In the state of Rhode Island, liquor licenses are issued and enforced by the Department of Business Regulation. More specifically, within that Department is the Division of Commercial Licensing and Regulation, which is responsible for liquor enforcement. Although a license can be easy to get if you meet the minimum requirements, the process of applying for the license can be complicated if you’ve never done it before.

Things You Will Need
  • Building/location

  • Photo identification

  • Filing fees

Familiarize yourself with the liquor laws in Rhode Island. You will need to be able to demonstrate an understanding of legal regulations during the application process, and will have to abide by those regulations after your license is issued. A complete copy of all liquor regulations can be found on the website for the “Department of Business Regulation.”

Make sketches of your property. You will be required to submit sketches with your application, which will define the area where alcohol will be stored or sold. If you only have a portion of the building, you will need to identify the measurements and dimensions that separate your portion from the rest of the building. If you will be operating a bar or restaurant, then you will also be required to submit both a floor plan and a menu.

Determine what type of liquor license you will need. There are many types of liquor licenses. Bars, restaurants, distilleries, warehouses, airplanes and caterers all need different types of licenses. You can read more specific information on each type of license at the “Department of Business Regulation” website. This will help you research which license best meets the needs of your business.

Submit an application to the “Department of Business Regulation, Division of Commercial Licensing and Regulation.” You will also need to pay the filing fees at this time, which vary according to the type of Rhode Island liquor license you are applying for. After your application has been received, the Department will notify you by mail of the date of your public hearing.

Place ads in the local newspaper. You are required to place an advertisement in the local newspaper once a week for two weeks to advertise your public hearing. The ads must be placed two weeks before the date of the hearing to give interested parties an opportunity to make arrangements to attend the hearing.

Hire a stenographer. You will be required to provide your own stenographer to make a transcript of the hearing. You will also be required to provide a complete copy of this transcript to the Division of Commercial Licensing and Regulation.

Attend your public hearing. During this hearing, the public in general, particularly those in the neighborhood of your proposed establishment, will have an opportunity to voice an objection to your business. You will have an opportunity to answer questions related to those objections, and will be subjected to a general interview about your background, qualifications and general knowledge of liquor regulations.

Receive your license. After meeting all of the requirements to hold a liquor license in Rhode Island, and after successfully completing a public hearing about your license application, the “Division of Commercial Licensing and Regulation” will issue a liquor license to your business.


If it is found that you meet the requirements to hold a license, but that your business is not yet properly set up to enforce applicable regulations, you may find yourself having a liquor license that is granted, but not issued. In this event, the Department of Business Regulation will grant you a liquor license, but will hold the license until such time that your property is brought up to code.