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Alcohol in the Barbers

Mike Taylor


It is a growing trend in the industry for salons and barbershops to offer a free beer, or a glass of wine or champagne with the haircut. But does this work? Can you offer this? And is it worth offering this? Here’s my thoughts:

Does it work?

To a degree, yes. From previous experience when offering a beer most clients will turn it down but either way, they tell their friends about it and it becomes a talking point amongst groups of people. I have had a lot of clients say I have been recommended here my mate said this a cool relaxed place where you can have a beer when getting a haircut. Then I offer them one and they say no. Offering a beer gives the image of a cool, relaxing barbershop and helps your business stand out from the crowd.

Can you offer this?

Technically speaking, you need an appropriate licence to be able to include alcoholic drinks as part of the service. If the supply of alcohol is linked to a sale – even if the client is not specifically being charged for the drink - then a licence is needed. So, if you’re not giving anyone who walks past the shop a free drink then, strictly speaking, the cost of the drink is included in the service and they are paying for it.

According to the Licensing Act, you must have two licenses to sell alcohol. The first is a Personal Licence – required for the person authorized to sell the alcohol; and the second is a Premises Licence – required for the premises from which you sell alcohol. Both licenses come at a cost, which varies depending on the local authority.

However, the council have come into my barbershop before because they thought I was selling alcohol as part of the service. I argued my case as I would often give a beer to my client’s friends and family who weren’t paying for a haircut. The man from the council went on to suggest that if someone came in off the street and requested a beer then I wouldn’t give him one. I said I would but it’s unlikely someone would walk into my barbershop and ask for a free beer. After all, Barclays offer me a free coffee when I have an appointment, but no-one walks into a bank off the street and asks for a cuppa. The long and short of the story is that having beer in my barbershop wasn’t important enough to me to argue my case with the local authority. I knew it would be a drawn-out process that I was likely to lose so I stopped having it. 

Is it worth offering this?

Personally, I think it is definitely worth it! Being able to give a beer to clients (and their friends) helps the barbershop become a social hub where clients can relax whilst they get their haircut. But the most important thing is that it’s done right. Invest in a beer sub with little glasses so they can have a small glass of beer which is a little classy. Also make sure the area is clean and well maintained. Try to avoid cans of beer as you could risk the barbershop looking slightly uncouth and attracting a different type of clientele. Plus, the last thing you would want is your clients needing the toilet half way through their haircut.

My thoughts are if you’re considering giving away a free drink as part of the service, first weigh up if the cost of the licenses will be worth it! It’s important that you do it right so if you’re unsure then speak to your local authority. If you are going to do it, make a big thing of it. Invest in a good beer tap and create an area for your clients to relax and enjoy their drink.