Australian aficionados of Seinfeld might have missed the opening of George’s Bar in Melbourne – a bar inspired by the character of George Costanza. Of course, if fans did miss it, the international media did not. Its opening made news all around the world.  A character inspired bar raises particular questions for any would-be proprietor. Not only ‘How can I set up my bar?’ but also ‘Will the character inspiration affect the process?’ If you are considering setting up a character inspired bar, this article details the process of setting up a bar and the effect that a character inspiration could have.

Setting up a Bar

Setting up any bar is a lengthy process. A prospective proprietor needs to follow the sequence of preparatory steps. They must decide on a business structure, acquire adequate finance and locate appropriate premises. They then need to submit various applications. These include an application to the relevant Liquor Authority for a Liquor Licence and development approval with the local council. These applications involve a lot of paperwork and need to be factored into the planning process.

If you require a more detailed discussion of how to set up a bar in each of Australia’s capital cities, the LegalVision website has published articles such as setting up a small bar in Sydney, providing specific guidance for prospective proprietors, available for free.

What is the Effect of a Character Inspiration?

If you are thinking of opening a themed bar, you need to know that while the character theme does not change the setting up process, it may make it more complicated. As a business owner, you should also consider the implications of copyright in opening up a themed inspired bar.

The reason for this is that the theme could make it harder to obtain development approval from the relevant local council. Without that approval, you will not get a Liquor Licence. And without a Liquor Licence, you cannot open your bar.

Of course, it is not impossible to open a character themed bar. George’s Bar testifies to this. Nonetheless, it does mean that you are going to have to think very carefully in the planning process about your bar and about where you will locate your bar so that you can maximise the likelihood of gaining development approval and a Liquor Licence in the shortest amount of time possible.

Obtaining Approval and a Liquor Licence

When anyone applies to a council for development consent or for a Liquor Licence to open a bar, they need to provide sufficient details of their proposal so that the council can evaluate:

  • The bar itself; and
  • How well your bar will fit in with the local neighbourhood.

Certainly, every prospective proprietor must consider these questions when preparing their application. However, you must pay extra attention to them because it is a character inspired bar. That fact adds another level of complexity to the planning process.

You will need to prove that your bar fulfils all regulatory controls and requirements for bars. You must also show that your bar will not become a burden to, and blight on, the local neighbourhood because it resembles or could become a kind of garish theme park. And while that language may seem exaggerated, remember that residential areas doubtless surround your intended premises. The residents have the right to object to your plans. To avoid protracted disputes with your new neighbours and preserve local goodwill for your bar, it is in your interest to consider their needs when you plan your bar.

Also, when you apply for a Liquor Licence, you will likely be required to provide a Community Impact Statement with your application. Which means you have to consider the local community if you hope to get a Liquor Licence. That is a double incentive for you to think both of your needs and the community’s needs when you plan your bar.

Take George’s Bar. The proprietors Dave ad Tina Barrett chose to locate it in trendy Fitzroy. Further, while the inspiration for the bar is George Costanza, the bar is themed “light”. So apart from pretzels on the bar, a few quotes, some signed portraits and character paste-ups, it is a regular bar in Melbourne. The Barretts also asked local artists to paint murals inside and outside of the bar. All of which points to careful planning and a willingness to consider the bigger picture. Dave Barrett put it best: ‘It’s not a theme-park ride – it’s a bar in Fitzroy ’.

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If you are considering a character inspired bar, it is a good idea to speak with a lawyer experienced in planning issues. Questions? Contact LegalVision’s business lawyers on 1300 544 755 to assist you.

Carole Hemingway

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