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There are several guidelines operators must follow before obtaining an alcohol license. 

How to Get a License to Sell Alcohol at Your Restaurant

This comprehensive plan walks through the necessary steps, from legal requirements to training staff. 

Alcohol sales can significantly boost revenue and enhance the dining experience for customers, especially younger consumers. 

A growing number of restaurants are recognizing this. Three years ago, Cracker Barrel decided to add alcohol to its menu for the first time in history and is shooting for a 2 percent mix. Also, in 2021, BJ's Restaurants launched its beer subscription program systemwide, strengthening attachment and frequency. 

The following plan will walk through key steps involved in obtaining a license to sell alcohol at your restaurant:

  • Understand the Legal Requirements: Before diving into the process, it's crucial to familiarize yourself with the legal requirements and regulations for selling alcohol. The specific laws can vary based on state and location, so it's important to determine what's allowed in your area. Typically, you will need to comply with age restrictions, zoning laws, health and safety codes, local ordinances, and other matters. 


  • Determine the Type of License You Need: Different jurisdictions offer various types of licenses based on the kind of restaurant/bar and the scope of alcohol sales. Common licenses include beer and wine, liquor, and a combination of both. Research the specific license types available in your area and decide which one is most suitable for your concept and goals.


  • Research Application Process and Fees: Once you have identified the license type, thoroughly research the application process and associated fees. Visit your local licensing authority's website or contact them directly to obtain the necessary forms and information. Be prepared to pay application fees, which can vary depending on your location and license type.


  • Obtain the Necessary Documents: Gather all the required documents to support your license application. This typically includes: 
    • Completed Application Form: Obtain the official application form from the licensing authority and fill it out accurately and completely.
    • Business Registration Documents: Provide proof of business registration, such as articles of incorporation, partnership agreements, or sole proprietorship registration.
    • Restaurant/Bar Information: Provide detailed information about where alcohol will be sold, including location, dimensions, layout, and any relevant permits or leases.
    • Floor Plan: Prepare a detailed floor plan of the building, indicating the areas where alcohol will be stored, sold, and consumed.
    • Identification and Background Checks: Submit identification documents, such as a driver's license or passport, for all key individuals involved in the business. In some cases, background checks or fingerprints may be required.
    • Insurance: Obtain appropriate liability insurance coverage for your business and provide proof of insurance.
    • Financial Information: Prepare financial statements, including profit and loss statements, balance sheets, and cash flow projections.
    • Health and Safety Compliance: Demonstrate compliance with health and safety regulations by providing any required certifications or permits.


  • Complete the Application: Carefully complete the application forms, ensuring accuracy and completeness. Provide all required documentation, including personal identification, business permits, and lease or property documents. It is essential to pay attention to detail and submit all requested information promptly to avoid delays in processing.


  • Prepare for Inspections: As part of the licensing process, your restaurant will likely undergo inspections to ensure compliance with health, safety, and zoning regulations. Prepare your restaurant/bar accordingly, addressing any potential issues in advance. This may involve making necessary modifications, ensuring proper signage, and implementing required safety measures.


  • Attend Hearings or Meetings: In some jurisdictions, attending hearings or meetings may be required as part of the application process. These sessions allow local authorities and community members to voice any concerns or objections. Be prepared to present your business plan, address any questions or concerns, and demonstrate your commitment to responsible alcohol service.


  • Train Staff in Responsible Alcohol Service: Responsible alcohol service is critical to the success of your restaurant and customer safety. Train your staff in proper alcohol service techniques, responsible consumption, and identifying and managing intoxicated guests. Certification programs such as TIPS (Training for Intervention ProcedureS) can provide valuable knowledge and demonstrate your commitment to responsible service.


Obtaining a license to sell alcohol at your restaurant requires careful planning, research, and adherence to legal requirements. By understanding the regulations, determining the appropriate license type, completing the application diligently, and preparing your establishment for inspections, you can increase your chances of securing a license successfully. Remember to prioritize responsible alcohol service by training your staff and implementing best practices. With a thorough understanding of the process and a commitment to compliance, you can elevate the dining experience at your restaurant while generating additional revenue through alcohol sales.

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