When opening up a new venue, lease negotiations are crucial. Many future problems and costs can be avoided if you give the proposed lease contract a thorough analysis. We asked Dan Pope, co-founder of Voodoo Ray’s pizza restaurants and Dalston Superstore in London to give us some useful tips on the way.

1. Licenses and restrictions

− This varies from country to country, but in the UK it is important to look through the premises licence in detail in case there are any restrictions. For example, I have come across licenses that require the sale of cooked food with every alcohol purchase. Or ones that restrict dancing completely, which might be a problem even if you don’t plan to open a club… Councils can sometimes be pretty tricky!

Mr Pope
His Holiness.

2. Planning regulations

− In the UK you also have to deal with planning regulations. A bar needs A4 planning, whereas a shop uses A1. If you plan to convert a former shop into a bar you need to apply to the council for a change of use from A1 to A4, which requires dealing with pretty significant bureaucracy including council hearings and public consultations. This can take many months and needs to be done in addition to obtaining a new premises licence, which is an equally arduous process.

3. Neighbours

− It is also critical to bear neighbours in mind. I would always try to avoid venues in quiet areas with immediate neighbours. Even if you spend a fortune on sound proofing the venue, you still need to take into account the impact of people leaving, gathering on the street. We give people lollipops when they leave, as this makes them talk less loudly!

We give people lollipops when they leave, as this makes them talk less loudly!

4. The time frame

− In terms of time frames to open new sites, the actual contract negotiation takes at least 6-8 weeks. Planning and licensing (if required) take another 2-3 months, assuming everything goes smoothly. The actual building work varies of course greatly depending on the work being done − our projects have varied between 6-16 weeks.


Want to hear more from this wise man? Of course you do. Check out our first interview with Dan Pope here, where he shares his best business hacks – happy reading!