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How to Get a Liquor License in your State

how to get a liquor license

Since Prohibition, liquor laws — and the issuance of liquor licenses — has been a decision at the state level. Many of the states, in turn, have brought local governments into the process, which can be quite an arduous process. Depending on the state, local and even federal licensing requirements, obtaining a liquor license can be a five- or six-month process.

The cost of a liquor license will vary by state, with some charging as little as $300 and others charging almost $14,000 when filing fees are counted. However, surviving the process can have a big payoff: Liquor sales tend to have some of the highest profit margins – about 75 percent – on a restaurant menu.

How to get a liquor license in 3 steps

Before you even consider getting a license, you must first be eligible to hold an ABC permit. North Carolina, for example, states that you must:

  • Be 21 years of age or older*;
  • Be a resident in which you plan to hold your license*;
  • Not have been convicted of a felony in the last 3 years*;
  • Not have been convicted of an alcoholic beverage offense within two years*; and
  • Not have had your ABC license revoked within three years*.

*Please visit for a full understanding the complete list of requirements.

State regulators dictate when and where liquor may be served, the amount that can be served, and to whom it may be served. Some state laws limit the number of drinks per customer in a restaurant, limit happy hour drink discounts, and whether an unfinished bottle of wine can be taken home.

Determine the license you need

Different types of alcohol licenses are available in each state. Most restaurants have one of three licenses: a restaurant liquor license, a beer and wine liquor license, or a tavern liquor license. Tavern liquor licenses are typically issued to restaurants that serve both food and alcohol and derive about 50 percent of their sales from liquor. Below are the general steps you will need to take to get your liquor license.

Some states have two dozen licenses available, so you will need to visit your state’s department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC). Some things you will need to consider when choosing your license is the type of establishment you’re operating, the type of alcohol you will want to sell, if customers can bring their own alcohol, and if you plan to distribute, sell, or manufacture alcohol.

Determine permit availability

Some states issue a limited number of permits each year, and some states even host a lottery to pick the recipients. If your business is located in a “wet” location -where alcohol sales are allowed – availability can be confirmed at the state, county or city level.

Some businesses that can’t obtain a liquor license will buy a neighboring business that already has their license, or buy the license from an existing business. Not all states allow for the transfer of a liquor license, so it’s important to check the laws of your local jurisdiction.

Application process

You can apply for your license, by mail-in form only, by printing the form from your state’s government website. Here’s what you may need to fill out on your ABC application:

  • Legal name
  • DBA
  • A copy of corporation, LLC, LLP or association’s paperwork (if applicable).
  • Employer ID number
  • Building permit
  • Health permit
  • State Sales Tax permit
  • Sketch of the premise to include patio area. A sketch is only required when alcohol is consumed on the premise.
  • Photo identification and, if needed, proof of citizenship

The application process with any state is going to be a long and complicated process. Extensive documentation may be required and varies from state to state, but here is an example of the forms required to submit your application in North Carolina:

  • Application for ABC Retail Permit(s)
  • Local Government Opinion
  • Local Government Opinion Contacts (Search for designated official)
  • Inspection/Zoning Compliance Form
  • FEIN-SSN Verification Form
  • Authority for Release of Information (Attach to fingerprint card)
  • Ownership Document
  • Recycling Compliance Form (Application)
  • Recycling Self Hauling Form
  • Recycling Exemption Request Form
  • Proof of Alcohol Seller/Server Training

Once all documentation has been submitted and fees have been paid, the process could take a few months to get your license. According to the North Carolina ABC website, once the application is processed, you will be contacted by the Alcohol Law Enforcement agent that completed your investigation to schedule an in-person meeting. If nothing else is needed from you, you can obtain a temporary permit until you receive your license.

These states – Alabama, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregan, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming – and jurisdictions in Alaska, Maryland, Minnesota and South Dakota have adopted some form of “control” model, meaning they control the sale of distilled spirits, and, in some cases, wine and beer at the wholesale level. Thirteen of those jurisdictions also control retail sales for off-premise consumption, either through government-operated package stores or designated agents.

The complete list of contact information by state:


The Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board oversees the issuance of alcohol licenses. The licensing division office in each county has information on applying for an ABC license. The state has about 25 types of licenses. A standard restaurant license costs $300, while a brewpub license costs $1,000.

Phone: (334) 213-6300

Email: ABCBoard–[email protected]



Liquor licenses in Alaska are overseen by the Alaska Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. Applying for a new license or the transfer of a liquor license requires approval from the ABC Board, local government, and other state agencies. The fee for new and transferred applications is $500 per application (as of July 1, 2018).


Anchorage (907) 269-0350

Fairbanks  (907) 451-2748

Juneau (907) 465-2330



Licensing is handled through the Arizona Department of Liquor. Twenty-one different series of licenses are available.

Phone: (602) 542-5141



The Alcoholic Beverage Control Division of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration handles the alcohol permitting process.

Phone: (501) 682-1105

Email: [email protected]



The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control handles liquor license applications, including a special one for a limited area of San Francisco. The department advises that a local business license may be required and recommends a check for conflicts with local zoning ordinances. The application process is not quick, with the investigation process taking 45 to 50 days.

Email: [email protected]



The Colorado Department of Revenue issues the state’s alcohol licenses. Each license comes with local and state fees. Liquor licensing in Colorado requires retailers to first obtain license approval at the local government level.

Phone: (303) 205-2300



Liquor license applications are handled by the Liquor Control Division of the Connecticut State Department of Consumer Protection’s.

Phone: (860) 713-6210

Email: [email protected]



The Office of the Delaware Alcoholic Beverage Control Commissioner (OABCC) grants and denies applications for liquor licenses, approves and disapproves requests for modifications to licensed establishments, performs inspections and grants renewals of liquor licenses.

Phone:  (302) 577-5204

Email: [email protected]



The Department of Business and Professional Regulations handles the state’s alcohol licensing and enforcement.

Phone: (850) 487-1395

Web form/email:



In order to sell, buy or distribute alcohol in Georgia, a variety of licenses are needed. Georgia requires three types of licenses/permits to sell alcohol: a local alcohol license, a state alcohol license and a Federal Basic Permit. There are also many different types of licenses, such as Brewpub, Broker, Farm Winery, etc.

Phone: (877) 423-6711fl

Email: [email protected]



The state of Hawaii is divided into four county-based liquor regulatory jurisdictions: Kauai, Hawaii, and Maui, and the city and county of Honolulu. None of these are “dry” counties. Although governed by state law, each county adopts local rules implementing the state law.





The Idaho State Police Alcohol Beverage Control Division oversees alcohol permits and enforcement.

Phone: (208) 884-7060

Email: [email protected]



The Illinois Liquor Control Commission oversees the state’s alcohol permit and enforcement. The cost of a retail liquor license is $750.

Phone: (312) 814-2206

Email: [email protected]



The Alcohol and Tobacco Commission of Indiana regulates restaurants, breweries, wineries, grocery stores and package stores that sell alcohol. Applications are reviewed at the county level by the local alcoholic beverages board.

Phone: (317) 232-2430



The State of Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division handles licensing and provides a portal that includes information on how to obtain a liquor license, how to review liquor license law and how to search license records.

Phone: (866)-IowaABD or (866) 469-2223

Web form/email:



The Kansas Department of Revenue’s Alcohol Beverage Control handles liquor permits. You can apply online at or print the application packet from the ABC website.

Phone: (785) 296-7015

Email: [email protected]



The Alcoholic Beverage Control unit of Kentucky processes new applications and renewals. The final approval follows a compliance review by the licensing division.

Phone: (888) 847-7222

Email: ABC/[email protected]



The Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control handles alcohol license permitting, which can be done online.

Phone: (225) 925-4041



Permitting is handled by Maine’s Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages & Lottery Operations. All of the license and permit application forms that you need to file are available online on their website.

Phone: (207) 624-7220

Email:  [email protected]



Online applications can be filed with the Comptroller of Maryland Field Enforcement Division, Regulatory and Licensing Section. Maryland collects nearly $310 million annually in sales tax on beer, wine and distilled spirits.

Phone: (410) 260-7801



The Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, an agency under the Massachusetts State Treasury, addresses the sale, transportation, possession, and manufacturing of alcoholic beverages. Depending on the type of license requested, applications may be filed online.

Phone: (617) 727-3040



Michigan’s Liquor Control Commission handles applications, including online applications for renewal.  Michigan is a control state, and quotas are in place.

Phone: (866) 813-0011 or (517) 284-6250

Email: [email protected]



State law generally gives cities the authority to license and regulate the retail sale of intoxicating liquor. The state regulates many aspects of local liquor licensing, but, in some instances, stricter local ordinances prevail. Here is a great document detailing liquor licensing and regulation in Minnesota.

Phone: (651) 201-7500



Applications for liquor licenses are handled through Mississippi’s state ABC board. ABC manages the issuance of approximately 1,700 alcoholic beverage licenses annually to package retailers and on-premise retailers.

Phone: (601) 856-1301



Liquor licenses are handled through the Missouri Department of Public Safety’s Alcohol & Tobacco Control. The state has five alcohol and tobacco control districts.

Phone: (573) 751-2333



Montana Department of Revenue handles the issuance of liquor licenses. The state has a competitive bid process that allows people and businesses to bid on the opportunity to apply for an available license. The highest bidder is allowed to apply for the license.

Phone: (406) 444-0700 or (406) 444-6900

Web form/email:



The Nebraska Liquor Control Commission oversees the issuance of liquor licenses in the state. Original applications can be submitted by mail or by appointment, however, renewals can be completed online.

Phone: (402) 471-2571



Nevada cities and counties are responsible for issuing retail liquor licenses, and the application process varies from one municipality to another. It normally takes 60 to 90 days to secure a Las Vegas liquor license.

Phone: (702) 455-4125

Email: [email protected]

Website for Las Vegas:

New Hampshire

Alcohol licenses are issued through the New Hampshire Liquor Commission. The commission does require the proprietor, partner, officer, member or designated manager of a new retail license to attend a Management Training Seminar (MTS) within 45 days of license issuance.

Phone: (603) 271-3523


New Jersey

The state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control issues alcohol permits, many of which can now be submitted online.

Phone: (609) 984-2830

Web form/email:


New Mexico

The Alcohol and Gaming Division of the state’s Regulation & Licensing Department  handles the issuance, transfer and revocation of liquor licenses.

Phone (505) 476-4875


New York

The New York State Liquor Authority’s Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control issues the state’s liquor licenses. On-premise license applications are now available online through the New York Business Express. New York has four zones or districts for

Phone: (518) 474-3114


North Carolina

The ABC Commission of North Carolina is in charge of liquor licenses. North Carolina, a control state,  issues about 50,000 commercial permits for retail sales of alcoholic beverages.

Phone: (919) 779-0700

Email: [email protected]


North Dakota

The state Attorney General’s Office oversees the issuance of liquor licenses. Anyone who would like to be involved in the retail sale of alcoholic beverages is advised to submit an application at least four to six weeks in advance.

Phone: (701) 328-2210

Web form/email:



The Department of Commerce Division of Liquor Control issues liquor licenses. If no hearing is requested, and no objection is filed by the local police, and no adverse information is discovered through the local police or the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCII), a permit could be issued within 10 to 12 weeks, but no sooner than 15 days from the filing date.

Phone: (614) 644-2360

Email: [email protected]



The state’s Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement (ABLE) Commission issues liquor licenses in Oklahoma. An application can be downloaded from the website.

Phone: (405) 521-3484



A permit can be issued by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to businesses that sell, manufacture, import or distribute alcohol. A service permit is good for five years. Oregon is a control state.

Phone: (503) 872-5124

Email: [email protected]



The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) handles liquor permits. In 2016, the PLCB was given the authority to auction expired licenses to the highest bidder. The minimum bid is $25,000 per license.

Phone: (717) 783-8250


Rhode Island

The Division of Commercial Licensing and Regulation is responsible for liquor licenses in the state of Rhode Island. You can apply for a permit through the division’s online portal. First-time applicants must first register and create an account.

Phone:  (401) 462-9559

Email: [email protected]


South Carolina

The South Carolina Department of Revenue regulates alcoholic beverage commerce through a three-tiered distribution and licensing structure that strictly separates manufacturing, wholesaling and retailing interests into distinct tiers of operation.

Phone: (803) 898-5864


South Dakota

The South Dakota Department of Revenue handles liquor permits. Permit costs vary based on the location of the business. A federal Alcohol Tax Stamp is also required.

Phone: (605) 773-3311



The state’s Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) handles licensing. TABC does not issue beer permits and no longer accepts paper applications or checks.

Phone: (615) 741-1602



The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) processes applications for alcoholic beverage permits. About 100,000 licenses and permits are issued each year. Your best resource when applying for a new license or permit is your local TABC office.

Phone: (512) 206-3333

Email: [email protected]



The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC) issues licenses and permits to restaurants, clubs, beer establishments, and organizers of temporary events. Utah separates alcoholic beverages into two categories: liquor and beer.

Phone: (801) 977-6800

Email: [email protected]



The Vermont Department of Liquor Control (DLC) has a portal that guides you to the correct license. Check out the full list of Vermont licenses and permits.

Phone: (802) 828-2345



Virginia’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Authority has many types of licenses, but they fall within three basic categories: banquet, retail, and industry licenses.

Phone: (804) 213-4400

Email: [email protected]



A liquor license is an endorsement on the business license of an establishment selling alcohol in Washington. The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) ultimately decides whether to approve or deny an alcohol license.

Phone: (360) 664-1600

Email: [email protected]


West Virginia

The state’s Alcohol Beverage Control Administration issues alcohol permits, the majority of which are either Class A (on-premise consumption) or Class B (off-premise consumption).

Phone: (800) 642-8208 or (304) 558-5474

Email: [email protected]



The state’s Department of Revenue is in charge of alcohol beverage licenses. The clerk for the city, village or town you intend to conduct business will give you all the necessary information you will need. The clerk publishes your application three consecutive days in a row in the local daily newspaper, or once in a weekly newspaper, to allow objections from the public. The licensing authority (city council, council licensing board, town board, etc.) will vote on the application. The license may not be granted until at least fifteen days after the application is filed with the clerk.

Phone: (608) 261-5250

Email: [email protected]



The Liquor Division of WYoming’s Department of Revenue allows online applications through Wyoming’s Eliquor 2.0 portal.

Phone: (307) 777-6448

Email: [email protected]

Web form/email:



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