At one time or another, most of us have toyed with the idea of owning our own bar. On evenings spent swilling  whiskey after a grueling day at the office, it’s a seductive fantasy—trading the cubicle for your own personal clubhouse where you can hang out drinking beers, high-fiving regulars, and selling delicious booze to cool folks who totally get your vision.

Of course, most of us sober up, toss out the floor plan we sketched on the back of a cocktail napkin, and go back to doing what we were doing. But those with the resolve to actually follow through on their dreams soon encounter the unforgiving realities of opening a bar in New York City—the hell of securing an affordable space, the Sisyphean task of winning over community boards and getting a liquor license, and the dismal odds of actually staying afloat in a city where drinkers always have another option a few steps away.

Instead of just speculating about how awesome it would be to open an Anglo-American craft-beer bar with a daily-changing nacho menu (don’t steal that idea!), we rounded up nine successful NYC bar owners—from Dave Brodrick of Blind Tiger to the team behind Death & Co.—to answer the tough questions about opening your own spot.

From how much capital to begin with, to what it really takes to break even, these drink-slinging entrepreneurs gave us some real talk on how the bar business works behind the scenes—and why, after all the hard work, it is actually as awesome as you think. Here, meet the men and women who own the bars you party at, and learn a thing or two about trying to open a place of your own.