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How to Set Up a Bar in Greece

There are two main ways a prospective investor can set up in business. These are either by setting up in business himself or by buying an already established business. When it comes to the bar business, a third way to trade is also available. This is through a hybrid arrangement which effectively consists of buying the business but renting the premises in which the business trades from the seller of the business.


Whatever the way of setting up in business, the prospective investor should be advised as to all alternative possibilities and their respective advantages and disadvantages, in order to make an informed decision. Legal advice must be sought at an early stage of the venture to avoid any complications which may arise in the future.

For the purposes of this article (setting up a bar in Greece) we are discussing the position as to start ups, however it should be noted that acquisitions of businesses are increasingly gaining popularity among investors wishing to set up a business in Greece and penetrate a particular industry sector.

Investment considerations:
Bars are businesses. As any person wishing to start a new business, a prospective bar owner has to go through a number of considerations. These can be divided into three main areas of review: businesses, financial and legal which are usually undertaken by a number of advisors who are experts in their respective fields. Certainly the level of any advice given has to be proportionate to the investment itself.

Broadly speaking the three main areas of assessment when starting a new business are:
-A business assessment, ascertaining matters such as the current market trends and the viability of the investment and details of the business plan and prospects. This will usually be carried out by the business advisors of the investor, or by the investor itself.

-A financial assessment covering matters such as assessing the achievability of the investments’ financial projections and ascertaining whether further financing will be required, usually undertaken by accountants, who should produce a report outlining the results of their investigations, and

-A legal assessment which will cover matters such as the way in which the business is to be run, any licensing which may be required for carrying on the business, property issues, employment issues, contracts with suppliers etc.
The legal team working on the project, apart from the legal assessment, also acts as the co-ordinator between the other service providers who are engaged on the project. Depending on the business involved a number of other services provides may be engaged by means of an engagement letter. In what follows the main elements of the legal assessment is explained.

Legal assessment
A legal assessment involves mainly advising the prospective investor as to his options and the way his objectives could be achieved. The main issues to be considered are:
- Choice of business structure
- Property purchase or lease
- Licensing requirements
- Employment

Choice of business structure
The first and most important consideration which may have the most significant impact on the business, is how the business is going to be run. That is to say, what will be the medium under which the business will be carried out.
In Greece there are currently six options a prospective investor has, and these in order of simplicity are:
- Sole trader
- General Partnership
- Limited Partnership
- Limited Liability Company
- Company limited by shares
- Brach office of an EU company
Briefly choice of business structure revolves around issues such as the size of the business, the personal liability for the business’ debts the owner is willing to assume, taxation, the number of investors and capital requirements. For more information about business structures you could read our article on doing business in Greece which amongst other things covers the main points to consider in relation to each structure.

Property issues
Once a prospective investor has decided on the most appropriate business structure, the next step is to establish where he will be trading from. A property can either be bought or leased to this effect. Considerable caution must be exercised when selecting the property where the business will be conducted from as there are certain requirements which have to be met depending on the type of the business.
If such issues are not considered before buying or renting a property, it may have an adverse effect on the application later. When choosing a property to run a bar from, it is highly advisable that an independent civil engineer is engaged to provide a written opinion as to the suitability of the property for the purpose of setting up a bar. Ideally, it will be the civil engineer who will be drawing any blue prints during the process of the application. (see below)
Although it could become a condition of the purchase and/or lease contract for the licence to be obtained before completion, this might not always be the case as this depends highly on the relative bargaining powers of the seller and the buyer.

The very common tied leases which exist in the UK are still unknown in Greece and this is not an option at the moment.
Licensing requirements
When choice of business structure is made and the property is obtained, the investor has to understand the process involved in obtaining any relevant permissions to start its business.
Setting up a bar is a particular type of business for which specific permissions will be needed. In Greece bars, just like restaurants are governed by the health and safety regulations of Greece and any such places have to comply with such laws.

During the licensing process the investor’s lawyers typically engage a civil engineer and an electrical engineer. These professionals could also be approached by the prospective bar owner himself. The electrical engineer will have to examine the property in which the bar is to be run from and to opine as to its suitability. At the end of his survey, he will have to provide a statutory declaration to that effect, which will be subsequently attached to the application. The civil engineer creates the blue prints of the internal areas of the bar which have to be submitted with the application.
Once these documents are obtained, an application is filed with the relevant city hall. If the bar is to be run by a partnership or a company the application must be made in the name of the legal entity and all relevant corporate governance procedures must be met. In practice, a preliminary enquiry should be made with the relevant town hall to enquire whether any such licences are available before commencing the process.

When filing the application, typically, the following documents have to be attached:
-Legal title to the property or a lease agreement
-Blue-prints of the bar and the relevant planning permission, duly authenticated by the planning authority
-Blue-prints of the areas of the bar in a number of photocopies
-Certificate of the fire brigade
-Statutory declaration of a qualified electrical engineer
-Two or three photographs
-A photocopy of the health insurance booklet
-Statutory declaration, where the applicant will declare that he has not been convicted for an offence of those laid down in s.1(2) of decree no. 180/79
-Certificate issued by Revenue and Customs, certifying commencement of a trade
-A certified copy of the applicant’s ID

If the business is to be run by a legal entity (i.e. company or partnership) the following will also be required:
- A copy of the articles of association (or partnership agreement)
- Minutes specifying who will be the person in charge of compliance with the Health and Safety regulations, as well as the members of the legal entity that will be working in the bar
- In case of a partnership, details of all the partners (including criminal record checks, copies of health insurance booklet, copies of passports)
- In case of companies limited by shares or limited liability companies details of all the shareholders and directors (as above)
If the prospective investor is a foreign citizen, a residence permit will be required. This is the case even if the bar is run by a company to which it will be a director.

Depending on the competent town hall, the documents may vary. Therefore it is always advisable to enquire with the relevant authority before obtaining any documentation, or in fact doing any actions.
Furthermore, depending on the specific type of bar the prospective investor wishes to open, a number of additional documentation may be required. (i.e. for an open air bar a certificate from the planning authority may be required and certain other arrangements have to be made in relation to the building itself)
Once the application is filed a provisional licence is normally granted within a month from the date the application was filed. When the provisional licence is obtained the investor will have to declare that to the relevant tax authority and obtain a tax number (AFM). The provisional licence will also specify some further documents to be submitted. Any such documents must be submitted within 50 days from the date the provisional application was issued. Once all the documents are filed, and provided the application is accepted, the licence should be granted within 15 days.
If the prospective bar owner wishes to play music in the bar, an application to that effect should also be filed. Permissions could also be obtained for terraces and live music.

Employment laws
A prospective bar owner has to become aware of the main employment laws that are in force at the time. Procedures have to be put in place in order to ensure compliance with any regulatory requirements such as the PAYE scheme, national insurance contributions, funds etc. Of course any applicable laws depend on the medium which runs the business, the number of workforce employed and a variety of other issues which have to be independently assessed.

This information is intended as a general overview of the subject dealt with. This information is not intended to be, and should not be used as, a substitute for taking legal advice in any specific situation. The author is not responsible for any actions taken or not taken on the basis of this information.


Dionysios Pantazis, Greek Attorney and Solicitor of England and Wales. Practicing at Pantazis & Associates law firm in Athens. www.pantazis-law.com