Liquor Licenses – An Overview
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Step-by-Step Application Process
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Here are the basic steps involved in obtaining a liquor license:

1. Determine what type of liquor, beer, wine or other alcoholic license/permit you need.
  • Contact your stage agency (e.g. The Liquor Control Board, Division of Liquor, etc.) to inquire into what type(s) of license(s) and/or class(es) you need for your establishment. The state agency enforces and regulates liquor licenses.
    • There are many, many different types of licenses with different restrictions. You’ll have to make inquiry into your particular state and/or municipality for the details on the exact types of liquor permits you want. For example, there are generally licenses for manufacturing, distributing, retail, restaurants, clubs, hotels, river boats, museums, Sunday sales, etc.
    • Then, within each type of license there are usually different classes. For example, you may purchase a restaurant liquor license in the class of beer only for on premises consumption and/or in the class of wine only on premises consumption until 1:00 a.m.
2. Find out if you can legally obtain a liquor, beer, wine or other alcoholic license
  • Most states and/or municipalities (or other government agencies) set quotas on the number of liquor, beer, wine and other alcoholic licenses that they can distribute. These quotas are generally determined by population.
    • If there are no permits available in your locality, you may just have to wait until there is an opening to obtain your permit.
  • There are also generally restrictions on where you can sell the alcohol. For example, most local governments restrict businesses from selling alcohol within a certain number of feet from schools, churches, playgrounds, public libraries, etc. (e.g. within 500 feet of any school building). If your business is within that distance, you may have to petition for a variance or some other type of action to obtain the license or permit.
  • As stated earlier, some counties, municipalities, and other areas are "dry" where alcohol is prohibited for consumption.
3. Obtain and Complete Application
  • Applications can generally be obtained from your state’s liquor agency.
  • Many applications require a notary public to sign the application.
  • The application generally includes a non-refundable administrative fee, which can be a few hundred dollars.
4. Background Check
  • It’s likely that your local police department or other agency may run a background check on the owners of the business. You’ll have to pass the background check before obtaining the license.
5. Inspection of Premises
  • It’s likely that you’re business establishment will be visited by someone from the state liquor agency to see if you meet all the minimum qualifications to have a liquor license. The requirements vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
6. Wait to Obtain License/Permit
  • This can take anywhere from a few weeks, to a few months, to even a year or longer. It depends on whether anyone objects to you receiving the liquor license/permit, processing time, and various other factors.
7. Pay for the License/Permit
  • This fee is to actually use your license, while the other fee was just for processing the application. (Don’t you love fees!)
  • This fee goes to the state and/or local government.
Now, remember, these steps are just to obtain your license. You can easily lose your liquor, beer, wine or other alcoholic license for many reasons, including selling to minors, selling to those noticeably intoxicated, failing to renew your license, failing to pay your business taxes, failing to send certain updates on your business to the state government, etc. So, make sure to follow your jurisdiction’s laws after you obtain your liquor license.