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moving to C America to buy a bar and live cheap - advice?

I'm dropping everything to move to central america or the caribbean, buy or open a bar/cafe, and leave behind the stress of corporate life. I'm leaning towards Costa Rica because it seems like that's where most of the bars/cafes for sale seem to be located. Does anybody have a better suggestion? Advice? Anybody who's done it before want to share their story? thanks!
P.S. if anybody has a lead for a decent small-ish bar/cafe for sale, let me know!!!

Hola Seabass,

Welcome to Expat.com!

First, the obvious, I would recommend that you spend some time here before committing to buying anything.  You will find that just about any bar will be for sale for the right price.  That applies to most anything here.  And, as has been stated numerous times, it's always easy to buy and very difficult sell.

If you did purchase a business here, technically/legally you would not be allowed to work in it until you have your permanent residency.  That will take years to obtain.  You can own a business but are required to have Costa Ricans perform the work.  At the same time I have never heard of this actually being enforced.

- Expat Dave

Have you not wondered 'why' this is where the most bar & cafes are listed for sale...?

Visit the country first...then decide.

"...and live cheap."  What is your definition of living cheap?

- Expat Dave

WHOAAA >>check it out first. I have owned a bar and restaurant in USA and yes the same thing applies 85% FAIL.. ANYWHERE in ANY Country. even tho rents here are cheaper Choosing a CHEAP area anywhere including CR  will bring in the CHEAP crowd and mostly the dangerous crowd for thieves etc..Are you prepared to deal with the lonely Drunks?   
And even Thinking if moving to the Caribbean Coast makes my skin crawl..CRIME is rampant there , although kept under the rug to avoid scaring away tourists or potential buyers.
If you can get one of my favorite HYSTERICAL Books called "Don't stop the Carnival"  by of all writers Herman Woulk (who wrote Mutiny ) on the Balcony() One of the funniest books ever about 2 New Yorkers who buy a B&B and bar in an Island "Paradise" and the calamity it causes ..Recommended to all with a good sense of humor, After reading that I doubt if you would buy a bar in any "Paradise"..LOL Has anyone out there read that book..Maybe you can find a used copy inline as i think it is out  of print now, I recommend this book to anyone who loves a good belly laugh in every chapter!

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What do you consider "living cheap"? I live on $1500 a month but don't have much extra for fun or luxuries. Luckily I am fine with a "frugal" lifestyle and do have some irons in the fire for income in the future.

Meanwhile I eat what I want, that's my biggest monthly 'luxury" expense because I don't pay rent. I don't want or need a.c., and have a small house.

I have an OLD car, don't drive a lot... but the car is the 2nd biggest expense what with a very stringent yearly test required (RTV)  and repairs enforced, car insurance (you're only required to have the minimum but if it's your only car and you need it, I'd advise getting private insurance as I do), and then gas and normal maintenance and repairs on it. IF you can live in an area where you won't need a car much, you can live much more frugally without it. Wish I could live without mine!

Someone else in this forum said they pay $500 a month for electricity! I pay $20, so obviously it depends on how one lives. See what I'm saying?

How do you want to live?
Will you have a luxury home with a pool and a.c.? Will you drive a 2017 gas hog all over the country? Will you insist on eating imported American food like Jiffy Peanut butter, almonds, packaged cereal, the best meat and fish? If so you won't live very cheaply here...

Eating out a a "real restaurant" is almost as expensive here as average restaurants in the states. You can eat cheaper at the local "sodas" but it's not fine dining. Pizza is more expensive here than in the US, as is fast food. In general it's about the same price to live here as in the states except for buying real estate and building which are cheaper here for "equal" properties.

Do your DUE DILIGENCE re the business! Will you be given all the licenses and permissions you need or will you have to apply for them? Get a good attorney or expert on those matters and make sure you know what you need to do business! Look at the books and make sure they're not fudged. Ask other businesses around town what they think about it. See if you can find out the real story on why they're selling it? I always wonder: Why would someone sell a successful business? If it's successful then maybe it's just too damn much work or hassle! If it's not, then, okay... maybe you can make it successful...? Or not...

I always like to encourage people to live their dream and certainly people Do buy businesses here and make a success of them. So it's possible! Go for it!

On the other hand it's kinda fraught with problems and businesses often fail just like they do in the states.

Also you'll want to LIVE in the area of your business FIRST for months, before deciding to buy it and live near there. Costa Rica is not for everyone. "You're not in Kansas any more!"

Advice as to an area?
Look for an area that is increasing in tourism that isn't already over-loaded with bars and cafes. NOT Arenal. Not Manuel Antonio, etc. Look for an up and coming area that needs what you want to offer. Location location location!

And what about Security? Has it been robbed? is it likely to be robbed? Ask other business owners about security and robberies/burglaries.

can i work for you then i drop every thing here in south a

Hola Burtie!

I'm not sure you understand since you keep asking the same question on various posts.  You cannot legally work in Costa Rica.  You cannot legally obtain a job here.  Sorry.

- Expat Dave

A Tico friend of our opened a new sports bar that he built in his little subdivision last Easter. He has managed several bars and restaurants over the years, an decided that he had space to put one at the front of his property. It is a well designed and not a 'typical' CR bar.
He has hired and fired all of his staff, including his brother-in-law  as he says they 'stole money' from him and now only his wife is permitted to work there, when he has to run to the bank, run errands. Hence, he is working 18-20 hours a day  :sleep and making less than expected.

For someone not fluent in Spanish dealing with government paperwork, health officials, municipal workers and who is not  'legal to perform physical' work here, this is a bad spot to be in, as the immigration police will keep checking in to see if you have under aged clients or have hired undocumented workers.

kohlerias :

A Tico friend of our opened a new sports bar that he built in his little subdivision last Easter. He has managed several bars and restaurants over the years, an decided that he had space to put one at the front of his property. It is a well designed and not a 'typical' CR bar.
He has hired and fired all of his staff, including his brother-in-law  as he says they 'stole money' from him and now only his wife is permitted to work there, when he has to run to the bank, run errands. Hence, he is working 18-20 hours a day  :sleep and making less than expected.

For someone not fluent in Spanish dealing with government paperwork, health officials, municipal workers and who is not  'legal to perform physical' work here, this is a bad spot to be in, as the immigration police will keep checking in to see if you have under aged clients or have hired undocumented workers.

I think a lot of wanna-be-expats, (not referring to your friend here), have that fantasy of opening a bar on the beach, the warm air blowing through, hammocks hung in the trees and the palm trees softly blowing with the wind above them.  They see themselves just kicked back serving drinks to all the warm & fuzzy customers who are happily enjoying their vacations.  Then a few months after opening their dream bar, the realities of what you stated come in to play.

Just looked up a couple statistics: 60-90 percent of new bars openings, fail within the first year.  That is a whole lot of money down the drain.  Add "Costa Rica headaches" to these statistics and it's probably closer to 98%.   :sosad:

You'd definitely want to spend some serious time here before even considering opening a bar.

- Expat Dave

Just thought I would add that this week, there are three, yes 3 days that are legal holidays that require payment  and the Labor Laws of Costa Rica which is important to anyone considering having employees or/and when starting a business

Hi,
I jhave a successful bar restaurant that has been open for 10 years in Costa Rica,we are located in the carribean side,I was going to sell but I have decided that what with the growth in the area I would rather have a partner to share tjhe work load,the advantage for you is that you get the benifit of a very well known and successful bar Restaurant without having to start from scratch.
If you are interested in further discussion let me know.
Jack

To own a bar the first thing you´ll need is a licor license. A few years back it was easier to buy it from a previous owner although expensive than getting  one from the government; I heard now is getting easier to go to the government for one. You will need health permits, need to hire at least one tico employee, need to set the bathrooms and entrances to accommodate disabled patrons,  need to deal with providers, need to get at least one credit card reader, need, need. Not easy. If you are still set to open one, have you decided where? The beach towns come to mind, but they are full of bars, many closing after the first tourist season´s over, rent is expensive if you want location. I suggest to open a bar for locals in a town, not necessarily on the beach; patrons stay all year round. I have visited several town bars and most look like a "hole": ugly and uncomfortable...nevertheless  stay full on weekends and patrons look like a decent crowd with nice cars, well dressed, etc.. Beer prices on these "holes" go from $2  on up. I guess they make up on food and snacks. I wish most of these bars did look and feel better. Beware, do not partner with any tico; and if you do, have him-them-her go in with an investment equals to yours, otherwise  they´ll leave you hanging with the debt at any time. They do not give a crap and to go complaining to the police is a waste of time. Believe me, I speak from experience.

as an ex owner of a nice popular restaurant in Hollywood Ca, NO one "makes anything up on food  Liquor and beer are the real profits ...so I can only assume it is because the rent is dirt cheap in those "Holes" in order to stay alive 85% to 95% of all restaurants FAIL known statistics..so I was one of the lucky ones BUT talk about slavery ..fun but a labour of love!

pebs :

as an ex owner of a nice popular restaurant in Hollywood Ca, NO one "makes anything up on food  Liquor and beer are the real profits ...so I can only assume it is because the rent is dirt cheap in those "Holes" in order to stay alive 85% to 95% of all restaurants FAIL known statistics..so I was one of the lucky ones BUT talk about slavery ..fun but a labour of love!

There's a lot of good advice here. What Pebs said is true. It is HAAARRRD work, long hours and you have to be willing to think on your feet when "unexpected" issues arise.

That being said, if it is something "you" truly desire, then go for it.  Maybe as you begin to put things together you will find your bliss--which may lead you in a completely different direction.BUT--If your desire is to "run away from something", rest assured whatever it is will find you   :whistle:
Where ever we go, we bring ourselves along.

Whatever you decide, I wish you the best. Takes a lot of courage to live ones' dreams

ThinkingItOver :

... if it is something "you" truly desire, then go for it.  Maybe as you begin to put things together you will find your bliss--which may lead you in a completely different direction.BUT--If your desire is to "run away from something", rest assured whatever it is will find you   :whistle:
Where ever we go, we bring ourselves along.

Whatever you decide, I wish you the best. Takes a lot of courage to live ones' dreams

Warning:   :offtopic:   :o
OOOOh so true.  It seems that many people move here thinking that they are escaping something in their home country only to find that maybe the issue is within them.  (Yes, I recognize that this in no way applies to everyone.  🌝 )

The other side of that coin is you move to your new country and find ways to help make yourself happy by accepting the changes that you need to make in yourself.

_ Expat Dave

Mauro and the best way to get a liquor license is to learn how to spell LIQUOR   LOL ...just kidding... from the infamous typo queen :)
BUT very TRUE about taking on a Tico partner ..although some of my best friends....etc.

It isn't misspelled, it missed the quotation marks "licor" because I wrote in Spanish, LOL . I learned the hard way to keep ticos as "friends" rather than partners.

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