How to Get a Liquor License

Have you ever considered opening a liquor store?

If done well, you could become the owner of a highly profitable, and highly scalable, business.

But because the liquor industry is tightly regulated, there will be plenty of necessary planning involved. 

The most important step? Getting the correct liquor license — and then keeping it.

Follow these steps to learn how to obtain the right license to get your liquor flowing and business running smoothly.

Get in Touch With Your State’s Alcohol Control Agency

Before you can apply for a liquor license, you need to know which license you need. These vary state by state, so make sure to contact your state’s alcohol governing agency. In most states, this is called the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board. 

You also need to figure out if your business is in a control state, meaning that all liquor stores must be state-run — or in an open state, where liquor can be sold by private businesses (in accordance with state law). Keep in mind that in control states, the government sets the minimum price for wholesale alcohol.

Once you understand how alcohol regulation works where you run your business, you’ll have to decide the type of license you need — on-license or off-license. Are you planning to open a small bar in your wine or liquor store? You’ll need an on-license that allows you to serve alcohol on the premises of your business. If you’re solely selling products for consumption elsewhere, you’ll need an off-license.

Do your research, and discover what license you need to get started.

Fill Out Your Liquor License Application

When you decide which liquor license you need, start gathering and collecting the information and documents that the application requires. 

Again, licenses vary by state — but most licenses will at least require:

  • Employee identification number
  • Certificate of incorporation
  • Business license
  • Alcohol tax permit
  • Health permit
  • Zoning permits

In most places, you can find the liquor license application online — so once you have your documentation on hand, you’re ready to apply! Be prepared to pay an application processing fee, too.

Wait Patiently for Approval

Now, you wait. Once your application has been submitted, it can take anywhere from several weeks to a year for everything to process. 

Some states, however, are considered “quota states,” meaning that the number of licenses available depends on the population of the area. As more people move in, more opportunities for licenses arise. License fees in quota states do tend to run higher, because they’re much more in demand — and you could have a much longer wait. 

When your license is approved, pay up! License fees can range anywhere from $100 to over $15,000, depending on where you’re located — on average, they cost about $1,500. Remember that these fees don’t include lawyer fees or money spent on the permits that may be required before submitting the application. In the long run, obtaining a liquor license can cost anywhere from hundreds of dollars, to hundreds of thousands.

Understand and Follow License Requirements

You got it! Your license has been approved. As the business owner, it’s your responsibility to follow all license requirements — protecting your business, your employees, and your customers.

Check state requirements — know who can sell the alcohol in your store, and when and where they can sell it. Some states require anyone who sells alcohol to be 18 years of age, while some require them to be 21. There are also time limits on the sale of alcohol (with many states cutting off liquor sales around 2 a.m.), and limits on how much can be sold at once. 

Also make sure you are able to sell where you’ve set up shop — some areas are completely dry, and all sale of alcohol is prohibited. Know your zoning laws to ensure you’re lawfully abiding by licensing requirements.

And of course, remember to display your store’s new liquor license correctly, according to state regulations.

Remember Your License Renewal

This one’s simple — once you’ve got it, don’t lose it. 

Liquor licenses are granted for a specific period of time, usually anywhere from one to three years. Remember to renew when that time’s up, and make sure you have the renewal fee ready — this can range from a small fee to the full amount originally paid for the license.

Put Your Liquor License to Use With a POS System

That’s it! You’ve finally obtained your liquor license, and you’re ready to get started. Investing in a solid, liquor-specific point of sale solution will keep operations running smoothly — and help you keep your new liquor license. 

The ability to easily pull and run reports allows you to view important data like volume of alcohol sold, which may need to be sent to your state, according to license requirements. An age verification feature will also ensure that you’re never selling to underage customers with fake IDs — preventing your business from being fined or losing your liquor license altogether.

Opening, then managing, a liquor store isn’t easy — but it’s rewarding. Let Bottle POS help you on your journey to becoming the best in the business.

If you’re interested in learning more about our liquor and wine point of sale solution, schedule a demo with one of our industry specialists today!

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