Can You Play and Stream YouTube Videos in Your Restaurant?

As a new restaurant owner, you probably already know that your customers are looking for an amazing dining experience, which includes not only a delicious selection of food, but also a great atmosphere. One of the easiest ways you can supplement this is by providing entertainment. Most restaurants like to include TVs in their dining and lounge areas to play videos or stream live events on YouTube; however, with all the restrictions you hear about the platform, is this allowed? 

Yes, you can play or stream YouTube videos in your restaurant; however, there are certain restrictions on how you can display the video, and the types of content you can have visible.

YouTube policies can get complicated, even when it comes to publicly displaying videos from their platform. The remainder of this article will outline what those policies are, what kinds of videos are allowed for playing and streaming, and alternative forms of restaurant entertainment you could pursue if you would rather avoid YouTube videos altogether. 

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Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and cannot ensure what is appropriate for your own, single case. To ensure you operate within the terms of law of your country please consult the terms of use of or contact with a professional adviser or lawyer.


YouTube Restrictions for Playing & Streaming Videos

Although YouTube does allow you to publicly display its videos, there are some restrictions you should keep in mind before deciding to do so.  

Downloading Videos for Public Display

For one, you are not allowed to download videos from YouTube to show separately in a video player or other device. Otherwise, you violate the YouTube user terms and may potentially be breaking federal copyright laws. Any videos you decide to use must directly come from the YouTube website. 

Videos for Commercial Use

The YouTube Terms of Agreement mentions that the website, as well as the YouTube Embeddable Player, cannot be used for commercial use, “without the prior written authorization of YouTube” (New Media Rights). This section of the agreement is what causes the most confusion for website owners wanting to display YouTube videos in their restaurant or bar. 

Commercial use is generally considered using content or property for the exchange of any “fare, fee, rate, charge or other consideration, or directly or indirectly in connection with any business…intended for profit” (USLegal).

With that said, you may be wondering if you are required to contact a representative at YouTube to request permission to play and stream videos since you would be displaying them in a place of business. As long as you are not charging patrons to view these videos or as a way of generating revenue, you will not need permission. 

Most videos on YouTube are in the public domain anyway, meaning that user-submitted videos are free to use by anyone. Just be careful with the types of videos you choose and consider whether or not they could potentially influence increased revenue. 

What Types of YouTube Videos Can You Play or Stream?

According to the YouTube Terms of Agreement, users are granted “a non-exclusive license to access your User Submissions through the Website, and to use, reproduce, distribute, display and perform such User Submissions as permitted…” (New Media Rights). However, content on the site that does not come from user submissions (e.g., YouTube trademarked videos) is not allowed to be used for this license. 

In other words, you can display videos that are on the YouTube website, as long as they do not carry the YouTube trademark or hold any copyrights or exclusive licenses.

​ For example, you will not be able to display a music video from the VEVO channel, since all of their videos are copyrighted by the artist or some other entity.

Playing or Streaming Music Videos or Performances

Additionally, if you want to stream videos of music or live performances through YouTube, you will need to first get permission to do so from a Performance Rights Organization (PRO) such as BMI, ASCAP, or SESAC in the U.S.

These organizations, which have different names and are present in all countries over the globe and operate within local or national lows,  are responsible for handling music licensing. Typically, to gain a music license to stream music videos or performances, you will have to pay a monthly or yearly fee. 

Because going through the music licensing process can become quite overwhelming and expensive, most restaurant owners will try to avoid broadcasting these types of videos in the venue. In these cases, it is usually best to invest in basic cable for your restaurant or bar where you are welcome to show live performances on available channels since you would be paying for that service. 

Playing In-House Videos

You can also play your own videos that you have uploaded on behalf of the restaurant or bar on YouTube as well. Since that content is yours to own, you have all of the rights to use it as you please. 

Alternative Forms of Restaurant Entertainment

If you do not want to risk facing issues with YouTube and their legal guidelines for broadcasting or displaying content from their website, you can always pursue alternative forms of entertainment for your audience. The following is a list of popular restaurant entertainment ideas that can help you keep your customers excited to eat and drink there every time. 

  • Video Alternatives – Consider showcasing a video your restaurant has made in-house that shows off your menu, or even invest in a basic cable package so that visitors can watch a live sporting event. 
  • Flair Bartenders – Although this can be a little costly for new restaurant or bar owners, it can generate a lot of buzz for your location, especially during a grand opening or other promotional event or holiday. In most cases, you would only need to hire them for special occasions, not necessarily as a part- or full-time employee—unless that is in your budget. 
  • Showcase Local Artists – If you have the space and perhaps some equipment for it in your dining area or lounge, invite a local band or musician to perform live. Most new artists want a chance at any type of gig to help promote their work to the general public, and you could provide that for them while keeping your customers happy and entertained. It is a win-win for both parties!
  • Host a Tasting Event – You could also host a variety of different tasting events, depending on the type of restaurant you have. Bars can offer things like craft beer tastings, while restaurants can open up wine tastings and other small appetizers. The benefit to this is you can test out new drinks or meals you plan on offering on your menu to see how popular they are among customers. 
  • Provide Board Games – This is usually common among smaller cafes, but there is no reason your restaurant or bar cannot have it too. They offer an endless amount of entertainment and make great ice-breakers for people meeting up for the first time. Why wouldn’t you want your location to be the spot for new, flourishing relationships? 

Other Information

What YouTube allows in terms of publicly displaying videos can be unclear. However, it is safe to assume that restaurants and bars are free to play and stream YouTube videos inside their venue, as long as they have not been downloaded and do not carry a YouTube trademark or some other copyright. 

However, the entertainment in your restaurant does not have to stop at what is on your screens; you could also provide other forms of entertainment, like showcasing live artists, hosting tasting events, and even offering board games for your customers to bond over. You will be a popular hangout and dining spot in no time. 


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