How to Open a Liquor Store in Florida

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Looking for new business opportunities in Florida? Start by researching the market. Alcohol sales, for instance, reached a staggering $234.4 billion in 2017, and that number only increased over the years. You could open a liquor store in the Sunshine State to increase your revenue and build a business that lasts.

Research the Market

Make sure you have a good understanding of the spirits market. This industry is worth over $44 billion in the U.S. alone and has a 6 percent annual growth rate. Brandy, tequila, cognac, craft spirits and whiskey are more popular than ever before. Surprisingly, a growing number of customers prefer to drink at home instead of going out.

With this information, define your target audience and decide what products you plan to sell. Spirits account for more than half of alcohol sales in Florida bars. Whiskey makes up 30 percent of all spirit orders. Other popular choices are vodka, tequila, cordials and liquors.

Research the best-selling brands as well. Jameson, for example, is a preferred choice for Florida residents. Tito's, Deep Eddy and Ketel One are among the most-ordered vodka brands. Your liquor store business may also offer rum, rye whiskey, nut-flavored liquors, fruit liquors, crème liqueurs, coffee liquors and more. Fine drinks like Kahlúa, limoncello, absinthe and amaretto are popular among millennials.

Make a Business Plan

The next step is to make a business plan. Decide whether you want to run the store alone or team up with a partner, choose a location and assess the costs involved. Also, determine what you plan to sell and who your target audience is. Your business plan should also cover the following aspects:

  • A brief summary of your business idea
  • Legal aspects (business structure, licensing and legal requirements)
  • Market and industry analysis
  • Location analysis
  • Goals and milestones
  • Products and services
  • Sales and marketing strategies
  • Potential opportunities and threats
  • Financial forecast
  • Liquor store inventory costs and other expenses
  • Management summary
  • Strategy and implementation

This document can be as short or as long as you want it to be. Just make sure you cover the key aspects of your business. Consider your short- and long-term goals as well as the steps needed to achieve them. Try to figure out what gives you a competitive advantage and come up with a unique selling proposition.

Let's say you have the money and resources to open a liquor store. How do you plan to promote your business? Are you going to sell your products in a store, online or both? Think about these aspects when writing a business plan.

Register Your Liquor Store Business

When you're ready to open a liquor store, take the steps needed to register it legally and get licensed. First, choose a business name that's unique and reflects what you're doing. It should be easy to pronounce and should grab customers' attention. Conduct a trademark search to make sure you're legally allowed to use that name.

Choose a location for your store and decide on a business structure, such as a sole proprietorship, an LLC or a partnership. Each legal structure has specific requirements and tax implications, so research your options to make an informed decision. You can start as an LLC and incorporate your business later on.

Next, go to the Department of State to register your business. Beware that you may need to register with the local county too. Once this step is complete, apply for an employer identification number, a unique identifier that you will use when paying your taxes. Remember to open a bank account as well.

Get a Liquor License

Now that your liquor store is legally registered, you must apply for a license. Liquor laws vary among states. In Florida, this market is regulated by the local Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (AB&T).

Retail stores that sell liquors must first obtain a quota beverage license. The number of licenses offered to vendors is limited throughout the state and depends on the county's population. Expect to pay $468 to $1,820 for a liquor license in Florida. If you also plan to sell wine or beer in your store, you'll need to get a package license too.

Head over to a local AB&T licensing office to request an application form. Another option is to download a printable form, fill it out and submit it to your local AB&T office. Fingerprinting is mandatory. When completing the form, you'll need to provide your personal information along with your business name, employer identification number and other relevant details.

Apply for Local Permits

As soon as you obtain a beer and wine license or a liquor license in Florida, try to find out what permits you need. Each county and municipality has its own requirements.

In general, retail stores need zoning permits, signage permits, building permits, alarm permits and more. Those selling alcoholic beverages must also request a permit from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). This step can be completed online via the TTB's official website.

Be aware that any business that sells wine, beer or distilled spirits must obtain a TTB permit before opening its doors. If you operate several stores, you'll need a permit for each location. Also, it's required that you keep complete records of receipt.

Find a Reliable Supplier

Once your business is registered and licensed, you can search for local and national distributors of spirits, wine and other beverages. International Wine and Spirits, Inc., for example, is one of the largest importers and distributors of beer, wine and spirits in the Sunshine State. Its line of products includes tequila, rum, fine liquors, flavored vodka and other alcoholic drinks from top brands.

Other trusted distributors of alcoholic beverages are Bronson Liquors, Pj Liquor, Green Cove Liquors, A1 Liquors and Breakthru Beverage Florida. The more bottles you purchase, the more money you'll save. Contact several distributors and request multiple quotes. Don’t hesitate to negotiate, especially if you place large orders or sign a long-term contract.

Promote Your Liquor Store

The retail liquor market is extremely competitive, especially in big cities like Orlando, Miami and Tampa. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you must be creative with your marketing efforts. Consider hosting tastings so customers can try beverages they might not otherwise consider. Promotional sales and discounts on bulk orders can help your business too.

Let's say there's a concert or another special event in your city. Offer special discounts during the event to increase sales. You may also sponsor the event or rent a booth to showcase your products. Focus on seasonal beverages, such as limoncello in the summer and amaretto on the cold winter days.

Use modern technology to your advantage. Set up a website for your liquor store, display your best products and advertise on social networks. Offer discounts to customers who write reviews for your business on Yelp, Google My Business, Facebook, MerchantCircle and other online platforms. Stay active on social media to keep your audience engaged and to reach potential clients who may not know about your liquor store.

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About the Author

Andra Picincu is a digital marketing consultant with over 10 years of experience. She works closely with small businesses and large organizations alike to help them grow and increase brand awareness. She holds a BA in Marketing and International Business and a BA in Psychology. Over the past decade, she has turned her passion for marketing and writing into a successful business with an international audience. Current and former clients include The HOTH, Bisnode Sverige, Nutracelle, CLICK - The Coffee Lover's Protein Drink, InstaCuppa, Marketgoo, GoHarvey, Internet Brands, and more. In her daily life, Ms. Picincu provides digital marketing consulting and copywriting services. Her goal is to help businesses understand and reach their target audience in new, creative ways.