Opening a bar, restaurant or night club takes a considerable amount of planning that includes investigating the types of licenses and permits that are required. With so many types of drinking establishments, and varied nationwide state and municipal laws regarding alcohol sales, the types of permits you need to open a bar will rely primarily on what type of establishment you open and where it is located. No matter where you plan to open your new bar, certain permits and licenses will be required.

Zoning Permit

Certain cities and states enforce strict laws regarding where alcoholic beverages may be served. Depending on the laws of the city or state where you plan to operate, certain zoning permits may be required. If you are moving a bar business into a new building, you may be required to apply for a Certificate of Occupancy, and in some areas you may need a Property Use Permit. Check with your local county or city zoning agency to find out what, if any, zoning laws may apply.

Building Permit

If you are building a brand new bar from the ground up, or remodeling or expanding an already existing bar business, you're going to need a building permit. Generally, either the bar owner or the contractor is required to submit a detailed outline of all plans for construction within the establishment, including plumbing, gas lines and electrical wiring. You must apply for a building permit through your local city or county building department, and receive approval, prior to beginning any renovations. In most cases, because a bar is a public facility, the establishment will be subject to an inspection and will be required to incorporate handicapped accessible equipment into the building plan, such as elevated toilets, ramps, or extended doorways, to meet with government approval.

Health and Sanitation

Though it may vary by state, city, county or type of establishment, some form of health permit or sanitation certification is typically required to open a bar at any location. Bars that serve food are subject to periodic inspections by local health departments to ensure that they are operating according to government regulations and codes. Inspections by local fire safety commissions and sanitation departments are commonly required, whether serving food or not, to obtain appropriate health permits and sanitation certifications to open a bar.

Liquor Licenses


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No matter where you operate your new establishment, or what type of bar you are opening, you'll be required to carry a liquor license. In most areas, you'll find that a few types of liquor licenses exist. In some states you may be required to serve food to possess a tavern license, and to prove that more than half of your sales are alcohol. A specific beer and wine license prohibits the sale of alcoholic spirits, limiting your service to beer and wine only. Restaurant liquor licenses usually allow you to serve all alcohols if your food sales surpass alcohol sales. If you offer live music or dancing, an entertainment permit may also be required in conjunction to the liquor license. Consult your local liquor control commission to establish what type of alcohol sales permits you need.