A liquor license is a document that allows a business to sell or serve alcoholic beverages in the state where they are located. Liquor laws are strictly regulated by the federal government, state government, and even local governments. These 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.

How Do I Get a Liquor License?

The process of obtaining a liquor license is very extensive and time-consuming. The application itself can be expensive, depending on where you are opening your business. Additionally, towns and cities often limit the number of establishments that are able to use these licenses at one time. This is called a quota.

The first step in applying for a liquor license is submitting it to your city’s government. Typically, it will be reviewed in a meeting open to the public. Citizens who attend this town meeting have a right to their opinions of the application and discuss it with the town council.

Once the local government approves the application, it is submitted to the state for its review. Ultimately, if the state government approves the application, a liquor license will be awarded to your restaurant or business.

Why Wasn’t a Business Approved For a Liquor License?

Not every application for a business license is approved. This is especially true for liquor licenses because the laws surrounding alcohol are rigorous. As mentioned above, if a jurisdiction has met a quota for businesses that can sell alcohol, it can be rejected.

Additionally, several local and state officials review each application; if one thing is out of place, there could be a negative impact. For example, if a business has records of overdue taxes or fees, it is less likely they will be able to obtain a license. Or at the least, it could seriously delay the process of being award one.

Are There Different Types of Liquor Licenses?

Because every state can have its own liquor laws, it is no surprise that every state requires a different license. There are areas where a standard “liquor license” is accepted. This can encompass all types of alcohol sales specific to that state. More typically, a license will distinguish if a business can sell alcohol to be consumed on the premises or off the premises.

Cities can often separate liquor from other alcohol sales. For example, if a restaurant only serves beer and wine, they may need a Beer and Wine License as opposed to an actual liquor license. Some states require a particular category of liquor licenses, depending on the nature of the business. Clubs, hotels, and restaurants may have a particular category of licenses as well as companies that deliver alcohol.

Liquor licenses are often referred to when speaking about the operations of bars and restaurants. Retail stores that sell alcohol like liquor stores, supermarkets, and convenience stores are also subjected to liquor licenses, more specifically a Retail License.

What Happens If I Violate Liquor Laws?

Liquor License comes with a list of regulations and laws that a business must follow. For example, once a business has acquired a liquor license, they must maintain and renew it regularly. Severing or selling alcohol without a valid license can result in the loss of the business or even jail time. When renewing a license, a business may need to pay additional fees.

Violated liquor laws may include:

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

When a business violates the terms of the liquor license, they will receive an accusation. This is a formal document informing the business owner of the laws that were violated. This document requires the owner to attend a hearing with the state’s alcohol controlling agent. A judge will then determine if the terms of the licenses were actually violated and if any disciplinary actions should be taken.

If a judge finds that a business has violated the terms of the license, it may impose a series of consequences on the business. A found violation can often lead to the revocation of a business’s liquor license. In some instances, this can be permanent. For example, it is typical for a restaurant selling alcohol to anyone under the age of 21, to lose their license forever.

However, that is not always the case. The business may have their license restored after they have met certain conditions. Additionally, fines and fees may be included or the only disciplinary action a judge imposes.

Do I Need an Attorney to Help Me with My Liquor License Problem?

There is so much that goes into acquiring and maintaining a liquor license. If a business is not familiar with the terms and laws of serving or selling alcohol, they may accidentally be in violation. If you are concerned you have violated, or been accused of violating your liquor license, speaking to a business attorney can help.