There are two ways to get a liquor license in Ohio: apply for a new one or purchase a license from a current holder. Some states allow local liquor boards to make the licensing call. A liquor license in Ohio is awarded at the state level by applying with the Department of Commerce's Division of Liquor Control.

Types of Permits

Liquor licensing in Ohio isn't one size fits all. There are multiple classes of permits depending on what sort of liquor you sell and what sort of business you are.

  • Manufacturer liquor licenses in Ohio go to beer brewers, wine makers, alcohol importers, mail-order wine manufacturers and makers of spirituous liquors. There's even a permit for companies that make alcohol-infused ice cream.

  • Distributor permits go to distributors of wine, malt liquor and sacramental wine.

  • Retail carryout has separate permits depending on whether the store sells wine or beer, for example.

  • Restaurants and night clubs can apply for permits to sell beer, wine and cocktails or spirits for carry out or for consumption on the premises. Normally, the cut-off time is 1:00 a.m., but there's a special permit to keep alcohol sales going until 2:30 a.m.

  • Other permits are available for members-only clubs, hotels, marinas, riverboats, shopping malls, botanical gardens, casino restaurants and stores selling alcohol-based preparations as medicine. 

There's also a variety of temporary permits for various special events.

Qualifying for a Liquor License in Ohio

There are basic qualifications that anyone who applies for any Ohio liquor permit has to meet:

  • You're an American citizen and so are any and all partners in your business.

  • Neither you nor your partners have a felony conviction on your records.

  • You own or lease a building you intend to use for liquor sales, and it can pass a code inspection.

The number of permits allowed in a given area is based on population. If there are no available permit slots when you apply, the state will hold your permit on file until one opens up. Businesses that close or fail to renew their permits are a common source of open slots.

Applying for a Permit

You can download the appropriate application from the Department of Commerce website, fill it out and submit it along with a $100 processing fee. The Division of Liquor Control will process the application and contact the local government.

  • The local Board of Elections will identify the precinct of your location. The division will determine whether it's a dry precinct, in which case you're out of luck.

  • The local government and police will have an opportunity to file objections to your getting the license.

  • Schools, churches and other institutions within 500 feet of your premises also have an opportunity to file objections with the state.

  • If there are objections, the Division of Liquor Control will hold a hearing to discuss whether to deny your permit. If nobody objects, you can get your license within 10 to 12 weeks.

Buying a Permit

If the population figures don't permit any more local liquor licenses, the alternative is to buy one. You still have to meet the basic requirements and state regulations, but it's a much simpler process. You can find a list of license holders at the Department of Commerce's website and start contacting them.

While this is easier than convincing the state to add another liquor licensee, it's also pricey. If liquor licenses are maxed out, it's a buyer's market, and you can expect to pay through the nose.

Liquor License Cost By State

The application fee is not the actual license fee. If the state issues your permit, you still have to pay $2,300 to take out or renew a liquor license in Ohio. Many states have lower costs, with permits running as little as $500. However, Ohio permits are significantly cheaper than some states, such as California, Texas and Tennessee.