What Type of Liquor License Do I Need for My Business or Venue?


Every business, venue, or establishment that plans to sell alcoholic beverages must have a liquor license to operate legally. Fortunately, there is a liquor license suited to every operation imaginable, from a large restaurant to a small café to a nightclub. The specifics of each liquor license will vary by state, county, and municipality, and for that reason, you should check with your local Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) about the ins and outs of liquor licenses in your area. In some states, the different licenses are classified by numbers, not just names, so make sure to do your research. For example, in California, a Restaurant/All Liquor/Full Liquor License is a Type 47, but in Massachusetts, it is referred to as a Section 12 On-Premise License.

That being said, here is some general information about some of the most commonly requested liquor licenses around the country.

Liquor licenses are usually classified by three factors:

• The type of alcoholic beverage sold (beer, wine, spirits, liquor)

• The venue where the alcoholic beverage is sold (restaurant, nightclub, hotel, grocery store, etc.)

• The way that the alcoholic beverage is sold (packaged, poured)


Restaurant/All Liquor/Full Liquor License


The restaurant liquor license, sometimes known as the all-liquor license or the full-liquor license, is for restaurants that want to sell all types of alcoholic beverages, including beer, spirits, wine, and liquor. Restaurant liquor licenses come in on-premise and off-premise varieties. On-premise liquor licenses allow you to sell poured alcohol on the premises of your restaurant. With an off-premise liquor license, you can sell alcoholic beverages that can be removed from the premises of your restaurant in a travel container or in packaged forms for sale.

To get this license, you have to prove that at least 50% of your restaurant’s total sales are from food and non-alcoholic beverages. Restaurant liquor licenses can be difficult to obtain and expensive, but they are often extremely lucrative to business owners.


Beer and Wine Liquor License

The beer and wine liquor permits the sale of those two types of alcohol beverages but does not permit the sale of spirits or hard liquor. The beer and wine liquor license allows restaurants to sell some alcoholic beverages on their premises without going through the hassle or expense of getting an all-liquor license.

This license may require you to prove that at least 50% of your restaurant’s total sales are from food and non-alcoholic beverages. If you’re looking for an option that’s cheaper and easier than the all-liquor license, the beer and wine license may be a good option for your restaurant.


Liquor Store License/Retail License

With a liquor store license, sometimes known as a retail license, you can sell packaged alcoholic beverages for consumption off the premises of your business. Liquor store licenses come in different varieties that allow you to sell different kinds of alcoholic beverages. Some liquor store licenses only allow the sale of liquor and wine, while others allow the sale of beers and spirits as well.

Your local ABC will have the specifics of the liquor store license options available in your area. This off-premise license allows grocery stores, convenience stores, liquor stores, and other establishments to sell packaged liquor.


Brewery License

A brewery license allows businesses to brew their own alcoholic beverages and offer them for sale. Variations of this license place restrictions on the quantity of liquor that the business can brew and sell each year as well as the size of the containers it uses to sell the liquor. Often, the licensed brewery is associated and adjacent to a restaurant, hotel, or other venue. The brewery license can allow for consumption of alcoholic beverages on the premises of the venue and off the premises of the venue.



Tavern License

A tavern license allows establishments like nightclubs, lounges, pubs, and of course, taverns, to sell alcoholic beverages as their primary source of business. This license may only permit the sale of beer and wine, or it may also permit the sale of liquor and spirits. To get a tavern license, your establishment must have suitable kitchen facilities and sell substantial food that can serve as a meal.

The tavern license is an on-premise license, which means it only permits alcoholic beverage consumption on the premises of your venue. The tavern license is often accompanied by licenses that permit dancing, entertainment, extended hours, and outdoor service, which allows alcoholic beverages to be consumed in an outdoor space associated with the establishment that has a tavern permit. A venue with a tavern license may not allow patrons under the age of 21 without the presence of a legal guardian.


Hotel License

A hotel license is an on-premise license that allows the sale of alcoholic beverages at a hotel, motel, or similar lodging. With this license, guests of the hotel or motel can consume alcoholic beverages throughout the premises, in restaurants, bars, common areas, and private rooms. This license may only permit the sale of beer and wine, but in some cases, it also permits the sale of liquor and spirits. Much like the tavern license, the hotel license requires suitable kitchen facilities on the premises that can prepare substantial food for guests.


Club License

Not to be confused with a license for a nightclub, the club license allows country clubs, veterans clubs, service clubs, fraternal clubs, and other not-for-profit clubs to sell alcoholic beverages, which may include beer, wine, liquor, and spirits. Like the tavern license and the hotel license, the establishment for which the club has a license must have suitable kitchen facilities to feed substantial food to its patrons.


Eating Place License

The eating place license is suited for smaller dining establishments that wish to sell beer alongside the food items on their menu. These smaller dining establishments may also sell small quantities of other alcoholic beverages. The eating place license is a good option for a dining establishment that does not have a large budget.

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