How to Buy a Liquor License

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Kaihsu Tai (CC-By-SA 3.0)

A liquor license is needed to legally retail alcohol. Such licenses are usually issued by local municipal authorities. Most states limit the number of licenses a city can issue, based on a quota per capita. In many cases, no new licenses can be issued, which means a new business can only obtain a license by acquiring it from an existing license holder.

Find an available license. The hardest part of buying a liquor license is finding one that's available. A variety of private service firms maintain databases of local liquor licenses and act as brokers for license transactions. If you don't have any particular insight into available licenses, it's highly recommended that you consult with a local license finder or legal professional.

Examine and price the license. A liquor license can carry with it certain encumbrances related to the activity of previous owners. These can include disciplinary limitations, tax liens, and other claims to the title. While these encumbrances are not necessarily insurmountable, they do represent additional effort and expense for the potential buyer, so should definitely be considered when pricing the title.

Transfer the license. Liquor licenses are transferable between parties eligible to possess such a license. An application to the local authority will have to be submitted to prove eligibility and effectuate the transfer of a license, and this will include additional fees and requirements as determined by the state Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) board (see Resources). Requirements typically involve age limits, bond or insurance, and relevant other retail business permits.