Liquor License General Process

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 What are Liquor Licenses?

Liquor licenses are documents that permit businesses to serve or to sell alcoholic beverages in the state in which they are located. Liquor laws are strictly regulated by local governments, state governments, and the federal government.

Liquor licenses include:

  • The cost of beverages;
  • Where alcohol can be sold;
  • How much alcohol can be sold;
  • Who can buy alcohol; and
  • When alcohol can be served.

Are There Different Types of Liquor Licenses?

Due to the fact that each state may have its own liquor laws, it is not surprising that each state requires a different license. In some areas, a standard liquor license is accepted.

This may encompass all types of alcohol sales that are specific to that state. Typically, a liquor license will distinguish whether a business is permitted to sell alcohol to be consumed on the premises or off the premises.

A city may also separate liquor from other alcohol sales. For example, if a restaurant serves only beer and wine, it may only be required to obtain a beer and wine license as opposed to a liquor license.

There are some states that require a particular category of liquor licenses, depending on the nature of the business. Restaurants, clubs, and hotels, may have a particular category of licenses as well as companies that deliver their alcohol.

A liquor license is often referred to when speaking about the operations of restaurants and bars. Retail stores that sell alcohol, such as liquor stores, supermarkets, and convenience stores, are also subjected to liquor licenses, more specifically a retail license.

What is the Process of Obtaining a Liquor License?

Every state has its own application process to obtain a liquor license. The first step is to determine which government agency is in charge of issuing liquor licenses in order to obtain the correct application.

The agency that is in charge, which may be a designated board or the city itself, will inform applicants of the correct process. The application will usually be reviewed in a meeting that is open to the public.

The citizens who attend these meetings have a right to voice their opinions and discuss them with the town council. Once the local government approves the individual’s application, it will be submitted to the state for review.

If the government agency approves the application, the restaurant or business will be awarded a liquor license. It is important to plan ahead, as the application may take between 6 to 8 weeks.

The process of obtaining a liquor license is extensive and time-consuming. The application itself may also be costly, depending on where an individual is opening their business.

In addition, towns and cities will often limit the number of establishments that are permitted to use these licenses at one time, called a quota.

Should I be Concerned if there is Community Protest against My New Business?

As noted above, the application process for a liquor license in many states is a public process. A community may be opposed to the new business.

A city council or a board meeting allows the public to express their opinions. Public protest can have an influence on an agency when determining whether to grant or deny the liquor license, so it is important for a business not to ignore public objections at a city council meeting.

An individual should be prepared to comment at the meeting on the positive impact of the business on the community.

Why was My Business Not Approved for a Liquor License?

All applications for liquor licenses are not approved due to the rigorous laws governing alcohol. As noted above, if the jurisdiction has met the quota for businesses that are permitted to sell alcohol, the application may be denied.

In addition, numerous local and state officials review each liquor license application. If something is incorrect or out of place, it may negatively impact the business.

For example, if the business has records of overdue fees or taxes, it is less likely the business will be able to obtain a license. Or, at the very least, it may seriously delay the process of being awarded one.

What Can I Do if My Application for a Liquor License is Denied?

If a liquor license application is denied, the majority of states will refund any fees the individual paid in the application process. The agency that is in charge may hold a hearing where the applicant can appeal the denial.

These hearings are typically governed by administrative law. Filing a lawsuit against the agency is also a possibility to have the denial of the liquor license reconsidered.

An experienced attorney would be able to determine if an individual has a case.

Are There Other Ways to Obtain a Liquor License?

A liquor license may be sold by individuals or by other businesses who have previously obtained them. However, it is important to ensure that the liquor license is valid and that the party selling it is permitted to do so.

In addition, there are numerous website businesses that will apply for the liquor license for an individual, for a fee.

What Happens if I Violate Liquor Laws?

A liquor license comes with a list of regulations and laws that a business is required to follow. For example, once a business has acquired its liquor license, it must maintain and renew that license regularly.

Selling or serving alcohol without a valid license may result in the loss of the business and even incarceration. When a business is renewing a liquor license, it may be required to pay additional fees.

Violations of liquor laws may include:

  • Selling a type of alcohol that is not included in the license;
  • Selling alcohol to an underage individual;
  • Bartenders over serving customers;
  • Allowing open containers of alcohol to leave the premises; and
  • Allowing employees to drink excessively after their shift.

If a business violates the terms of its liquor license, it will receive an accusation. An accusation is a formal document that informs the business owner of the laws that were violated.

This document will require the owner to attend a hearing with the state’s alcohol controlling agent. A court will then determine if the terms of the licenses were actually violated and if any disciplinary actions should be taken.

If the court finds that the business did violate the terms of its license, it may impose consequences on the business. A violation often leads to the revocation of the business’ liquor license.

In certain cases, this may be permanent. For example, this is a typical occurrence if a restaurant sells alcohol to any individual under the age of 21.

That is not always the case, however. The business may have their license restored after they meet certain conditions.
In addition, fines and fees may be included or may be the only disciplinary action a court imposes.

Should I Consult an Attorney to Help Me through the Liquor License Process?

Even if you find the application process for a liquor license self-explanatory, it may be helpful to consult with a business attorney. Your attorney can assist you through the complicated process.

Your attorney can advise you and ensure you complete all of the steps. Your attorney can also provide you with strategies for obtaining your liquor license in a speedy fashion.

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