THEY WILL need to obtain a licence for sale of alcoholic drinks – une licence de débit de boissons.
If they were only going to sell wines and beers this could be a Licence III (which is also for fortified wines and for fruit liqueurs up to 18 degrees of alcohol), however, for strong alcohol (distilled drinks) you need a Licence IV.
A new Licence III can be obtained free as long as a certain quota of licences in your area (limited by population size) has not been reached. New Licence IVs cannot be created, only bought from an existing business for anything from a few thousand to several tens of thousands of euros, depending on location. There may also be certain designated areas where bars cannot operate, for example next to schools. Your mairie should be able to tell you what is possible.
Local estate agents sometimes sell drink licences.
French and EEA citizens can apply as well as citizens of certain countries with which France has signed treaties, such as the USA.
You must also have completed an approved bar training course of at least 20 hours over three days, leading to issue of a permit to run a bar, valid for 10 years.
These cover matters like alcohol abuse, protection of minors and respect for noise regulations.
A list of bodies offering them can be found on this PDF: media.apce.com/file/26/7/ddbagreesrestaurant.73267.pdf
Finally, you need to fill out form Cerfa n°11542*04 to declare your intention to open the bar (see: www.formulaires.modernisation.gouv.fr/gf/cerfa_11542.do), no more than 15 days before opening the business.
This should be addressed to the mairie. You will receive a paper validating your licence. (In Paris you apply to the Préfecture de Police, and in Alsace and Moselle to the prefecture).
As with any business, you also have to register it, for example by creating a Sarl or Eurl (forms of company) or a sole tradership, registered at your local chambre de commerce et de l’industrie.
You will also need to respect formalities concerning hygiene and notices and if you will play music you need to apply to Sacem and pay an annual fee which goes towards paying royalties.