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How To Get a Liquor License in all 50 States

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A liquor license enables your business to sell alcohol for on- or off-premises consumption. States usually offer licenses based on the business you’ll run and the type of alcohol you want to sell.

The application process for how to get a liquor license can take anywhere from a few days to months. License fees vary greatly from state to state, with some charging just a few hundred dollars and others putting licenses up for auctions that can bring in more than $100,000 for a single license. Some states require that businesses begin the process with their city or county, which may charge its own fees. If you sell alcohol without a license, local or state authorities could fine you and/or suspend your license.

Steps for getting a liquor license

Most states have a commission or group that provides liquor licenses. The typical process requires you to fill out an application and await approval. However, some states may ask you to publicly post your application and then appear in a hearing that includes public comment. Others that have quotas on the total number of liquor licenses enter you into a lottery, and some put their licenses up for auction. In some cases, you might have to find a license through a private sale.

Whichever the case, you’ll need to provide documentation regarding the type of business you want to run (restaurant, bar, distillery, brewery, etc.); which alcohol you want to sell (beer, wine and/or spirits) and an application fee that’s separate from the fee you pay for your license. Even once you’re approved, it’s likely you’ll have to renew your license on a regular basis.

Step 1: Understand your state’s liquor laws

Because liquor laws vary from state to state, you’ll need to know the specific rules that regulate alcohol sales in your state. Some of the quirks you may encounter include dry counties, separate licenses for selling alcohol on Sundays, and the hours in which you’re allowed to sell alcohol. Your state’s alcohol beverage control (ABC) board or a similar department should have an online information page that provides explanations of every license type and what you can and can’t do with that license. Keep reading for a state-by-state breakdown.

Step 2: Know the types of liquor licenses

While you’ll face a lot of regulatory variation between states and license types, all licenses usually fall into one of two categories: on premises and off premises.

On premises vs. off premises
  • On premises: These licenses are for businesses that sell alcohol that people drink at, for example, a restaurant’s indoor or outdoor seating. You’ll find that most states have separate licenses for restaurants, bars, breweries and brewpubs.
  • Off premises: Usually reserved for grocery stores, package stores, wineries, breweries and distilleries, this type of license allows you to sell alcohol that customers drink elsewhere. In most cases, you’ll need to apply for a license specific to the type of alcohol you’ll sell.

Step 3: Apply and pay for your license

You’ll need to go to your state’s ABC agency website to find out how to apply. In many cases, you can apply for your license online. However, some states still require you to mail in your application while a few may even dictate in-person applications or times when you’ll need to appear.

While the application process is different for each state, yours may require that you already have an Employer Identification Number (EIN) and that you have already completed the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau permit process. You’ll need to gather multiple documents including:

  • Completed application
  • Photos and/diagrams of the premises
  • Background checks and fingerprints for business principals
  • Deed or lease agreement
  • States sales tax license number
  • Formation documents
  • Approval from local authority (mayor or county commission)
  • Management and/or server ABC training

Some states may ask for sources of funding for your business, including any business loans you used.

How to get a liquor license in your state

Alabama

You will need to apply in person at a division office of the Alabama ABC Board after completing a pre-application form. Fees range from $150 to sell beer on or off premises up to $1,000 for a brewpub permit. There is no fee for nonprofits that may apply for special event permits.

Alaska

You can submit your application by email to Alaska’s Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office within 60 days of posting your application publicly (Form AB-07) and advertising through radio or newspaper. Application fees start at $500 and year-round license fees range from $400 for a malt beverage and wine wholesale business to $2,500 for a beverage dispensary. Seasonal licenses are half the price of year-round licenses. Keep in mind that Alaska is a quota state so your best bet for acquiring a liquor license here might be to apply for a transfer. Even then, it could take three to six months to complete the process. You can see a list of current license holders as well as expired licenses here.

Arizona

Most businesses can apply online with the Arizona Department of Liquor (ADL). Applications for special events and festivals/fairs need to be submitted in person at a local ADL office. Application fees start at $100 for most licenses and license fees range up to $2,000 for hotels, motels and restaurants. Because Arizona is a quota state, you may need to buy a liquor license on the open market from a current license holder or enter an annual lottery.

Arkansas

You’ll need to submit an application to the Arkansas ABC, which requires various paperwork and mandatory attendance at an educational seminar. Yearly fees range from $100 for small farm wineries to $3,000 for private clubs.

California

California’s ABC office requires you to submit a pre-application to a local ABC district office before completing a full application. In some cases, you may have to publish a notice in the newspaper as well as provide written notice to everyone living within 500 feet of the premises. Fees start at $115 for certain beer manufacturers, spirits shippers and grape storage, and go up to $1,235 for restaurants. Some licensing fees decrease based on the population of your city.

Colorado

All applications go through the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Liquor Enforcement Division, and you’ll need to get approved at your local government first. The only exception is for chain stores and other businesses that have locations across the state. Fees range from $50 per year for art galleries to $675 for distilleries. Licenses to sell beer and wine are $75.

Connecticut

To get your liquor permit from the Department of Consumer Protection’s (DCP) Liquor Control Division, you can fill out an application and drop it off at any DCP self-service center drop box. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the office is only accepting mailed applications. Fees start at $150 for single-day concession sales and reach $2,750 for casinos. Restaurant licenses are $1,550.

Delaware

The Delaware ABC Commissioner oversees the application process. You’ll send your application by mail or email, depending on the application type; if you’re applying for an event-based license, you have to submit your license at least 10 days before the event. Fees range from $150 to do wine or spirits tastings to $3,000 to sell alcohol at racetracks. Restaurant licenses are $1,000.

District of Columbia

The D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Commission handles liquor licenses, giving business owners a way to find their appropriate form by establishment type. Licenses here range up to $6,000 but many are good for three years. You will also need to pay an application fee. You could read more about the steps to getting a license here. Licensees may need an additional “endorsement” even after receiving their liquor license. Such instances include restaurants that offer sidewalk seating or if you wanted to offer live entertainment.

Florida

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations (DBPR) uses an annual lottery system to award available liquor licenses to businesses that want to sell beer, wine and liquor. You’ll need to apply for a lottery spot first. If you win a license, yearly fees are $28 (beer package sales) to $1,820 (beer, wine and liquor consumption on premises) depending on the population of the county in which you’re doing business. Quotas would not apply if you wanted to sell beer and wine only or in certain situations such as hotels or motels or catered events.

Georgia

You’ll submit your application online to the Georgia Department of Revenue for a state license, but you’ll need to apply for a license with your county as well. Fees vary by the type of business you own, but restaurants and brewpubs that want to sell alcohol for on-premise consumption will pay $1,000 for a state liquor license. You’ll most likely have to pay county fees on top of that.

Hawaii

In the Aloha State, you’ll need to apply with your county to obtain your liquor license. To get a license in Hawaii County, for example, you’ll need to go through a multi-step application process that includes the following requirements:

  • An interview with a Department of Liquor Control (DLC) representative
  • Fill out an application
  • Attend a DLC hearing
  • Mail out notices to neighboring businesses
  • Attend a public hearing where citizens can voice their concerns.

Licenses fees start at $150 to sell beer in a restaurant and go up to $1,200 to sell alcohol at hotels and condo hotels.

Idaho

All applications go through the Idaho State Police ABC Division, but you’ll want to start with your city or county clerk’s office which can help you navigate the steps to take. The application process differs based on which license you apply for. It will cost $50 per year to sell beer on your premises, $100 a year to sell wine by the bottle for off-premises consumption, and $100 per year to sell wine for on-premises drinking. If you want to sell alcoholic beverages by the bottle, you’ll need to contact the Idaho State Liquor Division. Any type of license to sell alcohol will require a background check, financial check and fingerprints from applicants.

Illinois

You’ll submit your retailer application to the Illinois Liquor Control Commission either in person, by mail or via email. You’ll pay $150 for a one-day event license, $750 for an on-premises liquor license and $1,500 for a brewpub license.

Indiana

The Indiana Alcohol & Tobacco Commission accepts mailed and walk-in applications. If you choose to apply in person, you can set up an appointment to cut down on wait times. Fees start at $0 for state-fair licenses and go up to $1,000 to sell beer, wine and liquor at restaurants. Indiana is a quota state, so you’ll first need to make sure a license is available in the area where you want to set up a restaurant or package store wishing to sell beer, wine and liquor or else arrange for a license transfer. Applicants will also need to appear before their local alcoholic beverage board for its recommendation.

Iowa

The State of Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division (ABD) handles licensing; you’ll apply through ABD’s online e-licensing portal. The ABD provides licenses good for five or 14 days, as well as six, eight and 12 months. Pricing depends on which city you’re in and which days of the week you sell alcohol. A Class C license, which allows taverns, restaurants and bars to sell beer, wine and liquor, for example, costs $2,028 to sell every day of the week for 12 months in cities of 10,000 or more people.

Kansas

The Kansas Department of Revenue’s Alcohol Beverage Control accepts applications online or through the mail. You’ll first need to register for Kansas business taxes and provide a tax clearance certificate before you can apply. Your license fee varies depending on the type of business, but restaurants will pay a $1,000 bond for an on-premises license, while retailers, microdistilleries and farm wineries pay $2,000.

Kentucky

You’ll submit your liquor license application online to Kentucky’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control; mailed applications are no longer accepted. For certain types of businesses, you might also have to pay a fee to your city or county. For example, in Louisville, fees start at $25 for a single-event beer license and cost $1,800 for restaurants. You’ll pay an additional $100 if you brew beer on-site.

Louisiana

The Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) handles alcohol license permitting. You can mail your completed application or submit it in person at the ATC’s Baton Rouge, New Orleans or Opelousas offices. On-premises restaurant licenses start at $145 for beer only and $345 for beer and liquor (which includes beverages with at least 6% ABV). Off-premises licenses range from $120 to $220. You may have to pay additional fees to your city or county — New Orleans, for example, charges different fees, depending on what type of alcohol you sell, plus a $1,000 application fee.

Maine

Your application goes to the Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages & Lottery Operations, which accepts applications through in-person appointments and by mail. Keep in mind that you may need approval from your city or county before applying with the state. On-premises fees range from $220 for wine-only sales to $1,500 for malt liquor, wine and spirits sales in restaurant lounges. Off-premises licenses are $200.

Maryland

Maryland requires you to file for a liquor license with your local authorities. For example, residents of the City of Baltimore have to apply through the city’s Liquor License Board. License prices will vary by city but could be as high as $600.

Massachusetts

The state’s Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission requires you to submit your application in person at your local licensing authority and follow several other steps to finalize your liquor license. In addition to a $200 processing fee, the price of your retail liquor license is based on the city you’re in. For example, an on-premise license to sell all alcohol types costs $3,500 in Boston.

Michigan

You’ll submit your application to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, which might also require approval from your local governing body or police department. You may also be subject to an interview with the MLLC’s enforcement division Fees vary by the type of business you own. A license for a tavern costs $250, for example, but a restaurant license costs $600.

Minnesota

The Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division oversees liquor license applications in Minnesota, but you’ll get started with your city or county. Your local municipality will set the price for a retail liquor license in your area. The City of St. Paul, for example, charges between $4,891 and $5,882 for a retail license. You’ll then need to fill out what’s known as a buyer’s card with the state along with a $20 application fee.

Mississippi

Applications for liquor licenses are handled through the Department of Revenue’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Division. Applications must be sent by mail to the state’s permit department. Fees cost as much as $1,825 for an off-premise package store and $925 for on-premise retailers. Among other requirements, you’ll need to publish a public notice in at least two consecutive issues of your local newspaper.

Missouri

Applicants need to submit their applications to Missouri’s Alcohol & Tobacco Control department. License fees for on-premises businesses are $50 for beer sales and go up to $300 to sell spirits, wine and beer. Off-premises licenses cost $50-$100. You may need additional licenses for activities like selling alcohol on Sundays. Registration requirements include proof of voter registration and other paperwork. Applications will need to be returned to one of four district offices, depending on your county.

Montana

The Montana Department of Revenue oversees the liquor-sale application process. Because Montana is a quota state, licenses are available through a bidding process. Therefore, on-premise and off-premise license fees vary. In 2019, licenses sold for between $122,679 and $371,250. You could also buy one on the private market. If a license is available, you can start the application process online. You’ll have to pay additional fees depending on your type of business and license you’re seeking. The Department of Revenue publishes booklets that can help walk you through the process.

Nebraska

To get your liquor license, you can download an application from the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission and submit via email, fax or mail, or drop it off in person. In addition to a $400 application fee, licensing fees start at $77 for beer sales only and go up to $1,666 for on- and off-premises spirits, beer and wine sales. Your city or county may impose additional fees.

Nevada

To get a liquor license, you’ll need to submit an application to the Nevada Alcoholic Beverage Control. However, local municipalities control the pricing for retailers. For example, a full alcohol license (beer, wine, spirits) for a restaurant in Las Vegas costs $40,000, whereas the same license in Washoe County costs $127 plus a $1 fee per $1,000 of annual gross liquor sales. You may find a list of licensing jurisdictions here.

New Hampshire

You’ll first need to request a liquor license application with the Liquor Commission Division of Enforcement. The Licensing Help Desk will then email a checklist, which you’ll need to complete before scheduling an inspection of your business. You’ll then need to submit all required paperwork and schedule an appointment to finish the application. Fees start at $100 for military clubs and go up to $1,200 for restaurants.

New Jersey

All liquor license applications can be submitted online to the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control. License fees cost as little as $31 for limousines and $12,500 for a plenary distillery, distilleries that sell and distribute products to wholesalers and retailers. You’ll most likely owe a fee to your local municipality as well.

New Mexico

As a quota state, New Mexico has a limited number of licenses available to bars, nightclubs and full-service restaurants or stores that intend to serve alcohol. You’ll have to find a license for sale or lease on your own though the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control tracks recent sales which have been as high as $1.5 million. If you’re able to buy one, you’ll send your completed application and $200 to the New Mexico ABC department before going through a licensing process that can take up to five months. Clubs with a capacity of fewer than 250 people will pay $250, whereas restaurants will pay $1,050 for their license. Distillers and brewers will pay $3,000.

New York

To find out which license you’ll need, complete the New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA) application wizard, then fill out the correct application and mail it to the NYSLA. The fee for your license depends on where you are located; the state is split into four zones. On-premises wine, beer and cider licenses cost between $1,792 and $4,352. You’ll also need to notify your local government of your on-premises application before applying to the authority.

North Carolina

All applications for businesses planning to sell alcohol go through the North Carolina ABC Commission, which can guide you through the process using its permit wizard. Your license fee depends on the type of business you run. Restaurants will pay $400 for an on-premise malt beverage permit and $1,000 for a permit to sell beer, wine and spirits. In addition to your completed permit forms package, you’ll need to obtain a signed and notarized Local Government Opinion Form, along with proof of compliance with local building and fire codes.

North Dakota

The North Dakota Attorney General’s office handles all liquor license applications. You’ll submit your application to the AG’s office. Once approved, you send a monthly check to the AG based on a monthly payment schedule the AG has created for the year. What you pay is based on whether your city has more or fewer than 500 people. Fees range from $25 from October to December and $100 in January. You may have to pay additional fees to your city or county — in Grand Forks, for example, an issuance fee could cost as much as $69,000.

Ohio

To start the licensing process, you need to send your completed application to the Department of Commerce’s Division of Liquor Control. Permits are issued based on quotas; if your city’s quota is met, you’ll have to wait until new permits are available. If approved, your liquor permit will cost as much as $3,906 if you’re a beer manufacturer, and restaurants will pay $2,344 to sell wine, beer and liquor on premises.

Oklahoma

You can submit your liquor license application online or mail it to the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission. In addition to state fees, your city or county may charge additional fees. In Oklahoma City, license fees start at $75 for small-farm wineries and go as high as $3,125 for distilleries. An on-premise beer and wine license is $500.

Oregon

You’ll apply for your liquor permit through your local Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) office. Once the OLCC accepts your application, you’ll need to take additional paperwork to your local government. You’ll also be subject to an OLCC investigation. Fees range from $10 per day for special events to $800 for the full on-premises sales permit that most restaurants use. Your local government may charge a fee as well.

Pennsylvania

To start the application, you must first contact the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) by phone or email. Note that regulators might issue licenses based on a quota system, so there may or may not be available licenses at the time of your inquiry. If you’re able to obtain a license, your license fee will depend on the type of business you run and the population of the municipality where you apply. Fees should range from $125 to $700.

Rhode Island

The Rhode Island Division of Commercial Licensing and Regulation is responsible for liquor licenses for limited types of retail licenses (all other licenses are issued by your municipality). You can apply for a permit through the division’s online portal. Fees will differ depending on the city in which you file. For example, Pawtucket charges $15 for beer, wine and spirits at one-day nonprofit, religious or political events, but fees go up to as high as $1,750 for a tavern license.

South Carolina

The appropriate Alcohol Beverage Licensing application you’ll need to complete, as well as the filing and license fees you’ll need to pay, will depend on the type of license you’re seeking. South Carolina charges a filing fee as well as a license fee that is good for two years. Filing fees are typically between $200 and $300 with license fees between $250 and $6,100 (for sports venues).

South Dakota

You’ll need to consult your local government for the availability, cost and process for applying for a liquor license, but you’ll most likely fill out the same application no matter the location or type of alcohol you want to sell. The South Dakota Department of Revenue provides one uniform application. Permit costs vary based on which city or town your business is located — in Sioux Falls, for example, a retail wine license holder will pay a $533 fee.

Tennessee

Choose your business type and what type of wine or liquor you want to sell from the menu on the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) website — you’ll then be directed to TABC’s online licensing and permitting portal. Supplier, wholesaler and retailer fees range from $150 to $3,000, while restaurant licenses range from $270 to $1,200 depending on the type of liquor you want to sell and your seating capacity. (Other settings, such as clubs, bed and breakfasts and museums, are also listed with their own range of fees.) Municipalities may have additional rules. In Knoxville, for example, you’d need to pay additional fees and appear before the city council.

Texas

You need to send a notarized application to your local Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) office. You may also need to post a 60-day sign and publish a notice in your local newspaper. Your permit fee is based on the type of business you have and includes a fee and surcharge. Prices range from $25 for a temporary auction permit up to more than $17,000 for a manufacturer with five or more locations. Mixed beverage permits for restaurants can cost as much as $6,602. You might also be required to post a bond with the TABC. Courses are offered by the TABC to help business owners learn more about the licensing process and its responsibilities.

Utah

You’ll most likely need both state and local approval to sell alcohol in Utah. For the state, send your application to or drop it off at the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC). Applications are reviewed by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission which will weigh such factors as available quotas, location and an applicant’s management ability. The DABC charges an application fee plus initial fee for new licensees. For example, it costs a $330 application fee plus a $2,200 initial fee for a full-service beer/liquor restaurant license. That restaurant will have to pay a subsequent $1,650 renewal fee. Other businesses will pay an application fee as low as $75, while initial fees can be as much as $8,000.

Vermont

The form you’ll fill out and send to Vermont’s Division of Liquor Control (DLC) depends on the type of license you need. In some cases, you will need to start with your town or city clerk, who will then forward your application to the DLC. If you plan on allowing customers to drink outside, you’ll need to apply for an outside consumption permit, too. Fees vary depending on your business type, as little as $20 for an event at a library, museum or art gallery up to $3,000 for manufacturers. You’ll also need to attend a required seminar held by the DLC.

Virginia

You’ll need to submit your application for either a banquet, retail or industry license to Virginia’s ABC Authority. Fees for on-premise licenses range from $145 for beer-only to $2,765 for private clubs with a capacity of more than 500 people, plus a $195 application fee. Off-premises licenses cost $120 to $230, depending on the kind of alcohol served. You could sign up for a licensee training course to learn more.

Washington

You can submit your liquor license application online, in person or by mail to the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. The board lays out the steps for a retail liquor license in a guide, including an online briefing that you’ll need to complete (you’ll need to submit proof of completion along with your paperwork). You’ll also be contacted by a liquor license specialist who will conduct a telephone interview to talk about your business plans. License fees are as little as $75 for beer and wine gift delivery services, up to $2,500 for sports and entertainment facilities. Once you complete the process, you’ll receive an “endorsement” on your state business license, which is issued by the Department of Revenue.

West Virginia

You’ll need to mail your application to the Alcohol Beverage Control Administration. You may not have to pay a fee if you’re holding a one-day charity event with wine, but the fees can go as high as $7,650 for a private resort hotel. Depending on your type of business, you may also need to submit a $1,000 non-intoxicating beer bond and/or a $5,000 alcohol beverage control bond along with your application.

Wisconsin

Instead of sending your application to the Department of Revenue, you’ll need to speak with your city or town clerk to get your application started in Wisconsin. Your local municipality sets the prices (within limits set by state law) for your license fee. Your municipality may also have a quota that might cause the municipality to block any new applications. Those applying for a retail license will need to complete a server training course through their local technical college.

Wyoming

You’ll need to send or drop off your liquor license application to your local city or county clerk, who operates within the regulations of the Liquor Division of Wyoming’s Department of Revenue. Each local authority sets pricing for licenses, though prices will stay within state limits. For example, restaurant licenses and bar-and-grill licenses are $3,000 in Teton County.

 

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