If you intend to open a bar or restaurant, you will need to obtain a lot of licenses and permits. Unfortunately, knowing what type of license you need to operate in your state and in your specific industry isn’t so simple. You may need to obtain local, county, state, or federal small business licenses. A business attorney can help you figure out which specific licenses you need.
The most common licenses include:
General Licenses Required for Any Business
- A general business license. A business license is necessary because it gives your local government notice of what you’re doing, holding you accountable for what you do, and ensuring you don’t do anything to harm the public.
- A “Doing Business As” (DBA) license or permit. A DBA license allows you to operate your business using another name, other than your legal name
- An Employer Identification Number (EIN), which is also known as a federal tax identification number. This identifies your business entity at a federal level.
- Your state’s version of the federal Employer Identification Number (also known as a sales tax permit)
- Depending on the location of your business, zoning permits
- Fire department permits
- Environmental permits
Specific Licenses Required for Bars and Restaurants
In addition to the licenses required for any business, you’ll need specific licenses designed to regulate bars and/or restaurants. The following licenses may be necessary specifically for a bar or restaurant, and are commonly issued by city governments:
- The most important is a liquor license, which permits a business to sell alcohol to individuals over 21.
- “Place of Entertainment” license. This license is usually issued by the local government or police department. A business needs this type of license if there is any entertainment provided in conjunction with the service of food or alcohol. The definition of entertainment is very broad.
- “Dance Hall Keeper” license. A business will need this permit if they intend to allow people to dance on their premises. If a business does not have one of these licenses and people regularly dance at the establishment, the business can face fines or other penalties.
- “Extended-Hours” license – A business needs this type of permit if they intend to be open past the hour when they have to stop serving alcohol. Typically, the license is required for patrons to remain on site, or be admitted, between the hours of 2 AM and 6 AM.
- Health department permits because food is being sold.
How Long Does It Take to Get Business Licenses?
It could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to get your business licenses. This will depend on a number of factors, namely your state and the specific licenses you need. Liquor licenses are among the slowest licenses to obtain.
What Is A Liquor License?
A liquor license is an endorsement on your state or city business license. No matter what state you live in, any business that legally sells alcoholic beverages must obtain a license to sell these beverages. Obtaining a liquor license is not a simple process, and there are strict rules and regulations that need to be followed in every state once a license is secured. The rules and regulations can vary from state to state, even from city to city.
Applications for a liquor license should usually be submitted 90 days before the anticipated opening date. Watch the timing closely. If an application is submitted too far in advance, it may be administratively withdrawn and you will be encouraged to apply closer to your opening date.
How Do You Get a Liquor License?
During the licensing process you will be asked to describe the following:
- Intent of your business
- Owners of the business
- Costs associated with opening your business
- Source(s) of funding for your business
- Anticipated opening date
After understanding your business plans, the government licensing specialist will request documents relating to the startup of your business, such as:
- Description of the business structure
- Your expected financing for start-up costs
- Lease or purchase agreements (Note: It is not required to have finalized leases, purchase agreements or financial agreements at the time of application. However, signed and finalized documents will be necessary prior to issuing your license)
- Floor plans
- Personal/criminal history statement.The statement requires you to provide all criminal history details, including the date, location, and the outcome of each charge. This includes charges that were dismissed, deferred, changed, and those that happened while you were a juvenile.
What Are Ways People Violate Their Liquor License?
There are many different ways that these laws can be violated. Liquor laws tend to vary considerably based on the jurisdiction and so do the ways liquor laws can be violated. Some common examples of liquor law violations include the following:
- Selling liquor to minors, not checking IDs, or accepting fake IDs. Perhaps the surest way to lose a liquor license is for the establishment to sell alcohol to individuals under the age of 21
- Selling liquor to visibly intoxicated customers Serving alcohol to an intoxicated individual who goes on to cause personal injury, property damage, or even death is almost a sure way for the establishment to lose its liquor license. The bar or restaurant may also be held civilly liable for the damages or injuries caused by a drunken patron
- Serving or selling alcohol at a time or on a day that it is prohibited by law
- Allowing underage employees to handle liquor
- Transferring ownership of the business without informing authorities
- Allowing illegal gambling
What Are the Penalties for Violating a Liquor License?
A liquor license violation, if not handled properly, can lead to severe sanctions, such as the suspension of the liquor license, revocation of the liquor license, and/or the closure of the business. Liquor license violations may also potentially lead to criminal charges.
The legal consequences that one may receive if found guilty of violating a state or local liquor law will largely be contingent on the circumstances of a specific case. These include the nature of the crime involved in the charges, and the laws enacted within a particular jurisdiction. Therefore, the legal consequences for liquor law violations can vary considerably from one case to the next, depending on the factors just mentioned.
The loss of a liquor license may not always be permanent. Businesses may be allowed to have their license reinstated after certain conditions have been met; however, in instances where businesses are knowingly selling alcohol to minors or to intoxicated persons who cause physical harm or property damage, the loss of a license may be permanent.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Liquor Law Violations?
As previously discussed, violations of state or local liquor laws can result in serious legal consequences, including having a negative impact on the reputation of a business establishment as well as on an individual’s personal life. As such, if you are facing charges or penalties for violating a state or local liquor law, you may want to consider hiring a local business lawyer who practices law in your county immediately.
An experienced criminal lawyer will be able to explain how the liquor laws in your area may affect the outcome of your criminal case. They can discuss the potential criminal consequences that you may be facing if you are convicted of charges involving a liquor law violation.
Your lawyer will also be able to inform you of your rights as a criminal defendant under the relevant laws and can perform legal research to see if there are any legal defenses that you can assert in your case. In addition, your attorney will be able to draft and file any necessary legal documents for your case.
They can also assist you in gathering evidence to prove that you are either innocent or that your charges and therefore punishment should be reduced. Your attorney will also be able to provide legal representation in court and can assist with proposing a different sentencing option if you are convicted.
Finally, if you have any questions or concerns regarding liquor law violations in general, your attorney will be able to address all of those as well.