How to Buy a Pub

Buying a pub can be a hugely nerve-racking experience with many aspects to cover before you get your name above the door.

The first step is to decide whether it is in fact the life for you. Owning a pub can be a life long dream but can be held with little idea as to what is actually involved. Consider aspects of running a pub such as the hours you wish to work, accommodation you need, whether to run a restaurant, what type of pub you wish to run and what training you may need.

It is important to research, plan and adapt your business strategy. Decide how you want to own the business and consider the following options:-

i) Taking a tenancy for a number of years tied to a brewery but this business will not be your own; or

ii) Taking a lease for a longer period of time which will allow you to keep more control and you benefit from your work; or finally

iii) Purchasing the freehold where every aspect of the business is yours outright.

Regardless of which option you choose, all businesses need supply chains to succeed and you must consider the costs of purchasing stock, products and equipment including leasing of any third party items. It may well be that you will want to continue with the existing suppliers but also consider the opportunities available with new suppliers and the benefits of signing up to new agreements.

Licensing is an important aspect of any public house business purchase. It is important that you transfer any premises licence into your name or someone of your choosing. A premises supervisor will be responsible for ensuring that the conditions of the premises licence are complied with at all times. The premises licence will determine what, when, and how you will be able to carry out activities in the business, varying from service of alcohol and food through to opening hours and even entertainment allowed in your pub. You should consider if the existing premises licence fits with your strategy and whether any applications need to be made to vary the licence such as extending opening hours.

Once a decision has been made, should you have opted for the lease option, ensure that you check your obligations under this lease before your commit to any purchase. This includes the repair of the property, service charges and conditions attached to any break clauses. Consider instructing a surveyor to complete a structural survey as this will highlight the areas that may need repair work and will give you a good idea of the current state of the property. If the property is in poor condition then you will need to look at whether the lease contains any obligations on you relating to its repair.

You should discuss the matter with your financial advisers and instruct a specialist solicitor at the earliest possible stage to ensure that you receive the best possible advice. As a solicitor’s firm we would say this but the rules and regulations governing licensable properties can be difficult and problematic. With leases spanning over a number of years, the danger of missing something which raises its ugly head years down the line can be too much of a risk.

And finally, enjoy it. Enjoy trading and shaping your business into something you can be proud of.

Our Commercial Property team regularly assist first time and existing publicans, having and continuing to advise all parties included breweries and landlords. For advice contact Smith Partnership on 01332 225225 or email