VOLUME 5RBuilding a Bar In Your Rental
By Shamontiel L. Vaughn
(Jill Smiley contributed research to this post.)Photo credit: Ekaterina Bolovtsova/PexelsThe worldwide pandemic of 2020 to 2022 changed the way consumers interact in non-essential businesses. According to Fortune, more than 110K eating and drinking establishments were closed in 2020 alone, most of which never reopened.

That left homeowners and tenants scrambling for a place to unwind and boosted the number of do-it-yourself (DIY) enthusiasts. For popular retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s, Digital Commerce 360 reports that their Quarter 4 sales grew 6% and 11.5%, and e-commerce sales shot up to 9% and 18.4%.

What were consumers buying and building? A little of everything, and a significant amount were finding ways to make social isolation a little more comfortable. When tenants came up for air while working from home (voluntarily and involuntarily), they were looking at their rentals a little differently. Home became the office and the entertainment venue.

Luckily, 2022 created a “new normal” and people have headed back to the office and their favorite hangouts (if those companies survived economically). But some homebodies and hosts have found themselves growing even more comfortable with their DIY home decor, including building their own bars.

What Does It Take To Build a Bar?
Because tenants don’t always know if they will want to live in the home past the lease expiration date, buying an at-home bar will take some thoughtful consideration. Start with the location and materials.

With much of Texas and Florida having extended warmer climates, outdoor bars are often made of durable materials such as stone-masoned base and weather-resistant teak or cedar top. However, the heavier the item, the more trouble this outdoor bar will become if/when a tenant moves. A UV-resistant wicker outdoor bar may be a better (and lighter) option.

The same goes for indoor bars. While custom stonework or a copper countertop are the go-tos, the entire bar structure needs to be mobile enough to move from one place to another. Consider mobile home bars on wheels that are easy to scoot inside and outside as needed.

Photo credit: Ata Ebem/UnsplashCost Of Building a Rental Bar
A property owner can end up paying anywhere from $500 to $15K for a pre-made or custom wet or dry bar. While it’s a long-term investment for the landlord, tenants should set a budget for a lot less.

Online marketplaces and in-store furniture sections can charge as little as $79 for a patio furniture glass bar with two stools. However, the quality of the material is key. In humid and hot climates, no one wants to sit or lean on a bar that’s too uncomfortable to be near. Make sure to choose heat-resistant chairs (ex. polywood) for longer relaxation or traditional wicker or wood furniture. A few throw pillows also add to the ambiance.

Expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $600 for a patio bar set, including from popular discount retailers.

Dry Bar or Wet Bar?
Because a wet bar has plumbing, using a room with a sink (basement or kitchen) will be ideal—unless the landlord agrees to an extra plumbing job. If a wet bar is added to a room with no plumbing, the tenant should get the landlord’s permission in writing first, along with a plumber’s estimate.

Revisit the lease to see who is responsible for what when it comes to potential plumbing problems. If this wet bar plumbing job goes awry, expect the landlord to want the tenant to cover the entire bill. Also, depending on the county in Texas or Florida, construction permits may be needed.

Photo credit: Nighthawk Shoots/UnsplashFor Profit Or For Personal?
While having an in-home bar is no different than a homeowner or tenant with a wine rack or a full fridge, tenants should be aware of condo association rules. Condo declarations often state how condo boards treat for-profit businesses on private property, and the landlord will be obligated to follow these policies. If for-profit business wording is not in the lease, ask immediately.

Whether in a multi-unit or a single-family home, tenants can usually enjoy the bar add-on. However, landlords will rarely if ever approve using this home decor investment for pay. In Texas, any business that sells alcoholic beverages must have a liquor license issued from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. In Florida, Beer and Wine Consumption on Premise licenses are also mandatory. Additionally, Department of Health laws and Internal Revenue Service regulations may also apply.

The Payoff
By properly planning materials, location, plumbing and mobility needs, tenants can enjoy hosting from home. They just need to make sure that their home decor goals are in alignment with the landlord to make this a pleasant experience for everyone. Depending on how the landlord-tenant relationship goes, maybe the landlord can be the next bar guest.