If obtaining a liquor license is the central aspect of the success of your business, you need to make sure you dot every "i" and cross every "t" throughout the process of being granted that license and having it renewed each year. The following 10 tips condense the information you need to know to get this right.
1. Start The Application Process As Early As Possible
No matter which state you're looking to become licensed in, you're likely to face a long wait following the submission of your application. Don't plan on being able to sell alcohol when you're ready, but rather, plan everything about your business around the timeline of being granted the license. As you begin to make inquires with your local board or personal attorney, ask what your expected wait time is. Although you're only going to get an estimate, this will give you usable data on which to base your opening or sale of alcohol on.
2. Be Ready To Fund Your Liquor License
There will be fees associated with your application, but time is money, too; thus, delays in being able to open your business due to not having that license can be costly. If you think you're facing any complications in obtaining your license, such as past DUIs and other run-ins with the law or "complications" with your relationship with the IRS, it would definitely be in your best interest to hire a lawyer, such as those at Arizona Liquor Industry Consultants.
Because the application process is riddled with red tape, local politics, and delays that are out of your control, the best way to go about expediting is to have an insider on your side - an attorney familiar with the process. No matter what route you're going to take, though, have a cash reserve set aside from your other business and living expenses with the sole purpose is to pave the way for your liquor license.
3. Detail Your Intentions With The Liquor License
When you apply for a driver's license, you need to specify what type of vehicle you'll be driving, and this specificity also carries over to liquor licenses. The board with whom you apply will need to know whether you'll be operating a pub, restaurant, or liquor store. They'll also want the details on who you may sell to and when. Because alcohol is so tightly overseen, as a potential part of that network, every step you plan to take will be scrutinized.
Depending on what you plan to do with your license, you may need to obtain Federal permission as well. Crafting any beverage yourself, for example, amplifies the intensity of the legal maze you'll navigate, as does distributing alcohol. Running any special events at your establishment may also require additional temporary permits, further necessitating legal advice to protect your business in the future.
4. Complete Your Paperwork
After you've determined all the facts, categories, and considerations, give yourself plenty of time to complete your paperwork. The actual application can probably be filed online; just be sure you don't buzz through it, possibly leading to costly and time-consuming errors. Your application may need to be accompanied by other important documents, such as your incorporation certificate, blueprints of the establishment, and verification of eligibility in terms of your age, citizenship, ownership or leasing of the building, and more.
5. Be Prepared To Fight For Your License
Following submission of your application, a public notice may need to be posted for members of the public and other businesses to analyze the impact of your liquor license on the community, existing establishments, churches, schools, and other neighborhood facilities. If anyone objects to your intentions, you're going to have to present counter arguments. Here again, depending on the complexity of the issues at hand and the tenacity with which you are opposed, it's good to have an attorney with you.
6. Keep Your Establishment Up To Par
Whether you're opening a corner liquor store or a magnificent dance club, your establishment must be kept up according to local regulations as part of your responsibilities as a liquor license holder. Pay attention to health and safety codes, especially if your establishment offers food to the public, in addition to alcohol. The building must be maintained, cleaned, and must adhere to the fire regulations that keep people safe.
It's a good idea to keep a journal of the rules you must operate by, including visits from inspectors and any literature they provide you with. Keep accurate records of the evaluations they make of your business so you are always prepared to demonstrate your compliance.
7. Avoid Violations
Your liquor license, regardless of the state of issue, will include a list of rules you are expected to abide by. Because the consumption of alcohol can result in negative consequences, as the bearer of a liquor license, you can be held accountable for a number of things, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Any underage drinking at your establishment or as a result of your sale of alcohol.
- Drunk driving that occurs as a result of your sales or service (of alcohol).
- Assaults and other dangerous and disruptive intoxicated-related behaviors at your establishment.
- Illegal sales (of alcohol) such as to minors, in violation of Blue Laws or other prohibited activity.
8. Hire Top-Notch Staff To Serve Your Alcohol
Although servers aren't always thought of as VIPs in eateries and bars, in terms of representing your liquor license, they're extremely important. You need to hire high-quality staff members who will work as hard to protect your good name as you will. They should be scrutinized before they begin working for you, even if you're desperate to fill positions and shifts. Consider using a screening service to disqualify potential candidates who may have issues that could pose as a problem for you down the line, such as with abusing their positions or the alcohol itself. Employee theft is a major concern for any business, but when you have a lot of cash and alcohol lying around, you simply must have trustworthy people working for you.
9. Oversee Inventory Yourself
When any alcohol is coming into your establishment, be there to oversee it or only allow your most trusted staff members to receive it. Not only will you be held legally accountable for the spirits on your premises, but you'll also want to make sure every dime you spend on the beverages is accounted for and strictly protected. Installing security cameras at the point of intake and wherever you store your alcohol may be a good idea.
10. Renew Your Liquor License On Time
Liquor licenses are renewable every year, and at that time, you'll come under scrutiny once more. If your establishment is found in violation of any codes or otherwise non-compliant with the agreements you've singed, your license could be in jeopardy. If you expect to meet with any opposition from the governing body you're renewing with, your attorney should review the renewal application and accompany you to any meetings. The last thing you want as a business owner dependent on alcohol for your customers is a denial of renewal or any kind of possible revocation of the license.
Don't leave anything to chance with your liquor license, as your success depends on having it. Dot every "i" and cross every "t", do all your homework and see the value of a long-term relationship with a good attorney.