If your business is going to serve, distribute, or produce beer, wine, or liquor, you are going to need a New York State liquor license. General rules apply, for instance the license holder must be a US citizen or hold a green card, be at least 21 years of age, be free of felony convictions, and not work in law enforcement with the power to arrest others.
That all sounds simple enough, but there are basic rules that anyone seeking a license should be aware of. New York has two basic categories of liquor license:
- Retail license
- Wholesale license
Wholesale licenses are for businesses that brew, distill, distribute, and store packaged alcoholic beverages that are sold to retailers. Those retailers can then acquire, keep, and sell the product to the general public for consumption on and off-premise.
Once you have determined whether you need a wholesale or retail license, then you would decide which category fits your needs.
Beer only, for on and off-premise consumption. Requires the establishment serve and prepare food on the premises. The sale of food must be the main source of income.
This type of license allows the holder to sell both wine and beer for on-premise consumption. Again, the majority of income must be from food sales, not alcohol sales.
This is a comprehensive license that allows the establishment to sell liquor, wine, and beer for consumption on-premise. Beer is the only item that can be sold for consumption off-premise.
Food must be served, but unlike the Eating Place Beer and Restaurant Wine licenses, this particular license doesn’t require that food be the primary source of income.
Getting a bar license in New York City is slightly more difficult, and it’s important to be aware of factors that impact whether you will be able to get a license:
- Proximity: Depends on how many other full New York City liquor license holders are in your immediate vicinity.
- Location: NYC does not allow establishments with a full liquor license to operate near schools or places of worship.
This is for restaurants that have a dance floor or host musical events. The same standard New York Bar License regulations apply.
Allows the holder to sell liquor as well as wine, but beer cannot be sold under this type of license.
A license that allows the holder to sell beer and wine for consumption off-premise. The term wine products refers to alcoholic beverages that contain less than 6% alcohol by volume, not specifically wine itself. An example would be wine coolers.
Allows the sale of beer for consumption off-premise.
Covers breweries or distilleries that sell to retailers. Depending on what you are manufacturing or distributing, there are different licenses that meet each circumstance.
The entire process of getting a liquor license in New York is governed by the ABC laws, or Alcoholic Beverage Control laws. These rules and regulations can be difficult to decipher on your own, so it’s a good idea to enlist the help of a liquor license attorney to ensure that your application is not denied.
Denials sometimes happen for small discrepancies that could have been avoided. But by doing your homework and a little bit of research ahead of time, you can get an idea of the basic framework of what type of license you will need and what the requirements are.