How to Start a Liquor Store in Illinois

The liquor sales business and other vice industries have long been known among investors for their countercyclical properties. Even in tough times of high unemployment, alcohol sales frequently don't decline as much as other retail consumer products. However, the liquor business is a highly regulated industry, and liquor store owners and other retailers of alcoholic beverages and spirits must submit to more regulation and scrutiny than other retailers.

Obtain a sales tax number from the state of Illinois. This registers you with the Illinois Department of Revenue and allows Revenue officials to track your deposits of sales tax with the state. You may also pay additional taxes to local officials. Your total sales tax will vary depending on the city in which you operate. Apply for the sales tax number by filling out form REG-1, or by applying online through the Illinois Business Gateway. Liquor-related businesses must also fill out REG-1-A, Liquor Information, with Illinois officials.

Find a suitable store location, which you can buy or lease. Before you commit, however, ensure that the area's zoning laws allow a liquor store on premises. Some areas restrict certain kinds of businesses. Zoning issues are generally handled at the city and county level. Check with your local zoning officials before entering into a purchase or lease agreement.

Obtain a state liquor license. Do this by applying to the Illinois Liquor Control Commission. The Commission charges $500 to apply for the license. You will also need to provide supporting documentation, such as your sales tax number and Illinois Business Tax Number. There are 29 different varieties of liquor licenses administered by the commission. Ensure you are filling out the correct form.

Enter purchasing agreements with liquor and related product distributors. Liquor producers typically contract with wholesale distributors to place product in retail stores and drinking establishments. These distributors act as the middleman between the manufacturers and the retailers. They sell bulk liquor at a discount to retailers and handle the delivery of product to your store. You may need to contract several different distributors in order to fully stock your store. Their representatives can be valuable sources of advice for the retailer, and can provide you with point-of-sale displays and other forms of marketing material.


  • You must send a copy of your business license to the Liquor Control Commission when you apply for your liquor license. The commission will not accept a copy of your receipt for purchase of a business license.