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The Ultimate Commercial Bar Equipment Checklist

Whether you’re opening a restaurant with a full-service bar at which customers can sit and dine, or a limited-service bar where drinks are made and then delivered to tables, you’re going to need to put some investment into how you outfit your bar. This article serves (pun intended!) to offer a checklist of must-have items you’ll need to equip your bar for success.


There are three qualities of liquor, and all three should be kept in stock.

Cheap Liquor. Often referred to as “well liquor,” cheap liquor sits in the well within a bartender’s ease of access. This type of liquor is served when a customer doesn’t specify a particular brand, such as when ordering a gin and tonic.

Call Liquor. A notch above cheap liquor is what is known as call liquor. This is served when customers mention it by name, such as when ordering a Malibu Baybreeze or a Captain Morgan and ginger ale.

Top-of-Shelf Liquor. This is the most expensive liquor in the bar and is most often ordered by connoisseurs or those celebrating something special. Some examples of top-of-shelf liquor include Dom Perignon champagne and Johnnie Walker Blue Label.

Your bar should be stocked with standard liquors, such as vodka, gin, tequila, whiskey (bourbon, scotch, and rye), and light and dark rum, in each of these three qualities.


The type of clientele that will visit your restaurant should determine the type, quality, and amount of liquor that you keep in biggest stock. Asperitifs, wine, liqueurs, and top-shelf liquor should be your primary focus if your restaurant is a fine dining establishment. A sports bar should invest more heavily on draft, craft, and upscale beers.

It is recommended to have other types of alcohol on hand even though they may not be expected to move quickly. For these liquors, you’ll stay within your budget by purchasing in small supply, knowing that If you do run out you can always buy more.


If you’re just getting started with your bar, you might wish to rely on free promotional glasses that are gifted by distributors or beverage sales representatives. In any case, you will need to stock your bar with wine glasses, shot glasses, jiggers, Pilsner glasses, pint glasses, champagne glasses, martini glasses, highball glasses, and brandy snifters. Base the amount of each glass type on your anticipated clientele.


Any refrigerator or cooler systems that you invest in should have the Energy Star seal, indicating that they are energy-efficient systems. These systems use up to 45% less energy than other types, and by choosing them you can expect to pay less in your utility bills.

Your must-have items include a reach-in cooler, a wine cooler, and a glycol system, at a minimum. Bars that offer tap beverages will also require keg storage, beer taps, and a soda gun. If you have space and budget for a reach-in freezer, this would be a welcome convenience to your bartender and servers.


When starting out, one budget-saving option is to purchase equipment and appliances that are in used condition. Be sure to ask questions about the equipment’s history, how long it was used for, if it had ever broken down and/or been refurbished, etc. Use good judgment and you can find yourself some good deals.

Must-have items include glass racks, cocktail strainers and shakers, pour tops, garnish bins, snack bowls, a blender, a frozen drink machine (if you serve frozen beverages), an ice machine, an ice bin, a scoop, a rubber floor mat, an under-the-bar hand sink for the bartender to wash his/her hands and other items, and a well for your cheap liquor to be stored.


You’re going to need a point-of-sale (POS) system to process daily sales transactions. It is highly recommended to seek out one that has specifically designed features for restaurants and bars.

Depending on the type of establishment yours is, you may do well to purchase and install a television system. For a sports bar looking to attract a game-time crowd, this is a necessity. Fine dining establishments, on the other hand, would likely do better without the imposing background noise that television brings.

In either case, a music system is a highly recommended purchase for adding suitable background sound that matches your establishment’s atmosphere. Even sports bars make great use of music when a game is not being broadcast.


Sometimes it’s the little things that, when left to oversight, can cause a great disruption to your bar’s operation. Your must-have list of small on-hand items should include cocktail napkins, bottle openers, cutting boards, glass mats, corkscrews, paring knives, washing racks, a paper towel dispenser, cleaning rags, and a soap and sanitizer dispenser.

Because there isn’t much overhead involved in mixing drinks, and because alcohol has a long shelf life, you can likely expect increased profits with a well-stocked bar. And, with careful planning, you can use alcohol sales to help offset your margin on more expensive menu items. However, keep in mind that a well-stocked, well-equipped bar will not be profitable if you don’t take great care in choosing a competent, friendly, knowledgeable bartender for your establishment. Above all investments, your bartender should not be a short-changed one, as a good bartender is often the key to running a successful bar operation.


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