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Running Your Own Bar

Running a bar is a dream for many foreigners looking to escape the rat race and live in the sun on a Greek Island. Whilst the initial process may involve lots of Grecian red tape, it is as much a possibility as setting up a bar at home, except that your Greek Island bar will have the benefits of a warm climate, a laid back lifestyle and lower costs. Follow our step by step guide to learn how your dream of a Greek Island bar can become a reality.


{adsense,pub-5404003111881339,1928311682,336,280}Choosing a Location

You need to invest a lot of time into choosing the right location for your bar. Obviously areas with high tourist traffic are ideal, but you also need to consider what happens in winter and how long the tourist season on a particular island lasts. There is also the option of catering for expats all year round, but again you need to check out expat numbers and concentrations to find the best location. Once you have settled on an island and an area you need to scour the market to see what is on offer and whether it fits with your budget. Don’t pour all of your money into buying the place as you need to keep some back to cover the cost of the purchase and the licences you will need. Also, before you sign on the dotted line, you need to check out the feasibility of obtaining a licence.

Business Licenses

It is best to consult with the municipality’s Mayor’s office about the possibility of opening a bar before you rent or buy a property because the number of licences is restricted to a set number each year and if they have all been taken you will have to go on a waiting list or look elsewhere. You will need the help of an English speaking Greek lawyer to help you with this process; just dropping into the mayor’s office with a Greek mate is not the formal and correct way to approach the licence issue. If you are told that you will be granted a licence then you need to prepare to get to grips with Greek bureaucracy and find have you lawyer fill out the application in Greek. You can not open until you have received the licence permit and passed the necessary health and safety checks. Failure to abide by these rules can result in prosecution and imprisonment.


Arm yourself with plenty of ID in the form of a passport and residents permit, passport sized photos, and the details or deeds of the property you intend to run as a bar. Your lawyer will need to get you an AFM tax number fist of all, which is available from the local tax office. It is best to set up as a sole trader rather than a limited company, which requires cash deposits of 60,000 Euros in a Greek bank. This is a simple process – all you have to do is have the relevant licences and a good accountant to file your taxes and registers you for VAT if you reach the relevant threshold.

Health and Safety

Hygiene and safety laws are becoming standardized across the EU and Greece is no exception. You will need to consult the health and hygiene office of the Hellenic Food Safety Authority. They will send an inspector to survey your premises and advice you on what you need to do to fulfil health and hygiene practices. This will involve everything from the number of sinks you need, down to what you can put in your fridges. If you intend to sell food or snacks then the laws are even more stringent. You will also have to keep daily records logging temperatures in the fridges and have an organised cleaning rota. Be aware that random inspections can occur at any time. To comply with safety standards you need the local fire chief and an architect to provide certificates stating that you comply with regulations like fire precautions and if you don’t you will have to make sure you do. It is worth getting the architects report done before you commit to buying or renting a property because they need to ascertain whether you comply with the laws on earthquakes as well as checking out there are no environmental hazards in the area.

Employing Staff

Your staff even if they are family members will have to undergo a series of simple medical tests each year and be issued with contracts of work. You will also have 8 days to enrol them with the IKA insurance fund as well as registering your business with the TEBE or OGA insurance funds. You will be required by law to pay your share of their national insurance contributions as well as deducting their tax and their own contributions at source. Your lawyer will be able to register you into this system.

Registering with the Tax Man

There is no avoiding the tax man and when you go to get your AFM tax number, you might as well register your business and check out the legislation involved in paying taxes. One thing you will need is an electronic cash register and you will be required to provide every customer with a till receipt for any purchases they make. The tax office makes random checks to ensure that you are operating within the law and there are severe penalties for those who don’t.

Setting up the Bar

Now that the red tape is taken care of you can get on with the nicer aspects of setting up your bar. You will need to find a local brewery to supply you with drinks and set a price list. Shop around to see what the competition is doing and don’t be afraid to get them to tell you who supplies their drinks. Find a furniture supplier, the number of tables you can have will depend on the licence you have been granted. Think as well how you will publicise yourself. It’s no good just opening and hoping passing trade walk in; during the summer season most bars in resorts have staff to hand out fliers and competition is fierce. Most of all do not underestimate the hard work you will have to take on. It will involve late nights and early mornings and you will be tied to your bar when those outside have the option of swimming and lazing on the beach.