Thinking of opening a bar in Spain? – Comaskey Properties


Well It’s not all plain sailing!!

Our favourite opportunity right now is the famous bar, Murphy’s in Torrevieja, but before you make us an offer we can’t refuse, please take a quick read of this post.

Living the dream, new friends, socialising, celebrations, sports on the TV, entertainment in the Spanish Sun- owning a bar in Spain is just fun, fun, fun, isn’t it!!  These are some things that might come to mind when thinking about owning your own bar in Torrevieja. You think about rooms filled with friendly chat, live music and people enjoying themselves, you included.

If you’re thinking of moving to Spain, one option many of our customers consider is opening a bar. The Comaskey family opened Paddy’s Point Irish bar in La Zenia back in 1998 and we have some thoughts on the subject. Owning a bar, working hours that suit you, having the “craic” with your customers- it all sounds like the perfect life to many potential ex pats in Spain, but it’s not always fun and games.

Owning your own bar even on the Costa Blanca can mean long hours, late nights, meticulous attention to detail and getting used to working while others are having fun.

If, however like Bernie and Pamela Comaskey back in 1998 you have a clear vision, do your homework, learn the nuts and bolts of the business, this can also translate into a fun, rewarding and financially successful business.

We have seen both types of bar owner here in La Zenia- the ones who do it well, very well like Alex in Alejandro’s and we’ve also seen the other side. We’ve seen bar owners who like socialising too much while behind the bar, clients who buy the wrong bar in the wrong place, because it came at the right price- clients who are just not cut out for the bar business. It’s tougher than you think.

Comaskey have sold quite a few bars recently such as the Bod Road in Cabo Roig. We are currently marketing Murphy’s bar in Torrevieja, but like every commercial sale, we feel we must tell our clients exactly how difficult this game can be.

The Statistics:

Although people still gather to socialize in bars, especially in Spain there are changes in the industry too. Clients now expect Sky Sports and GAA in HD quality.

In Spain, clients like to drink outside (this is a help with smoking laws but shows the importance of a terrace).  However, problems with driving in Spain while intoxicated have changed the drinking patterns of tourists. You need to bring your bar to them rather than the other way around. Murphy’s has a great location in the centre of Torrevieja as did The Bog Road in Cabo Roig. The growing concern with health toward the end of the 20th century took its toll on the booze industry back in Ireland yet when people are on holiday in Spain they tend to let their hair down and stay for that one extra beer.

You have some pretty tough competition out there especially in Torrevieja. We find when a bar is struggling, they drop the prices- a desperate last bid to get the clients in when the problem is in reality, how they run their operation. Some clients resent paying 3,00 euro for a Guinness when they can get it for 2,00 in some crummy bar elsewhere in town.  You’re not just competing with the other bars in the area these days, you’re competing with every entertainment option … tapas bars, beach bars and foam parties. Our advice is concentrate on your niche and nail it!

What You Can Expect in Spain:

We have a tax consultant Alex Sanchez in Spanish Solutions who will guide you through the figures before you even open the door. Well run new bars can be in the black numbers within 6 months or less- this is a cash business with no debtors- you get paid before you even pay the brewery. Bar owners who know their stuff go on to recover their initial investment within three to five years.

Why are we not all opening bars in Spain then? Truth is, like any new business, the statistics for bars aren’t in favour of the new start-up. Why do bars fail? The main reason is they didn’t have enough capital to keep the business going- “What do you mean I need to pay for my satellite TV in advance” The second reason is a lack of knowledge about the business- the exact reason why they are asking questions like that in the first place.

From my perspective, the question I ask potential bat owners is whether you’re really the type of person who wants to own and run a bar. Are you ready for this? Of course, you don’t have to run it if you own it, many investors put really qualified managers in place- but you need to know the basics. Eamon the owner of Murphy’s has very trusted staff running his business already and they are interested in remaining there.

You’d better make sure you have a team of good, honest, friendly people working for you if you plan to be “hands off.” You do not necessarily need a Spanish speaker- you’ll have Comaskey on the other end of the line, but still, it’s a help.

Whether you have a manager or not- You will need to be out there at night talking to people and shaking their hands. Getting to know your patrons, even if it’s just to say “Hola,” can go a long way for your customer service. Customers remember this just as they will remover the time you walk past the table without saying hello. That’s pressure- can you deal with it?

Another thing you must consider is the time commitment and hours of operation. Bars here open from 10am to 2am typically but you can set your own hours of course. If you are an early riser, with kids waking you up at 6am, like in my house, you might not enjoy having to work until 3 or 4 a.m. at the bar. If you have a family, especially a young one, you need to discuss how owning a bar will affect them. You will still have weekends and there is so much to do in Spain, yet the kids still want to see Mum and Dad too!

There will be days during the summer, your peak times, where you will have to be at your bar from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep – maybe 14 or 16 hours later. Naturally this could take its toll on your family life. Eventually, you’ll probably be able to have a more normal schedule, once the kids go back to school in September and once your managers and staff are well-trained. This situation may take six months to a year to reach. We need to say this: If long hours could cause problems for you and your family, you may decide to reconsider the notion of owning a bar in Spain.

If we haven’t scared you away yet (sorry to the sellers of all bars on the Costa Blanca – I’ve just cost you a buyer!!!!) and you’re ready to go for the idea of living the Spanish dream, please read on!

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What’s Your Bar Type?

Before you get started on the actual ins and outs of creating your dream Spanish bar, you must decide what kind of establishment you’d like to run and own. Murphy’s is a live music venue, restaurant, sports bar and an international bar. Yes, it’s an Irish bar but the Scandinavians, Spaniards, British of course all love our hospitality too. The Irish I can say modestly create the best bar atmosphere in the world.

You can look into everything from a gay bar to a family friendly bar – you decide but my feeling is with Murphy’s in Torrevieja- if it isn’t broke don’t fix it.

Perhaps I’d look at developing the food side of things- that’s why we feel a husband and wife team is perfect- one runs the bar while the other runs the kitchen.

What about Karaoke, Sports bar that shows NFL, at the same time as the cricket from Lords. The O’Neill’s and other chains in the states do this- every single game, regardless of how few people want to watch it.

Maybe cocktails are your thing… The tourists in Spain looove cocktails!

In Spain now microbrews are more and more popular. In a typical brewpub, you can brew your own beer right there on the premises. I think Amstel are pushing this concept bar to potential franchisees here- I’ve seen them on Madrid at least. In a beer bar, you can offer a large selection of different types of beer, including microbrews produced elsewhere, while still selling the local Spanish brew.

Whichever path you take on the bar in Spain route, you must be prepared to spend time and money on promotion to create your “buzz.”

Face book ads, a pool league, golf society – all help drag the customers in, your job then is to keep them coming back for more!


Target Market:

Too many bars try to be all things to all people here in Spain. The owners can’t decide who their client is. For me personally it’s a golfing family, with disposable income living within a few hundred meters of the Park of Nations. (that’s where Murphy’s in located). You might have your own ideas but our advice again… don’t reinvent the wheel!


Finding Your Perfect Location:
People who know this industry well in Spain have polar opinions on the concept of location. For me this is a key, for others, not.  Some owners and experts put enormous importance on the bar’s location while others refuted its significance almost completely- build it and they will come attitude. It depends on what you want your bar to be (busy hopefully) and what your strengths are as an owner. If you can promote it and get people in for open Mic night, or Karaoke night, or poker night, or ladies night great. One of the strengths of Murphy’s is the location- clients can’t help but walk past the door saving you money on advertising and promotion.  If you want your bar to get impulsive walk by traffic in Torrevieja, then you should be closest, and most obvious, to them.

If you’d rather spend less time and money on the premises and spend that on promo instead, then we will look at a slightly lesser location for you. Personally, this is an easy decision. What’s the expression again… Location, Location, something? Anyway, also consider parking, accessibility to customers, outside terrace… even the history of the site- has it worked previously and if not, why not. (Murphy’s, has been a big success for over a decade for a reason!).


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Naming Your Bar:

Paddy’s Point although it didn’t mean anything, became a house hold name on the Costa Blanca, so too the Bog Road and Café Med. Less likely to survive were Bobs English bar, Tony’s Tavern etc- If you are going for a wine bar, cigar bar or singles bar then that needs to be reflected in the name.  Murphy’s name is fine, we associate it with a steady Irish pub, but feel free to change the name- just nothing with Leprechauns please!!



We could write for hours on the bar business in Spain.

As I’ve grown up in the industry since working in my grandparent’s bar in Drumcree, Westmeath in Ireland, I’ve been around the business for 30 years or more.

To summarise here:

  • Murphy’s is a solid investment- we would not market it if we didn’t think it could work.
  • It’s been profitable for many years and when well-run will continue to be so.
  • It’s a freehold unit, making your investment more secure.
  • If you don’t understand the bar business, don’t do it! This is not the place to learn the business.
  • Get your legals and taxes sorted out. We recommend Spanish solutions for this.
  • Get your budgets sorted- talk to Spanish Solutions.
  • The owners are not desperate to sell and we have many clients looking to lease. If we get close to the asking price (The Bog Road this month went for over the asking price) then we will listen to serious offers.
  • Please don’t go directly to the staff in the bar asking them questions of turnover etc- that’s our job here at Comaskey.

If you’d like more information on Murphy’s bar and the general area just let us know. We are especially keen to help those of you looking to relocate to Spain from abroad- there is an exciting life to be lived here!!!

We can’t wait to help you to discover it.

Ian Comaskey

[email protected]



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