To sell or serve alcohol in a public place, you must first obtain the appropriate liquor license. The process for approval of a liquor license can be long and expensive. In most jurisdictions, approval of a liquor license will hinge, to a large degree, upon the general reputation and standing of the person applying for the license. A previous conviction for a DUI may prevent approval of a liquor license application.


Although both state and federal laws must be followed when determining the eligibility requirements for a liquor license, approval for a liquor license is ultimately determined at the local level. In some cases, the county approves a license; in other cases, a city or municipality decides whether you are approved for a license.

Types of Permits

There are numerous different types of liquor licenses. Individual states determine which types of licenses are available. Licenses typically fall into four broad categories: wholesaler or supplier; manufacturer or brewer; on-site sales; and special event. When most people think of a liquor license, they are usually referring to one of the many "on-site sales" licenses or permits. On-site licenses are often further subdivided into beer and wine only or beer, wine and liquor, and then even further divided into pub or nightclub sales versus food establishments that also sell alcohol. The requirements for each license may be different. Not surprisingly, licenses for beer, wine and liquor sales at pubs or nightclubs tend to have the most stringent licensing requirements.

Moral Character of Applicant

Although licensing requirements differ from one city to the next, they almost universally require a criminal background check of the applicant. Most applicants must also pass a "moral character" test before being approved for a license. While some jurisdictions specifically enumerate criminal convictions that will prevent an applicant from being approved, most leave the final decision to the governing board or agency. Many applications ask whether you have been convicted of a felony, a crime of "moral turpitude" or crimes such as gambling. Although DUI is not commonly specified on an application, if the DUI was a felony, it may prevent you from being approved. In addition, as final approval rests with the governing board or agency, a DUI conviction could reflect poorly on your "moral character" since the crime is a crime involving alcohol.

Application Process

To apply for a liquor license, first determine which type of license you need. While the process may vary somewhat by jurisdiction, the next step is usually to fill out the application and submit it, along with your background check, to the governing agency or board. You will then need to post a public notice giving neighboring residents or businesses the right to attend a public meeting regarding the application. The public meeting gives the public, as well as members of the board, the opportunity to ask questions and/or object to the license. The board will then make a final recommendation. There are companies that can help you through the process if you prefer to pay for assistance.