How to Get a Liquor License

Jump to Section

Need help with a Liquor License?

Post Project Now

Post Your Project (It's Free)

Get Bids to Compare

 Hire Your Lawyer

What Is a Liquor License?

Liquor licenses are legal permits issued to restaurants, bars, liquor stores, and other businesses to allow and regulate liquor sales. Each state regulates its own Liquor licenses through a governing agency like the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC Board) or the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco.

Some states do not have a specific agency that governs alcohol, so liquor licenses can also be issued through the Department of Revenue or the State Treasury. Requirements and laws surrounding liquor licenses and how to get a liquor license will vary based on location.

It is common for liquor licenses to dictate:

  1. Where alcohol may be served
  2. The amount an establishment can serve to a guest
  3. The cost of alcohol
  4. How alcohol can be served
  5. The time of day alcohol can be served
  6. How and when alcohol can leave the premises.

As the owner of any establishment that sells or serves alcohol, it is essential to thoroughly understand your state and local laws and regulations. If you are unsure about your local laws, consult with a business lawyer familiar with liquor licenses.

Types of Liquor Licenses

There are several different types of liquor licenses that an establishment can apply for. The type of license will dictate the type of alcohol that can be served, who can serve it, and whether it will be consumed on or off the premises.

Beer and Wine Liquor License

  • Allows the sale of beers and wines
  • It does not allow the sale of liquor
  • One of the most common licenses
  • Easier and less expensive to obtain than a full license

Restaurant Liquor License

  • Called a general liquor license
  • Allows the sale of all types of alcohol
  • Usually limited by the state
  • It can be difficult to obtain

Bar Liquor License

  • Known as a "Tavern" liquor license
  • Alcohol sales must be more than 50% of total sales
  • Regulations vary by state and jurisdiction

Server License

  • License for an employee who serves alcohol
  • Not required in all states

Establishments that wish to serve alcohol will have to determine which license best suits their business needs. Bars and restaurants that serve alcohol consumed by patrons on-site will need a different type of permit than a liquor store that sells alcohol to be consumed somewhere else.

Some businesses like breweries may be required to hold both types of liquor licenses because it is common for these establishments to sell alcohol for both on-site and off-site consumption.

For more information about liquor licenses, click here.

Meet some lawyers on our platform

Terence B.

24 projects on CC
View Profile

Briana C.

5 projects on CC
View Profile

Paul S.

5 projects on CC
View Profile

Donya G.

31 projects on CC
View Profile

What Are the Requirements for Getting a Liquor License?

Most states consider a liquor license a privilege. They are a way for local and state governments to ensure that businesses that sell alcohol follow all laws regulating alcohol sales.

Laws and requirements for getting a liquor license vary by state. In each state, individual counties may also have their own laws and regulations in addition to the state laws.

It is common for local governments to require a business to obtain other permits before applying for a liquor license. Permits that many businesses need to obtain to qualify for a liquor license include:

  • Business license
  • Health permit
  • Sales tax permit
  • Building permit
  • Zoning permit

While the requirement of certain permits varies by jurisdiction, other standard requirements imposed by most state and local governments include the following:

  • EIN for taxes
  • Code compliance certificate
  • Signage permit
  • Alcohol tax permit
  • Certificate of incorporation
  • Food handlers permit
  • A current or proposed food menu
  • Floor plan
  • Building title

It is highly encouraged to contact a business lawyer specializing in liquor licenses to find out exactly what you need to apply for a liquor license in your jurisdiction.

How To Get a Liquor License

Getting a liquor license can be a challenging process. Many states limit the number of liquor licenses to businesses, and some states use a lottery system to administer licenses.

Before applying for a liquor license, make sure you have determined what license your business needs, and you have gathered all the permits and paperwork required by your state and local government. You can get details about your area's liquor license requirements by contacting your state's ABC board.

Some business owners choose to hire an attorney to assist in the application process. Depending on your state, the application can be pricey, and utilizing the help of a business lawyer will reduce the risk of costly mistakes on your application.

If you are ready to apply for a liquor license, follow these steps:

Step #1: The application

Your liquor license application must be completed and submitted to your local alcohol control agency. The government agency that controls liquor licenses will vary by state. You will need to submit all required documentation, like required permits, along with the processing fee.

Some information that may be required for an application includes:

  • Name of applicants
  • Name and location of the business
  • Arrest disposition of the applicant
  • Mitigation of moral character of the application
  • Fingerprints of applicant
  • Right of occupancy of the premises
  • Zoning of the business and a sketch of the premises
  • Information about partners, stockholders, and officers
  • Acknowledgment of laws

Some states allow you to apply online, while other states only accept mailed or in-person applications. Contact your local alcohol control agency to find out the best way to submit your application.

Step #2: Defend your proposal

Some states, like Massachusetts, allow members of the community to protest the issuance of liquor licenses. If a community member disagrees with a liquor license, you may have to defend your proposal to sell alcohol at your establishment at a public hearing.

Step #3: Application approval

It can take up to six months for a liquor license application to be approved. If there are any issues with the application or missing documentation, the process can be longer. Once approved, you will pay the liquor license fee.

For a detailed look at how to get a liquor license in each state, read this article.

How Much Does a Liquor License Cost?

Applying for, obtaining, and maintaining a liquor license can be very costly. Each state charges different fees for different liquor licenses. Total costs will vary based on the state and the type of permit you have been granted. Liquor license costs generally include an application fee, a license fee, and annual renewal fees.

Across all states, the cost of a full-service liquor license ranges from $100 in Idaho to over $14,000 in California. The average cost, however, is around $1500.

Depending on your state's requirements to get a liquor license, you may also run into fees obtaining the permits to be eligible for a liquor license. If you choose to hire an attorney to assist in the liquor license process, your costs will increase.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Liquor License?

The application process for a liquor license can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months. Factors that affect this timeframe can be the completeness of the application and whether anyone in the community opposes your license.

Some state and local governments limit the number of licenses available. If your local jurisdiction has reached the permit quota, you will have to wait until a business closes and a license becomes available. This could take years.

Get Help with A Liquor License

Do you have questions about obtaining a liquor license and want to speak to an expert? Post a project today on ContractsCounsel and receive bids from business lawyers who specialize in liquor licenses.

How ContractsCounsel Works
Hiring a lawyer on ContractsCounsel is easy, transparent and affordable.
1. Post a Free Project
Complete our 4-step process to provide info on what you need done.
2. Get Bids to Review
Receive flat-fee bids from lawyers in our marketplace to compare.
3. Start Your Project
Securely pay to start working with the lawyer you select.

Meet some of our Lawyers

ContractsCounsel verified
Attorney
7 years practicing
Free Consultation

Corporate and transactional attorney in sixth year of practice. Focus areas include general corporate counsel, labor and employment law, business partnership matters, securities matters related to privately-held companies, and regulatory compliance in securities and finance matters.

ContractsCounsel verified
Attorney
23 years practicing
Free Consultation

Forest is a general practice lawyer. He provides legal advice regarding small business law, contracts, estates and trusts, administrative law, corporate governance and compliance. Forest practiced complex commercial litigation in Florida for eight years, representing clients such as Host Marriott, Kellogg School of Business, and Toyota. Since moving to Nashville in 2005, he has provided legal advice to clients forming new businesses, planning for the future, and seeking funding through the use of equity and/or debt in their businesses. This advice has included the selection of business type, assistance in drafting and editing their business plans and offering material, reviewing proposed term sheets, and conducting due diligence. Forest is a member of the Florida, Tennessee, and Texas Bars; in addition. Forest has held a Series 7, General Securities Representative Exam, Series 24, General Securities Principal, and Series 63, Uniform Securities Agent State Law.

ContractsCounsel verified
Counsel
10 years practicing
Free Consultation

CA, NY, and FL licensed attorney with nearly a decade of experience in intellectual property, data privacy, commercial contracts, and employment. I also have both the CIPP/US and CIPP/E privacy credentials. Basically, everything your business needs!

ContractsCounsel verified
Law Firm Principal
40 years practicing
Free Consultation

David H. Charlip, the principal of Charlip Law Group, LC, is one of only 101 Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyers in Miami-Dade, with over 38 years of litigation experience. Mr. Charlip is also one of only 136 Florida Civil Law Notaries. He has managed and litigated cases across the country. Mr. Charlip has advised businesses, drafted business formation and purchase and sale documents and litigated business disputes for over 30 years and is very familiar with all aspects of contractual relations.

ContractsCounsel verified
Attorney
17 years practicing
Free Consultation

With over 16 years of experience in the area of estate planning, trademarks, copyrights and contracts, I am currently licensed in Florida and NJ. My expertise includes: counseling clients on intellectual property availability, use and registration; oversee all procedural details of registration and responses with the USPTO/US Copyright Office; negotiate, draft and review corporate contracts and licensing; counsel clients on personal protection, planning and drafting comprehensive estate plans.

ContractsCounsel verified
Attorney and Law Firm Owner/President
19 years practicing
Free Consultation

Melissa Taylor, the President and founding partner of Maurer Taylor Law, specializes in business contract review and drafting and is a second-generation attorney with private firm, in-house counsel, governmental, entrepreneurial, and solo practitioner experience. Melissa has a strong legal background, a dedication to customer service, is friendly, warm and communicative, and is particularly skilled at explaining complex legal matters in a way that's easy to understand. Melissa personally handles all client matters from start to finish to ensure client satisfaction.

ContractsCounsel verified
Attorney/Mediator/Arbitrator
40 years practicing
Free Consultation

Lawrence A. “Larry” Saichek is an AV rated attorney and a CPA focusing on business and real estate transactions, corporate law and alternative dispute resolution. With a background including five years of public accounting and six years as “in house” counsel to a national real estate investment company, Larry brings a unique perspective to his clients – as attorney, accountant and businessman. Many clients think of Larry as their outside “in house” counsel and a valued member of their team. Larry is also a Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediator and a qualified arbitrator with over 25 years of ADR experience.

ContractsCounsel verified
Attorney
32 years practicing
Free Consultation

Entertainment Attorney with 30+ years of experience, representing all aspects of the TV, Film, Music and Publishing Industries

ContractsCounsel verified
Shareholder
11 years practicing
Free Consultation

Aaron focuses his practice on startups and emerging growth companies, providing general counsel services for companies from formation through exit. Aaron frequently advises clients in connection with routine and unique legal, business, and strategic decisions, including corporate, business and technology transactions, angel and venture financings, mergers and acquisitions, protection of intellectual property, and information privacy and data security.

ContractsCounsel verified
Attorney
11 years practicing
Free Consultation

I enjoy helping businesses of all sizes succeed, from start-ups to existing small and medium sized businesses. I regularly advise corporate clients on a variety of legal issues including formation, day to day governance, reviewing and drafting business contracts and other agreements, business acquisitions and sales, as well as commercial and residential real estate issues, including sales, purchases and leases. As an attorney licensed in both Michigan and Florida, I also advise clients on real estate issues affecting businesses and individuals owning real property in either state, whether commercial, residential or vacation/investment property. I also regularly assist nonprofit organizations in obtaining and maintaining tax exempt status, and provide general legal counsel on all matters affecting public charities, private foundations and other nonprofit organizations.

ContractsCounsel verified
Healthcare Law and Employment Expert
11 years practicing
Free Consultation

Pura Rodriguez, JD, MBA is the President and Managing Partner of A Physician’s Firm, based in Miami. She represents healthcare providers from different specialties in a broad range of issues, including contract review, business planning and transactions, mergers and acquisitions, vendor and contract disputes, risk management, fraud and abuse compliance (Anti-Kickback Statute and Stark), HIPAA compliance, medical staff credentialing, employment law, and federal and state regulations. She also assists providers in planning their estates, protecting their assets, and work visa requirements.

Find the best lawyer for your project

Browse Lawyers Now

Want to speak to someone?

Get in touch below and we will schedule a time to connect!

Request a call