How to Get a Liquor License in Texas

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Selling liquor can be a lucrative option as a small business. If you live in Texas and are hoping to open a liquor store or sell alcohol in any capacity, you will need to apply for a liquor license through the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC). This application must be approved before you can begin to sell liquor. Getting a liquor license in Texas is often a difficult process, but there are many resources to help you through.

Start With the TABC

Before doing anything else, contact the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. They can supply you with basic information about applying for a liquor license. This information will likely include forms you need to start the process. The TABC will be available to assist you with any questions you might have that arise while completing the forms.

These forms include the following:

  • General information regarding the license or permit type for which you are applying

  • Blank Application Forms and Personal History Sheets

  • Conduct Surety, Tax Bond Forms or other bond/security forms (this may not be applicable)

In Texas, approximately 100,000 licenses and permits are issued each year by the TABC. It’s essential that you complete all requested documentation thoroughly and correctly to avoid delays on your application. The division is actually responsible for applications for all aspects of the alcoholic beverage industry, including the manufacture, sale, purchase, transportation, storage and distribution of liquor and other alcoholic beverages. When you obtain your liquor license, you are in good company.

TABC Waiting Period

Once you have completed the information packet and application supplied by the TABC (also located on their website), submit it as directed. You may need to wait up to 60 days to receive a response, depending on the volume of applications they are dealing with at the time. You may also receive a response much more quickly, again depending on demand.

During the waiting period, you should display some sort of indicator that you have applied for a liquor license. This is particularly true if you are an existing retail location that previously did not sell liquor. This notice and the language contained therein can be obtained directly from the TABC, if you are unsure what it should say.

In some instances, posting a sign for the 60 days prior to your liquor license being issued is actually required. Contact your local TABC office to obtain a sign. In these cases, you should use the exact sign the department provides to you.

Get Local Assistance

The TABC has many local field offices staffed with employees who are there to help you through the application process. If you have any questions as you complete your application or undergo the waiting period, you should feel free to reach out to your field office.

In Texas, the TABC breaks down service into five areas. These regions are: Lubbock, Arlington, Houston, Austin and San Antonio. Refer to the TABC website for specific location information.

Undergo an Inspection

Most businesses that apply for a liquor license in Texas will be required to undergo an inspection by the TABC. This will be an in-person review of your facility. Be sure your posting indicating you applied for a liquor license is on display at this point.

There is an annual inspection required of businesses that sell liquor in Texas. However, you may be able to avoid this in-person inspection once you are established by downloading the TABC Compliance Reporting app. There, you can meet your inspection requirements and ensure you are in compliance with regulations in a much more user-friendly way than by undergoing a lengthy on-site inspection.

In-Person Interview

It is also possible that you will need to undergo an in-person interview or orientation prior to your liquor license being approved. If this is the case, the interview will most likely occur at your facility or your local TABC field office.

Failure to conduct the interview or orientation may result in significant delays in the issuance of your liquor license, or even in the complete dismissal of your application.

Alcohol License in Texas fees

Unfortunately, your alcohol license in Texas will not be free. If you research liquor license cost by state, you will see that you can expect to pay about $600 for your liquor license in Texas. Keep in mind that failure to pay these fees may result in your license being suspended or even revoked. If you don’t pay upon initial issuance of your license, you will not be permitted to operate.

Licensing Hearing in Texas

It is also possible that you will be scheduled for a licensing hearing so that members of the TABC can obtain additional information about your business and the reasons for your application. A judge will be present to make the final determination.

It is likely that the TABC representatives present at your licensing hearing will have legal counsel on hand. You are permitted to also bring your own legal counsel, and doing so is encouraged to ensure that your own best interests are represented.

National Requirements to Note

While you are registering for a liquor license in Texas, you also need to be compliant with federal regulations. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, situated under the U.S. Department of the Treasury, oversees the National Revenue Center. You will need to register with the National Revenue Center once you have obtained your Texas liquor license so that it is also on record with the federal government.

Renewing Your Liquor License

Once you have your liquor license and have undergone all necessary parts of the process, you are ready to set up shop. Be sure to display all relevant signage indicating that you do have a license.

You will need to renew your license, and many types of liquor licenses can be renewed online. If you have been in compliance throughout the licensure period and have paid all required fees, you will most likely be allowed to operate during the renewal process. This is the case even if your existing license has actually expired.

Making the Process Simpler

The application process for a Texas liquor license is a bit complicated, and it might seem overwhelming for an entrepreneur or small business owner without much experience. In addition to bringing legal counsel to your liquor licensing hearing, you might wish to get more help.

You can, of course, call the TABC at any time with questions. There are also advocates and business development experts who can walk you through the process. Some attorneys might even be able to complete the application on your behalf. You would, of course, still need to be present for all interviews, inspections and hearings. Your attorney could be, as well.