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November 2008, 14/11/2008

Dear Valued Stara Planina Properties Clients,

This month's newsletter includes the first part of a series of articles we are preparing that examine people's experience of starting a business in Bulgaria. We thought this would be of interest to you since many of our clients these days are buying to settle permanently in Bulgaria. The first article is by a local Brit in Veliko Turnovo that has set up a successful bar called Da Da Bar. The bar itself is currently for sale so some of our readers might even be interested in buying the property. Forthcoming newsletters will examine other business ventures.

Bulgarian Experiences: Running a Bar

I am a person who likes taking on different challenges and moving on in life so after a career in I.T., back in England, I came to Bulgaria a few years ago for a change of direction. After awhile kicking back and enjoying the gloriously long summers I decided I needed to actually do something productive with my time. Bulgaria has a great caf# bar culture and I'd always fancied myself as a bar owner so I thought I'd give it a go.

Whilst I love the bars in VT, one thing that was lacking was a student bar that played alternative/retro music. Armed with this niche, I set about finding some suitable premises. The place I found had been a bar before (and indeed a leather factory before that) but hadn't operated for 6 years. It was located in the old town near the Hotel Yantra and oozed character with a high vaulted ceiling and a small garden with views over a church and the river below. Inside it was big enough for about 50 people and the garden outside again could take 50 people. The fact that it had operated as a bar beforehand was good news as I didn't have to apply for change of use (which is long and bureaucratic procedure). The first hurdle was out of the way. However, because it hadn't operated as a bar for 6 years, the license had been revoked and I would have to apply for a new one after jumping through the following hurdles:

  • Ventilation Inspection
  • Health & Safety Inspection
  • Health & Safety Sound Test
  • Fire Inspection
  • Building Inspection (Structure and Electrics)

Before embarking on any works it is advisable to ensure that the bar will meet the requirements of the above listed hurdles. If so, then the next step is the works. First you need to find a reputable designers to draw up your plans for the bar layout, electrical circuits and plumbing. Once these are done they need to be rubber stamped at the municipality. A point to note here is that if the building doesn't already have 3 phase electricity then you'll more than likely have to pay to upgrade it to handle ventilation and/or AC.

If you've renovated a property in Bulgaria before, or in the UK for that matter, then you know the rest. You need to coordinate an architect, builders, plumbers, electricians and joiners. If the architect is late, the electrician and plumber are late. If the electricians or plumbers are late then a builder can't plaster a wall or concrete a floor. If the builders are late then the joiner can't install the floor, wood panel the walls or install the bar. Unfortunately, delays are inevitable and every day costs you money in potential revenue. When the bar is, finally, finished you can bask in the glory of your achievement. Now it's time to hold your breath and get the inspectors in.

Once the inspections are over, it's time to pay a little more tax and get your license and permission. A great feeling as once you have this, it's just a matter of paying a small fee each year for the alcohol license.

So you now have a legal bar, it's time to solicit offers from bar suppliers, buy and register a cash till, buy an adequate sound system/ TV, fridges, ice machine, glasses, spoons and find a cleaner and bar staff. Getting the right staff is very important for a bar as they are the front end to the business. It's important that the staff that you employ fit the mood of your bar because if they fit the mood then so will their friends and they will come to the bar. With this in mind, being a student bar, I advertised on the notice boards at the University. Once you have one or two staff, then it snow balls as they suggest friends and friends suggest friends etc.

After you've been running for a while, be prepared to make compromises. One of the biggest mistakes you can make in business is sticking steadfastly to your ideas and ignoring the wants of the customers. If I had my way, my bar would play alternative rock music every night but this is not what the students want. I compromised by playing just popular alternative rock along with Bulgarian rock (no Chalga thankfully!), Reggae, a little Hip-Hop and, of course, lots of Depeche Mode. Listen to your staff; they have a good idea of what music the locals like. They can make suggestions and you can see if it's appropriate for your bar. This applies to all aspects of your bar, be it music, drinks, decor etc.

If your bar is successful then, if you have the space, you may also need to invest some or all of your profits into expansion. As the summer months approached, I created a paved area outside so we could have a beer garden with benches and chairs. I employed a local joiner to craft bespoke tables and chairs out of thick wood and tree stumps. The results were very impressive but my staff described them as Flintstone furniture! Take note that, unlike the Brits, Bulgarians don't like sitting directly in the sun, so parasols or complete covering may be needed. So, after paving the whole garden, the winter months approached and I realised that the garden was going to waste, and the main bar was becoming too full. I had to compromise on the garden and build an extension over half of it to create an overflow for the main bar.

It's a risky business, most bars close after their first year, but if you find the right niche, mood and staff you'll have a great time and make some money. Da Da Bar is now the most popular student bar in town (not so difficult given there are over 10,000 students!) and also attracts a varied mix of internationals some of whom live locally and some who come from the many hostels located nearby.

Now I am ready to move onto other ventures so I have decided to sell the bar. For all those embarking on opening a bar themselves I wish you good luck in your ADventure.

Please read more here.


Bulgaria and Romania Put Forward Their Candidature to Host Together the European Football Championship in 2020

Bulgarian daily Dnevnik informed about the plans of Bulgaria and Romania to co-host the European football championship in 2020. This has been announced by the president of the Bulgarian Football Union Borislav Miahailov who discussed the plan with the UEFA president Michel Platini during their meeting in Sofia on 12 November 2008. Platini commented that the idea of the two countries had to be supported by their governments.

Infrastructure is expected to be one of the serious problems for the bid of Bulgaria and Romania. The two countries have a 400 km border along Danube river but only one bridge (between Rousse and Giurgiu) connecting them. A second bridge is being constructed between Bulgarian city Vidin and Romanian Calafat and much will depend on the development of this project.

Tax Valuation of Real Estate To Increase in 2009

The Bulgarian government has proposed a change in the Law for Local Taxes and Charges according to which the tax valuation of the properties should change by about 50% on average in 2009. The reason for the change is the increase of the property prices in the last few years. It is expected the tax valuations of properties in bigger towns and city centres will increase by higher percentage than the valuations of village or small town properties.

The increased tax valuation will lead to increase of the property tax and garbage collection fee as they are both based on the tax valuation. The property tax is 0.2% of the tax valuation and the rate of the garbage collection fee is defined by each municipality for its territory within frames set by the Law for Local Taxes and Charges.

Picasso Is Coming to Sofia

At the end of October it was announced that 86 of Pablo Picasso's works will be exhibited in Sofia between 17 December 2008 and 15 March 2009. The exhibition will take place at the National Gallery for Foreign Art, entitled "I'm not searching, I'm finding". It is brought to Bulgaria by Barouh & Partners with the financial support of M-tel mobile operator.

The collection features 44 graphics, 18 ceramics, oil paintings, drawings, textiles and works with mixed techniques. The paintings belong to institutions in Barcelona, Madrid and Malaga.

Monthly Travel Guide

Below is a link to the Jamadvice HRG Bulgaria Monthly Travel Guide. It provides useful information as well as some interesting facts from the travel industry.

Monthly Travel Guide..

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