Running your own bar at your event – a few tips to help you

Simple outside bar setupWe understand that some people want to run their own bar. Maybe they have friends or family who want to be the barman for the day or know someone from their local pub keen to help. Whether you need a bar for a garden party or a wedding bar, there are many things to organise!

All our equipment is available to hire with or without staff, so if a trestle table at the back of your venue won’t cut it, why not hire one of our mobile bars? Add one of our draught dispense setups if you have your own bar.

Here’s a list of things to consider if you’re thinking of running your own bar and some tips to help you plan your party or wedding, so it runs smoothly. The list is by no means exhaustive but will help you on your way to making sure everything has been covered.

If you still have questions, please feel free to email us; we’d be happy to give you some advice or clarification on any of the points below.


  • Is the bar going to be inside or outside?
  • If outside, do you have or need cover in case it rains?
  • Do you need an electricity supply to the bar, and can you safely route a cable to it?
  • Is there a water supply / washing-up facility close by?
  • Have you allowed a space to keep stock secure?
  • Do you have somewhere to store ice?
  • How will you chill your drinks and keep them cold?


  • How many people will be attending? Will there be mainly drinking adults, or will many be children or driving?
  • Will you have a few specific drinks available, or will you push the boat out and have an extensive range?
  • Can you get your bar stock on ‘sale or return’?
  • Are you going to use disposable glasses or hire glassware?
  • Have you ordered lemons, limes and garnishes for drinks? Drinking straws?
  • Ice – Do not underestimate how much ice you will need! Not only for serving drinks but also for chilling drinks.
  • Check out our other post, “How much drink do I need for my wedding or party?”

Free bar or cash bar

  • Will you be charging guests for their drinks or supplying them for free?
  • Does the premises have a licence that will cover the licensable activities? Do you need to apply for a TEN?
  • Are you charging for drinks? Do your guests know they will need cash? (you’re unlikely to have a card reader, and you’d be surprised how many people expect to be able to pay with their card/phone/watch!)
  • Do you have plenty of change? Experience tells us that most people turn up with notes and leave with a pocket full of change – make sure you have plenty of coins!!


  • bar hire in Surrey How will you build your bar setup? Trestle tables? Hire a mobile bar?
  • How will you keep your drinks chilled? Fridges? Ice?
  • Do you have ice buckets, bottle openers, chopping boards, spirits measures etc.?
  • Where will you store your ice? Freezer? Insulated crates?

During the event

  • Do you have enough people helping? We suggest a minimum of 2 people serving for anything over 40 guests, increasing to 3 when you get close to 100 guests.
  • Do you have a runner? Someone, to clear away glasses, restock the bar, clear away rubbish?

End of the event

  • Do you have enough people to help you clear everything away?
  • Do you need to have somewhere secure to store any excess stock?
  • Does someone need to be sober enough to drive?!
  • If your event is at a village hall or similar, whose job is to ensure the venue is left as you found it, locked up, and keys handed back?


Here are a few tips and tricks

  • Allow plenty of time for your drinks to chill. A fridge will take at least 3 or 4 hours to get bottles down to temperature. Remember, it will also take this time to chill down any new stock you put in during the session!
  • Ice baths provide the quickest and most efficient way to chill bottles. In under an hour, you’ll be ready to serve. Using water in the ice bath is also essential, as ice alone does not have the same effect. Always make sure plenty of ice is visible in your chilling buckets/baths, and you’ll know your temperature is about right. Ideally, you want the ice and water to be at least up to the base of the neck of the bottle.
  • If your stock is on sale or return, do not open more cases than you need. Opened cases will not be able to be returned after the event.
  • Bear in mind that if using the ice bath method, many beer/wine labels will come off if soaked for too long.
  • Choose the best quality drinks you can afford. Do you really want to serve a premium gin with Tesco Value tonic water?
  • Remember, you are responsible for your guests. Choose the strengths of alcohol wisely! Do you really want your mate Dave to be drinking wine at your wedding breakfast and then carry on throughout the evening drinking the 9% cider you thought would be nice to have at the bar? This will likely end up in Dave making an arse of himself, possibly falling into your wedding cake or being sick on Great Aunt Edna’s lap.
  • Not everyone will be drinking alcohol. Make sure you have a good selection of soft drinks for non-drinkers and kids. Have a good supply of water to hand.
  • Do not underestimate how much ice you will use! If you’re also going to be using ice for chilling drinks, allow half a bag per guest. It may sound overkill, but 50 two kilo packs for 100 guests should be allowed for an event lasting a few hours.
  • Keep things tidy. Design your work area to be as efficient as possible. Recycling bins, rubbish bins and dirty glass storage should all be out of site but easily accessible. Keep your bar top clean and wipe down any spillages immediately.