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What licence do I need for a mobile bar: A definitive guide

Mobile bars have become a popular choice for event organisers looking for a unique and flexible way to serve drinks at their events. However, before launching a mobile bar business, it's vital to understand the legal requirements, particularly around licensing.

person pouring alcoholic drinks at a bar

In this guide, we'll answer the key question: "What licence do I need for a mobile bar business?"

What is a mobile bar?

A mobile bar service is essentially a portable, fully stocked bar that can be set up virtually anywhere, making it a perfect choice for most events like weddings, corporate functions, and private parties.

An important element of mobile bar hire packages is usually the inclusion of a professional mixologist to craft and serve the drinks, adding an extra touch of class and sophistication to any event.

What type of target market will I have as a mobile bar business?

As a mobile bar business, you can expect to attract a diverse range of customers who are looking to enjoy a unique and convenient drinking experience.

Your mobile bar can cater to a variety of large or smaller events and occasions, including weddings, corporate parties, festivals, and private events or gatherings.

This means that your customer base could include couples celebrating their special day, professionals looking to unwind after a long day at work, music enthusiasts enjoying the vibes at a festival, and individuals hosting their own exclusive parties:

  • The social butterfly: These are the people who love attending events and socialising with others. They are always on the lookout for new and exciting experiences, and your mobile bar could offer just that. From craft cocktails to artisanal beers, you can provide them with a wide selection of drinks to keep their taste buds satisfied.
  • The corporate client: These individuals often require bar services for corporate events, such as product launches or networking functions. They appreciate professionalism and attention to detail, so it's important to showcase your expertise in creating sophisticated and well-executed drinks.
  • The party planners: These customers are hosting their own events and are in need of a mobile bar to elevate their party experience. They are often looking for something unique and memorable, and your mobile bar can provide just that. By offering customisable drink menus and personalised service, you can cater to their specific needs and help them create an unforgettable event.

What is your brand identity?

As a mobile bar business owner, your brand identity is crucial in setting you apart from your competitors and attracting customers. Your brand identity encompasses the unique characteristics, values, and personality of your mobile bar business. It is what makes you memorable and helps customers connect with your business on a deeper level.

To establish a strong brand identity, you need to consider various key factors:

  • Think about the type of experience you want to provide to your customers. Are you aiming for a sophisticated and upscale vibe or a more casual and laid-back atmosphere? This will influence your branding elements such as logo design, colour scheme, and overall aesthetic.
  • Consider the values that drive your business. Are you passionate about using locally sourced ingredients or promoting sustainability? Incorporating these values into your brand identity can help attract like-minded customers who appreciate your commitment to social and environmental responsibility.
  • Think about the target audience you want to appeal to. Are you targeting young professionals who enjoy craft cocktails or a more diverse range of customers who appreciate a wide selection of beverages?

Understanding your target audience will help you tailor your brand identity to their preferences and interests.

Why do I need a licence for a mobile bar?

Just like a traditional brick-and-mortar establishment, a mobile cocktail bar in the UK needs a licence to sell alcohol. This requirement is mandated by law and is designed to ensure that alcohol is sold and served responsibly.

Operating a mobile bar without the necessary licences can result in hefty fines and legal repercussions.

Types of licences needed for a mobile bar

There are two main types of licences that you'll need to operate a mobile bar in the UK:

  1. Personal licence: This is required for the individual who will be supervising the sale of alcohol. To obtain this licence, you must be at least 18 years old, hold a licensing qualification, and have no criminal convictions related to the sale of alcohol.
  2. Premises licence: While a mobile bar isn't tied to the same location, it does require a premises licence. This licence is linked to the address where the alcohol is stored, and it must be obtained from the local council.

Temporary Events Notice (TEN)

In addition to the Personal and Premises Licences, you may also need a Temporary Events Notice (TEN) if you're serving alcohol at a temporary event.

A TEN allows you to serve alcohol at a venue that doesn't hold a Premises License. It's important to understand that a TEN must be applied for at least ten working days before the event.

Understanding insurance requirements

Aside from the licensing requirements, you'll also need to ensure that your mobile bar business is adequately insured.

This includes having public liability insurance to cover any accidents or injuries that may occur during the event.

Equipment needed to start a mobile bar

Starting a mobile bar business requires some initial investment in the right equipment. At a minimum, you'll need:

  • A mobile bar unit, which could be an LED bar or a Portable Flair Station.
  • Glassware and racks for storing them.
  • Trolleys for transporting equipment.
  • Bar tools like cocktail shakers, muddlers, and strainers.
  • An extension for the LED lights of the bar.
  • A cocktail menu holder.
  • A medium-sized van for moving the bar and equipment.
  • A storage facility for the alcohol and bar equipment.

Risk assessment and certification

To operate a mobile bar business, you'll also need to conduct a thorough risk assessment to identify potential hazards and develop a plan to manage them.

You should also have a Food Hygiene Certificate, which is issued by the local authority to ensure safe hygiene standards are met. All electrical equipment should be PAT tested for safety.

Read our recent article on whether you need a food hygiene certificate for a mobile bar business for further details.

Cost of getting a mobile bar licence

The cost of obtaining a mobile bar licence can vary depending on the local council's fees. However, it's important to factor in these costs when planning your own mobile bar business budget.

Cancellation policy

Before hiring out your mobile bar, it's important to have a clear cancellation policy in place. This should outline whether deposits are refundable and the timeframe for full refunds.

How to apply for a mobile bar licence

Applying for a mobile bar licence can be a complex process, but there are services available to help you navigate the process.

For instance, companies like GlobeUs Training offer support in obtaining alcohol licences.

Final thoughts

woman holding a glass of red wine

Starting a mobile bar business can be a rewarding venture, but it's crucial to ensure that you meet all the necessary legal and licensing requirements.

By following the guidance provided in this article, you'll be well on your way to setting up a successful and legally compliant mobile bar business.

Remember, the key question isn’t just "what licence do I need for a mobile bar?" but also "how can I operate my mobile bar responsibly and successfully?"

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