfect place, the perfect venue, and that doesn't exist. And you think about the perfect timing and it doesn't exist either. Follow your gut and just do it, honestly.

Talk outside the industry

Early on go through your idea. Many times. Talk to your friends, talk to your family, not necessarily industry people, and go over it. Friends are really good because they always like to hang out at bars but they are not related to the industry. They can always come up with very interesting thoughts from how their own industry is working, whether it's design or if it's banking, they can always come up with really good angles from their perspective.

Test on your friends

Before we opened, we invited no industry people whatsoever, only family and friends, and we tried cocktails for their palate. Because at the end of the day, if you open up a successful business, 90+ percent of your guests are going to be regulars. Normal people, not industry. Industry is like 5 percent.
Why would you create something for the industry rather than create something for the world or the people? So, that's why we did the trial and tests on…regular people.

Leave last, arrive first (and like doing it)

Working in a bar is fun. Working as a bar manager or head bartender, is also fun. But if you want to open something yourself, to create and start your own business to your lifestyle, you need to like the lifestyle of essentially always working, because that's how it is.  You will always be leaving last and coming first, because you need to make sure that, for example, your staff is feeling good. I don't bartend as much now because there's just so many other things I have to do.

Know every corner of the bar…

One of the things we did was to be on point with every single thing that we did. We constructed every single centimetre. I know exactly everything here. Obviously we needed different types of expertise when it came to electricity or water and stuff like that. But every time someone was here, I was always here, every single minute because I wanted to understand exactly everything about my venue. If something happens now I'm really proud because there's nothing in this room that I don't know how to fix, how to sort. I know everything.

…and your business

It's really important to understand all the steps [of running a business ] because that not only challenges me as a person, it also has a meaning for me. You want to know the finance because then you can become a better businessman, you know. You run a business, right? It's very important to know all of the steps

Plan to grow, from the beginning

Always have a plan to expand. Always. I always think bigger because that challenges me, and I need that as a human being. I need the challenges because it drives me. We opened up now in Stockholm in Sweden and we love it. We can't see ourselves in any other city in the Nordics. We love it here, but it's about finding the next city where we want to be.



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