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How to Get a Liquor License

Navigating through red tape to get a liquor license takes time, patience, money, and sometimes a guiding hand experienced with your locale's regulations.


  • Step 1: Allow up to a year Allow up to a year to get a liquor license and incorporate this time factor into your business plan.
  • Step 2: Go online Go online to obtain contact information for the liquor licensing authority in your state. Whether you're in North or South Carolina, California or New York, Texas or Ohio, Michigan or Indiana, the rules and processes differ.
  • Step 3: Contact city authorities Contact city authorities to get local rules. You'll face different restrictions in a large city like San Francisco than in small-town USA.
  • TIP: Some locales have both state and local requirements to obtain a liquor license.
  • Step 4: Obtain applications Obtain applications, making sure you understand the type of liquor license you need. Types of license may include bar, restaurant, club, brewpub, and beer and wine.
  • TIP: Loopholes may exist for government-declared dry counties.
  • Step 5: Be prepared Be prepared to offer business plan details when submitting fees and applications, such as photos of the business, seating, menu, hours, anticipated liquor sales, and the types of alcohol you plan to serve.
  • Step 6: Consider buying a license Consider buying a license from an existing establishment if your area is not issuing new licenses. Make sure you have solid legal advice before making a purchase.
  • TIP: A license broker can help obtain a liquor license for a fee.
  • Step 7: Explore new licensing potential Explore new licensing potential with local authorities if the locale has experienced population growth. When efforts pay off and you have trained employees in the rules, it's time for a cheers!
  • FACT: Per capita, alcohol consumption in the United States is more than two gallons annually.

You Will Need

  • Time
  • Contact information
  • License applications
  • Business plan
  • Money for fees
  • Legal advice
  • License broker (optional)

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