Selling alcohol in France is tougher than you might think. You need both a licence and a permit. Damon and I already own a licence, and now, after three days of tuition this week, we also have the all-important permit.
We bought our bar licence – a licence IV, as it’s known – back in the spring.
They range from around 6 000€ to 80 000€ on average, apparently. Here in Lille, one would typically set you back 60 000€.
In Belvès, however, the going rate is, thankfully, somewhat less than that.
Importantly, you can only have one bar licence for every 450 inhabitants. So we were lucky to get one in Belvès, where there are 1 400 people.
That’s just three licences.
But you also need a permis d’exploitation, a licence to operate, and that’s where the three days’ tuition comes in. Every bar or restaurant owner has to have one – without it, you don’t have the right to open.
You can take the training anywhere in France, so we signed up to do it here in Lille. Our teacher, the owner of two épiceries in upmarket Le Touquet, was a delight – he made the training both interesting and fun.
And as you might perhaps expect, there are some quirks to the French system.
Firstly, to sell alcohol, you must have a shelf – separate from any alcohol – where you display at least ten soft drinks you have in stock. In fact, the advice was to have 11, just in case someone wanted your last bottle of Orangina or whatever.
“You can only have one bar licence for every 450 inhabitants. So we were lucky to get one in Belvès, where there are 1 400 people”
Also, you can’t run an open bar – and here’s where it gets really quirky – unless your principal aim isn’t to sell alcohol.
So, this could work at a sporting event, for example, where the cost of a VIP ticket might cover drinks. (Let’s leave aside that sports stadiums are, in theory, banned from selling alcohol.)
There’s also a law about not serving people who are visibly drunk. That’s a tough one in a bar.
Perhaps the thing we learned above all is that there’s a lot to learn when it comes to selling alcohol.
Oh, and that three days of training in a foreign language makes your brain hurt. But we did it.
I’m especially proud of Damon for having proved himself able to take the training in French and pass the test at the end. It all bodes well for the future.
Licence IV photo © France 3 Aquitaine