John: Yes, my grandfathers brother (my great- uncle) did it.
He owned a regular small bar, saved a lot and earned the banks trust, took out a loan to a much larger bar, then bought the entire hotel. Then he bought a 5 star hotel and has retired handing the hotel to his family. I don't know how much money he has, but his house is a mini- Buckingham palace and his car is a BMW and is to this day the nicest car I've ever been in.
It's very possible, just work hard and you WILL get there. I have seen it happen.
Most well-run bars make a net margin of 20-30%, so to "make a couple million for himself" your hypothetical owner's bar would need to be grossing between six and seven million each year…
That's roughly $20,000 every night of the year, the equivalent of selling about 5,000 separate drinks….since the average customer buys 2.1 drinks, that means you'll need 2,380 new customers each night….
How big do you plan on your bar being? You need a bare minimum of 12 square feet per customer, so with you requirement of 2,380 customers your bar will have to be 28,500 square feet, or about six acres in size when you include the 150 women's bathrooms and 75 men's bathrooms the law will require you to have…
Good luck with all that!
Can they? Of course. Will they, highly doubtful. You are talking a high end club (think Studio 54 back in the day) with a line to get in, a cover charge and expensive drinks. There certainly aren't many of them around. Opening a string of successful clubs would up your odds. Just remember that 4 out of 5 bars fail within 5 – 7 years and that includes the Studio 54s and the CBGB's.
I was in a good sized airport bar/restaurant that was really busy. It was a nice place with good, reasonably priced food. I was there for lunch. I overheard the manager say to his floor manager, "We just had a thousand dollar hour, let's keep it up!" That sounds like a lot of money, but it is far, far away from $10 million/year. As was said, no matter what business you are in you're going to have to gross something like ten times your net, in general.
Over how many years? It would have to be huge, high-priced, & attract massive numbers of high-spending clientele every night of the year to have any hope of netting a million a year. Then half or more goes to taxes.
depends on how successful and it might take decades