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How to find the right location for a pop-up bar or restaurant

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Bistrotheque's pop-up restaurant at Westfield Stratford City
Bistrotheque's pop-up restaurant at Westfield Stratford City
Julia Lucas, partner and head of the leisure team at national law firm TLT, guides one reader through the finer points involved in finding the location for and operating a pop-up bar or restaurant.

Problem:

My business partners and I are looking into opening a pop up bar next summer. We are hoping to find a location which is quite unusual, such as a car park or a railway bridge arch, and our aim is to provide a space in which we can profile local artists' work. We want to have a temporary space which will leave a legacy (i.e. promotion of the artists' work), but we want the premises to be licensed to serve alcohol. Where do we go to find the right premises for a short period of time and where we can change the use to A4?

Solution:

Pop-up bars and restaurants are a great revenue-generating idea but their success relies heavily on their location. There are three areas you should think about:

Find the right location:

Once you've identified the ideal geographic area for your pop-up bar:

  • Make a short list of precise locations you think are most suitable and find out who owns the land you are interested in. You can do this via the Land Registry website for a nominal fee. Make contact with the owner directly to discuss your proposal;
  • Consider making contact with the local authority for the area you are most interested in as they may own or know of suitable space for you to rent. You mentioned that you are particularly interested in unusual spaces such as a railway bridge arch so you may wish to contact Network Rail to determine if they own suitable space which they are willing to lease to you.
  • Appoint a commercial property agent to make enquiries on your behalf. There are a huge number of very good commercial property agencies in London and across the UK but you will want to choose one local to your preferred geographic area as they are likely to know the nuances, and key property owners, for that particular property market.

Get planning permission:

If the bar and event space is to be set up on open land, rather than within the boundary of a building, that land can be used for up to 28 days in any calendar year without planning permission for a change of use. If you need the space for longer than 28 days then you will need planning permission, which is most likely to be granted on a temporary basis.

Where planning permission is needed, you will need to apply to the planning department of the local authority where the land is situated. Planning officers will provide pre-application advice about whether there is need for permission and the likelihood of success. Applications typically take eight weeks to determine.

Licensing:

To sell alcohol or have any form of regulated entertainment, for example live music, a premises licence would be needed under the Licensing Act 2003. A premises licence can be set for a defined period of time, for example the summer or the duration of the event. You will need to have someone who can authorise the sale of alcohol from the pop up bar, known as a Designated Premises Supervisor and this individual will need a personal licence. The Designated Premises Supervisor is the person with day-to-day responsibility for running the bar and they will be named on the premises licence, which must be displayed in the pop-up bar.

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