How to Get a Liquor License in Illinois

If you're interested in opening a liquor store or a restaurant that serves liquor in the state of Illinois, you've got some paperwork ahead of you. The process isn't easy and the rules vary from city to city, but once you gather the required materials you should be able to secure a license quickly.

Get a Local License

Illinois licenses liquor sales at both the state and municipal level. The statewide Liquor Control Commission won't give you a license until you've already got one from your local municipality. Rules vary radically from city to city and the process often is onerous. Chicago, for example, has a nine-step application process. Carbondale, meanwhile, offers 10 different liquor licenses and a separate process for licensing beer gardens.


  • Some cities, such as Chicago, will not grant liquor licenses in specific areas. Check with your local government before buying or leasing any property if you plan to sell alcohol.

Choose Your License

On the state level, Illinois offers 13 different kinds of liquor licenses, though many of these deal with selling wine or beer at specific events. Fees and application requirements vary for each type of license, but the most common and important is the retailer's license. This general purpose license allows the bearer to sell liquor, beer and wine.

Gather Your Documents

Most of the items on the list above are standard requirements for all businesses. All businesses are required to carry some form of liability insurance, for example, and all are required to receive a federal EIN from the IRS.

However, the bulk sales release order is somewhat peculiar. The Illinois Department of Revenue uses release orders to prevent sales tax evasion. Basically, you have to apply to the department and receive permission to buy products in bulk. That gives the department a sense of how much revenue it should be expecting from your store or restaurant.

Submit Your Application

When you have all your documents in order, the hard part is over. Just submit your application to Illinois Liquor Control Commission's offices in Springfield or Chicago. If you've done your paperwork correctly, the process should take 3 to 5 days.

About the Author

Nick Robinson is a writer, instructor and graduate student. Before deciding to pursue an advanced degree, he worked as a teacher and administrator at three different colleges and universities, and as an education coach for Inside Track. Most of Robinson's writing centers on education and travel.