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Liquor license costs by state range from $300 to $14,000. The most expensive state to get a license is California. The cheapest states are those with a non-quota on liquor licenses. You can also obtain a license via a website, which will typically add on about $250 to the cost of obtaining the license.
If you’re gearing up to start a restaurant or bar or open a liquor store, it’s likely you’re interested in snagging a license. And for good reason! According to Small Business Chronicle, liquor sales tend to have some of the largest profit margins of anything on a menu, averaging between 75%-80%.
But before you start planning your happy hour specials, there are regulations you must adhere to, including licensing, in order to run a business with alcohol legally.
In this guide we’ll provide you with the steps you need to take to get a license based on the state you do business in. We’ll also inform you of some common costs associated with obtaining a license. But first, let’s take a look at some of the hurdles you’ll have to leap to secure your license.
Although the specifics on acquiring a license vary by state, the general process goes like this:
Most of the obstacles associated with obtaining a license are bureaucratic. Working with your state’s governing agency, you must determine what kind of license you need and the availability of that license.
The type of license you need depends on a variety of factors that you will explain to your state’s ABC board. For example, you’ll need to explain what type of establishment you operate (restaurant, bar, hotel), if you’ll let customers bring their own alcohol (BYOB), the hours and days you will sell alcohol, and if you will be manufacturing alcohol on the premises.
Based on your answers to these questions, your state’s ABC board will tell you what kind of license you need, and if one is available. Many states have a limited number of liquor licenses, making new licenses hard to come by. If that is the case in your state, you may have to purchase your license from an existing business.
Once you find a liquor license, you will need to submit an application. Some of the items you must provide with your liquor license application are your employer identification number (EIN), business license, sales tax permit, health permit, building permit, and zoning permit. The building and zoning permits are used to determine if your business is in a location and facility where it is legal to sell alcohol. For example, some states won’t grant you a license if your business is too close to a school.
If you are missing any one piece of information, your application will be put on hold until you can submit that information. Once your application is complete, you must submit it via mail or online to your state ABC board along with any accompanying required forms and permits.
Your application can take up to six months to be approved. During that time your state ABC board will work with other local agencies to determine if the information you provided on your application is accurate and resolve any issues that may be raised. For example, local businesses in your area have a right to file on objection to your application.
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To obtain a liquor license you will typically have to pay a fee for the license and a processing fee for your application. The cost of a license ranges from $300 to $14,000 based on your state. You may also have to pay an additional license fee based on your municipality. Processing fees typically run a few hundred dollars.
When it comes time to renew your license (licenses typically last one-three years), you will have to pay a renewal fee. Depending on your state, renewal fees can be as high as the initial license fee or significantly cheaper. If you choose to obtain your license via an online service–such as LiquorLicense.com–you can expect to pay an additional fee of a few hundred dollars.
Other costs you might incur while filing your application include the cost of obtaining a zoning permit, building permit, signage permit, and an alcohol tax permit. These permits can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands, depending on your state.
What all this information means is that obtaining a liquor license is a complicated, expensive, and time-consuming process. But with liquor sale profit margins so high, it is a process that many business owners deem worth it. If you count yourself as one of those business owners, let us help you get started on your application with our state-by-state guide to obtaining a liquor license. Cheers!
To get a license in Alabama you will need to call and arrange an appointment with the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) licensing division office in your county. Before your appointment, you must complete a pre-application form and checklist. The checklist outlines the documents you must bring with you to the licensing division office, including your pre-application form, corporation or LLC paperwork, identifying documents, a written approval from your local governing authority, and a liquor liability insurance certificate, among other paperwork.
According to the Alabama ABC website, licenses in Alabama range in cost from $100 to $1,000, depending on the type of license you need. All liquor licenses expire annually on Sept. 30. The license renewal period is from June 1 through July 31 of each year
Applying for a license in Alaska is a three- to six-month process involving approval from the Alaska ABC board, your local government, and other state agencies, according to the Alaska Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office website. To get started, you must complete, sign, and notarize your license application, and then post it prominently at the location of your business for 10 days. After 10 days, you can submit your license application to the Alaska ABC board along with a variety of other required forms, including a posting affidavit, proof of advertising, and fingerprint cards. Once the ABC board has all your paperwork, they will contact the necessary authorities to approve your application.
Alaska licenses range in price from $50 to to $2,500, and must be renewed every two years.
The state of Arizona has 21 different series of liquor licenses, each with its own unique application process. See here for which one best applies to your business. You can apply for an Arizona license online via the Arizona Department of Liquor website. To get started, register for an account and complete the information on the “My Profile” page. You will also be prompted to upload any required documents in PDF format. Your required documents vary based on the license you are applying for, but all applications must include fingerprint cards. Once submitted, most applications will be processed within 105 days.
The cost of an Arizona license ranges from $100 to $2,000. All licenses must be renewed annually.
The Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Division of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration is responsible for regulating liquor licenses in Arkansas. There are six different types of liquor licenses you can apply for: Retail Beer, Combination Beer & Wine, On Premises Wine, Small Farm Wine – Retail, Hotel/Motel/Restaurant Mixed Drink, and Private Club. Each application must be mailed to the Arkansas ABC office along with a criminal background check, an entertainment form, and a form certifying that you have attended an ABC educational seminar.
The cost of an Arkansas license ranges from $100 to $3,000, and is due at the time you submit your application.
The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control states that any person wishing to obtain an alcoholic beverage license should apply at the nearest office of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Additionally, they advise checking with appropriate county or city officials to determine if a local business license is required, or if any zoning laws conflict with your desired license. Its website states that the average processing time for a new license in California is 90 days, and a person-to-person transferred license is 75 days. Note that in California licenses must be renewed every 12 months.
According to the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Liquor & Tobacco Enforcement website, to acquire a Colorado liquor license you must first gain approval at the local government level and submit to a background check. If approved, you’ll visit the Department of Revenue portal and select the application type that matches your business. Colorado has seven different license permits: Manufacturer/Wholesaler, Retail, Art Gallery, Bed & Breakfast, Special Event, Wine Festival, and Liquor Sales Room. Each permit has its own unique application process and price. All permits are subject to local and state fees and must be renewed annually.
To get alicense in Connecticut you must submit an application along with the necessary paperwork and payment at a drop box at the Department of Consumer Protection Self-Service Center in Hartford. There are 26 different types of license permits you can apply for. The on-premise liquor permit application requires you to receive approval from your local municipality and submit a variety of general business information. On-premise liquor permit applications take 60 to 90 days to process, and range in price from $60 to $2,750. They must be renewed annually.
To get a license in Delaware, you can apply online via the Office of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commissioner (OABCC) online licensee system. There are different application types and prices depending on whether you plan to import liquor into the state, supply liquor to Delaware importers, or sell alcohol at a group gathering. To sell alcohol at a group gathering, you must submit an application that includes a copy of the deed or lease of the premises where you will be selling alcohol and the number of gatherings you plan on hosting over a two-year period (licenses are renewed biennially). If you plan on hosting more than 76 gatherings over a two-year period, you must pay a $1,000 permit fee plus an additional $400 to sell on Sundays.
There are a variety of liquor license permits in Florida, with a retail beverage permit to sell beer, wine, and liquor among the most common. This permit requires you to mail your application along with supporting documentation (fingerprints, zoning information, health approval) and a $400 application fee to your local Alcohol, Beverage, & Tobacco Division office for approval. Licenses must be renewed annually, and costs vary depending on the population size of your county. Note that Florida also distributes quota licenses annually via a lottery system. To be included in the lottery you must submit a quota application and $100 fee to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation between the third Monday of August and 45 days thereafter.
According to Georgia.gov, “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.” You must first apply for your local license with local authorities, and then you can apply for your state license through the Georgia Tax Center website. There are different licenses in Georgia for manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers. For retailers who wish to allow for the consumption of alcohol on the premises, a license can range in price from $10 to $1,000.
Note that with all applications you may have to submit to a background check, tax clearance, and fingerprint process.
The process for acquiring a license in Hawaii varies depending on the Hawaiian county you reside in. Liquor licenses in Honolulu are managed by the Honolulu Liquor Commission. Here, licenses differ by business type (restaurant, cruise vessel) and the kind of liquor you wish to serve. Applications can submitted online or in person at the Honolulu Liquor Commission. Once an application is submitted, there will be a preliminary and public hearing regarding the issuance of the license. Licenses must be renewed annually and can cost anywhere from $45 to $5,940. Click here for a list of different license application packets.
According to the Idaho Statesman, acquiring a license in Idaho is notoriously difficult due to a quota system that limits the number of licenses a city can have based on its population. All incorporated cities start with two licenses and have access to one additional license for every 1,500 residents. To apply for a Idaho license you must submit an application and supporting documentation to the Alcohol Beverage Control Bureau (ABC) of the Idaho State police. Application requirements differ by application type (restaurant, wholesaler), but most require proof of identification, control of the premise, and proof of U.S. citizenship, according to LiquorLicense.com. All applications are processed within 90 days of submission. If your application is approved, you will be placed on a wait list until a license becomes available.
Licenses must be renewed annually. Contact the Idaho Alcohol Beverage Control bureau for more information at 208.884.7060 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The cost of a retail liquor license in Illinois is $750.00. When you submit your application you must include your local liquor license, sales tax number/Illinois business tax (IBT) number, and federal employer identification number (FEIN). In addition, if you plan to allow on-premise consumption you must obtain a certificate of insurance. A photocopy of your local license is also required. Information on applying for other licenses can be found on the Illinois Liquor Control Commission’s website.
You can select the application you wish to apply for on the website of the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission (ATC). Completed applications and supporting documentation can be mailed to the Indiana ATC or submitted online. The ATC recommends applying for a permit at least 90 days prior to the date you intend to distribute alcohol. For more information, call the ATC at (317) 232-2430.
The State of Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division has a nifty portal where you can find information on how to get a license in Iowa, review liquor laws, search license records, view fee information, and more. Most licenses can be obtained online—see their Electronic Licensing User Guide for more info.
The state of Kansas lets you apply for your license online via the Kansas Department of Revenue’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Department. Their extremely helpful website explains how to apply for a license, processing times, how your license will be delivered, when you’ll need to renew it, and more. Before applying be sure to obtain a obtain a FEIN, register for business taxes, and have a valid tax clearance certificate from the Kansas Department of Revenue. Applications are processed within 30 days and licenses are valid for two years.
The Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) portal for the state of Kentucky contains links to all the appropriate forms for liquor licensing. ABC applications and forms may be printed, filled out, and submitted to ABC via mail or fax, and you must receive local approval before a state license can be issued. Other stipulations include advertising your intent to apply for a license at least one time in the local paper of record before applying, and providing background check documentation. Licenses must be renewed yearly, and license fees range from $30 to $7,730.
Louisiana offers a variety of different applications for both on-premise and off-premise permits. The Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control requires new on-premise applicants to advertise their intent in a local newspaper, provide general identification and business information, and fingerprint cards. Complete applications along with supporting documents and the application fee ($320 for a beer and liquor permit in a city) should be mailed to the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control. Applications are processed within 35 days.
The Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages & Lottery Operations provides a step-by-step process for acquiring a license. You can acquire your application materials online and submit your completed application, supporting materials, and fees via mail or in person. Note that on-premise licenses require approval from the local municipality before receiving state approval. This may require a public hearing and for the business to advertise their intent to acquire a license in the local paper for three consecutive days. For further questions contact the Division of Liquor Licensing and Enforcement at (207) 624-7220 or by emailing MaineLiquor@maine.gov.
You can find the application for a Maryland license here, and more information on how to apply for the license on the Comptroller of Maryland’s website. The application calls for some general business and identification information, as well as a background check. Applicants also need to file for licenses with their local government. In Baltimore County, a license application comes with a $600 fee. All state licenses must be renewed annually.
To apply for a retail liquor license in Massachusetts you will need to complete a new retail license application along with a notarized Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) form. Depending on which city your business is in, you may be able to apply online. You will send these forms along with a $200 application fee to your Local Licensing Authority (LLA). Then, you will publish an advertisement for a public hearing on your application in the local paper of record. It must be published within 10 days of your application being submitted. The hearing will be held between 10 and 30 days after your application is received.
The LLA will either approve or disapprove your application. If it is disapproved, you can appeal to the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC), who can overturn or uphold the LLA decision.
If you are looking to acquire a retail liquor license in Michigan, you can find the application on the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs website. Each state license application must include fingerprint cards, local government approval, and property and business documents. Depending on whether you are looking for an on-premise or off-premise permit, you can pay up to $1,000 in fees. The Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) says applications can take “months” to be processed, and require a face-to-face meeting between the prospective licensee and an MLCC investigator. You can find a list of required documentation here.
According to Bizfluent, to obtain a Minnesota liquor license you must start by gaining approval from your local government. Your state application will ask for a business name and address, owner information, building information, your business tax ID, and the nature of any entertainment or food offered. Applications can be submitted to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement. After the initial application is filed, the license bureau may conduct a background check of ownership, which may include an investigation by law enforcement. After the application goes through an initial review process, the licensing bureau may require a public hearing or a period for public comment. The fee for a license varies by the location and size of the establishment.
The application for a Mississippi liquor license can he found here. Each application must include ownership information, financial statements, fingerprint cards, and a copy of your business lease or deed. Applicants must also give public notice of their intent to pursue a liquor license by advertising for two consecutive issues in the local newspaper of record. Based on the type of permit you are seeking, license fees can range from $45 to $9,025. Your completed application, supplemental paperwork, and license fee must be submitted to the Mississippi ABC.
To sell liquor in Missouri, you’ll need to pay a $300 application fee and submit a criminal background check, proof of voter registration, and a variety of other paperwork along with your application form. Depending on your district, you’ll send your application to one of three different Alcohol and Tobacco Control offices located throughout the state. Applications take 10 to 21 days to be processed. Get started on your application here.
You can follow the steps in the online portal provided by the Montana Department of Revenue to apply for a license. You’ll need to pay a license fee that can range from $400 to $800 plus an application processing fee of $400. Montana liquor licenses must be renewed annually before June 30. Note that you’ll have to submit fingerprint cards with your application. For more information call the Montana Department of Revenue at (406) 444-6900.
Find the forms for Nebraska State licenses here—applications must be mailed, faxed, or emailed to the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission. The Liquor Control Commission asks that if you wish to bring an application for a liquor license into their office so that it may be reviewed before you submit, call the office first and make an appointment ahead of time. There is a $400 application fee, and applications can take up to 60 days to be processed.
For the state of Nevada, you need to contact the local county office that deals with business licenses. Call the Nevada Alcoholic Beverage Control if you have issues locating the right office. You can download a Nevada license application form here. You may pay an application fee of up to $550, depending on the type of license you are applying for. Licenses must be renewed annually by July 1.
In New Hampshire, you must first fill out a form to request an application for a license. Based on the type of entity you run, there will be different processes—fortunately, they have guides for each and every one of them. When you submit your actual application, you will have to pay a $100 fee. Afterward, you will also have to submit to an inspection of your business premises. Once the inspection is complete, call the licensing help desk at (603) 271-3523 and schedule a final appointment. Bring copies of all your required paperwork (which can be found here) to the appointment.
In the Garden State you must contact the Municipal Clerk or your local ABC board for a copy of a retail license application. The application requires information about the business owner, and business location, as well as a $200 filing fee. New Jersey licenses must be renewed annually. Note that you can also apply for some New Jersey licenses via the online licensing system.
New Mexico is a quota state, meaning it has a limited number of licenses available. That being the case, the Licensing Department suggests you employ a liquor license broker in your area to assist you. You can find more information on their website. If you do find a license, there is a $200 application fee, and fingerprint cards, a tax clearance, and other documentation must be submitted to the New Mexico Alcohol and Gaming Division.
See a list of available licenses in the state of New York here, with information on how to apply and any other details you may need to know. The Liquor Authority Division of New York allows you to submit your application online. Before filing, you must provide notice to your municipality of your intent to pursue a license via a Standardized Notice Form, and wait 30 days thereafter to file your application. Note that fingerprint cards are a requirement in your application.
You can download the forms to complete to acquire a license in North Carolina via the ABC online portal. All applications must be submitted with the usual business and identification paperwork, as well as FEIN-SSN verification, and fingerprint cards. Application fees range in price from $100 to $1,000, and all licenses must be renewed annually. After you submit your application to the North Carolina ABC, the commission will investigate the applicant and the premises for which the permit is requested with help from the Alcohol Law Enforcement Division.
To apply for a license in North Dakota you must submit an application and the appropriate license fee (cost varies by alcohol type and filing month) to the Office of the Attorney General. The application will be processed in four to six weeks, and every license must be renewed on or before December 31 of each year.
See this handy doc for information on how to apply for a liquor permit in Ohio. You’ll start by submitting an application along with a $100 processing fee to the Ohio Department of Commerce. Once processing begins, a notice is sent to the local legislative authority and local police department. A Licensing Office compliance officer will also perform a physical inspection of the applicant’s premises and ensure their business is zoned for the sale of alcohol. There may also be a hearing if requested by either the legislative body or a public institution. Given all these steps, it can take ten to twelve weeks to be approved for a license in Ohio. The price of a license varies but could be as much as $2,344.
You can apply for an Oklahoma license via the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement (ABLE) Commission’s online portal. The cost to submit an application is $55, and licenses must be renewed annually.
See a list of all license types in Oregon to decipher which license is best for your business. Then choose the appropriate application here and follow the instructions. Your application will be submitted to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) office that serves your county. After the OLCC accepts your license application packet, they will give you a copy of the application to take to your local government. The local government is allowed up to 45 days to process your application and provide a recommendation to the OLCC. Some license applicants may also be required to post a public notice of the license application at their business location. The OLCC will work with you to meet this requirement. Most applications take four to eight weeks to process overall. Prices vary depending on the type of application you are applying for.
If you’re interested in applying for alcohol permits or licenses through the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB), you must first register to use the PLCB+ system using an access code provided by the PLCB—anyone without an access code can email email@example.com to obtain one. Then, the PLCB+ portal will be your one-stop shop to liquor licensing and resources for good.
Apply for a license directly online through the State of Rhode Island ELicensing portal. First-time applicants must register a new account. You can find the different types of applications on the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation website. For all liquor inquiries, you can contact LeeAnn Desilets, Liquor Section Licensing Aide, by phone at (401) 462-9544 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The South Carolina Department of Revenue regulates licenses for the state. See their website for a list of license types and their specifics. All applications take six to eight weeks to process. Within 30 days before you submit your application, you must run an ad in the local paper of record stating your intention to pursue a license for your place of business. A license to sell wine, liquor, and beer in South Carolina costs between $5 and $2,200 every two years, depending on your specific license type. There is also a filing fee ranging between $200 and $300.
The South Dakota Department of Revenue instructs you to contact your county auditor for license availability, the cost, and what the local process is for obtaining a license. See their website for more information.
Tennessee does Liquor-by-the-Drink licensing, meaning you can get a license specific to the type of alcohol and business type. See here for the list of license types. To get started with your application, you will have to go through the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s (TABC) Regulatory Licensing and Permitting System (RLPS), which is an online portal for submitting an application.
You can apply for liquor permits in Texas online through the TABC portal. You’ll be able to select from a multitude of different application types and automatically see what each license will ultimately cost. In addition, the TABC portal can be used to certify sellers and servers.
See the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control website for information on licensing and links to various licensing portals. After submitting an application, the applicant will be informed of the time when the ABC will be deliberating on their application. The ABC considers the proximity and condition of the location, the applicant’s background and characteristics, the type of operation, and a variety of other factors when considering whether to issue a license or not. License fees vary in price, but can be as high as $10,000.
The Vermont Department of Liquor Control has a useful portal to guide you in choosing the correct license for your business and then instructing you through that process. When you complete your license application you will submit the application to the municipality where the license will be held and send along the required fees to both the municipality and the Department of Liquor Control. As your application is being processed on the local level, you will submit additional paperwork on the state level, including background check and business information. You are also required to attend a seminar held by the Department of Liquor Control. All licenses must be renewed annually.
The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control website provides information on the three different types of licenses you can get in Virginia: Banquet, retail, and industry. Each type of application varies in terms of required information and cost. An on-premise retail application comes with a $195 fee. Applicants are also required to post notice of their application on their place of business for ten consecutive days as well as two consecutive days in the local paper. The ABC is then required to conduct a background investigation on applicants and notify the local government of the application. Special agents can contact local officials, residents, and nearby business people to see if there are any objections. If everything looks good, a license can be issued to an applicant 30 days after the first published notice of application in the local newspaper. If a license application is contested, a public hearing will take place.
The state of Washington recommends you submit an application 90 days in advance of when you plan to start selling alcohol. To get started with your application, visit the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) website and follow the outlined processes. Along with your application you will be required to submit a LCB addendum and an alcohol dealer registration. You may also need additional local, state and federal licenses for your business that are not covered under the business license application. You can file your application online or via mail. All applications must include a $75 filing fee. Afterwards the WSLCB will put you through a review process that includes an interview and public comment period. For more information on licensing requirements for your business, contact the Department of Revenue, Business Licensing Service at 1-800-451-7985 or BLS@dor.wa.gov.
See this list of alcohol license applications and forms to determine which your business might need. Licenses range in price from $100 to $2,650, and must be renewed annually. All applications must be submitted by mail with fingerprint cards, a $5,000.00 alcohol beverage control bond and/or a $1,000.00 non intoxicating beer bond, building and business information, and a copy of a valid health permit to the West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration. If you need further assistance contact the Licensing Division at 304.356.5500 or email@example.com.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, to apply for a license, you must “contact the clerk for the city, village, or town where you wish to do business.” The clerk will assist you with applications and information, and then the licensing authority (city council, council licensing board, town board, etc.) will have a say on your application. The license may not be granted until at least 15 days after the application is filed with the clerk.
Liquor licensing is done online through Wyoming’s Eliquor 2.0 portal. See instructions for registering for the program here. Once you have completed registration, the Wyoming Liquor Division will email you to inform you that your account has been activated. After you log in, you will be able to navigate your options to apply for a license. For questions call the Liquor Division of the Department of Revenue at (307) 777-5866.