On Opening & Owning a Bar in Georgia


Georgia has an eye being kept on it by many worldwide, be it because of the recent commemoration of the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, the pending membership of NATO, or the massive growth in its economy and tourism potential. A lot of investors are taking this opportunity to pour their money into Georgia in all sorts of ways, from real-estate and tourism to energy and agriculture.

Georgia is well known for its wine growing. It is just as well known for the consumption of that wine, and other alcohol. Georgia consumes 7.7 liters of pure alcohol per year per person on average, going on the statistics of 2017. Anyone with a keen eye for business can see that there is opportunity in Georgia, but even more so when it comes to alcohol, which is practically part of the local culture.

Dive Bar is known in Tbilisi as a bar for Georgians and foreigners alike, where all types of alcohol are served, and is popular with both visitors and long-term residents of the country.

The man behind the idea of Dive, Cory Greenberg, saw the opportunity years back when coming to Georgia with the Peace Corps, and success followed a year after with DiveXFabrika.

Fabrika is a favorite spot in Tbilisi and recommended as a must-visit on most websites. Known as a space for rebellious minds, it was once a soviet sewing factory, now revived as an urban hotspot, offering everything from bars and cafes to shops and educational institutions.

GEORGIA TODAY sat down with Cory in order to find out where his idea for Dive came from, and the potential for such businesses in Georgia.

Cory, introduce yourself to our readers.

I came here from New York and I’m the proprietor of Dive bar, DiveXFabrika and soon to be Dive Art.

Dive and DiveXFabrika we know, but what is Dive Art?

Dive Art is new: I just started working on it last week. It’ll be right above Dive bar, sort of a poster shop/gallery which will sell reproductions of soviet era tourism posters of Georgia and the region, including prints from local contemporary artists. I’m hoping to officially open it on August 20.

How did Dive come to be and did you have any previous experience in the field?

I didn’t really have any experience on the bar scene until I opened Dive bar- before that I’d worked in restaurants, but that was way back in high school. The idea for Dive came to me and some friends based on the type of place we wanted to visit ourselves, which in reality isn’t that special, but which did not exist in Georgia at the time. This was in terms of service and just the general interaction between staff and clients.

When did you first come to Georgia?

I came to Georgia in 2011 and worked with the Peace Corps until 2013. When I finished that, I stayed and started Dive bar. In 2015, I started graduate school and recently finished that so now I’m back here full time.

Why did you decide to stay in Georgia after your time with the Peace Corps?

Well, it’s quite beautiful here and at the time I wasn’t ready to go back to the States, so I used the opportunity as a starting point for doing lots of traveling. It was convenient due to living costs being cheap and the fact that I had residency. After opening Dive, things were going well business-wise, and it was just generally fun being in Tbilisi. After I left for graduate school, I started thinking seriously about Georgia and that’s when the DiveXFabrika opportunity presented itself. I decided to finish graduate school while I was developing it. Now I’m looking for my next thing to commit to and Georgia seems like the logical place to do it again.

Over the years of doing business in Georgia, is there anything specific, positive or negative, that stands out?

Business is business no matter where you go. But my biggest frustration here has mostly been with the suppliers and the distribution of products, though it has gotten better over the years and is still developing. There used to be only a couple of options; it wasn’t a lot of fun dealing with them at that time and product orders would end up wrong due to the fact that it just wasn’t run properly or regulated, but it has definitely gotten better. I remember being shocked at how something as simple as bringing products from point A to point B could be so difficult. Things here happen at a different pace, be it for better or worse, and sometimes you have to deal with people who promise things that they can’t deliver. Comparing Georgia to the US, though, I don’t think I’d like to open a bar State-side at all, it’s much more comprehensive, whereas here it’s much easier.

Why is it easier here?

I believe selling alcohol here is generally quite straightforward, and so I don’t think it surprises anyone that owning a bar in Georgia is a good business to have. Georgia and alcohol go hand-in-hand and I don’t mean that as a bad thing, it’s just part of the culture here: making friends, socializing and drinking together is part of day-to-day life for most. Essentially, when it comes to selling alcohol in Georgia, it’s more of a “how could one go wrong?” situation.

Seasonally speaking, and with the rise of tourism in Georgia, do you notice a difference in business?

There’s a distinct difference between Dive Bar and DiveXFabrika. The whole of Fabrika as a concept will keep accommodating the in-flow of foreigners, while Georgians will sort of move on to the next new thing. Fabrika is more a seasonal business due to this, whereas Dive bar has more a sense of community, having the occasional tourists and Georgians coming for the “beerpong” but more catering to regulars coming in day-to-day, week in and week out.

As a closing statement, do you have any advice for people wanting to open a bar in Georgia?

I think the “anything alcohol-based” in Georgia is a great idea. Georgia is a service-based country, with tourists basically being a precious resource. So, if you can start a business anywhere else catering to those needs, start it here because it will most likely be easier and more profitable. The key, though, is to do it as soon as possible. I remember back then all the options that were available and almost all of them turned out to be a good idea because someone grabbed the chance.

By Shawn Wayne

13 August 2018 15:43