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Licenses for Alcohol Sale and Distribution

gold beer in the hand and beer tapsAlcohol is not considered a controlled substance, but it is subject to regulation by the government.  It has many properties that could qualify it as such, but this isn’t about the controversy surrounding today’s alcohol consumption.  To avoid legal trouble, there are protocols you should be aware of and comply with.

Different Types of Alcohol Licenses/Permits

The term permit and license is used interchangeably when it comes to selling any type of alcohol.  There are different licenses requires for the local, state and federal levels of government as well as for the different types of alcohol that will be sold or distributed.  If you are opening a restaurant and will offer your customers beer, wine and liquor, you will need multiple licenses to operate your business.  If you distribute beer to local stores and restaurants you will need multiple licenses.  If you even want to start selling your own personal brew, you guessed it.

Each State is Different

Most states require a local license before you can apply for your state license.  The final tier is registering on the federal level with the Tax and Trade Bureau National Revenue Center.  There are special taxes that must be paid when selling or distributing alcohol of any kind.  Failure to follow all licensing requirements and taxing protocol could result in hefty fines, jail time and revocation of licenses.  There are application costs for local and state licenses, but registration with the federal TTB is free, free until your taxes are due that is.


Some penalties are steep.  Most often the first offense is met with a fine that must be paid in addition to amending any infringements or lapses in license and back taxes owed.  The penalty for certain violations of the license can result in more fines as well as imprisonment.  Here are some of the violations that could end your business if you have an inspection:

–          Refilling and reusing alcohol bottles.  They must be disposed of properly

–          Improper labeling or tampering with the label in any way

–          Selling unique bottles to collectors

–          Not keeping proper records of sales and orders with the date and quantity written down

Exceptions to the Rule

Some states require a license for special events and others do not.  A general rule of thumb is if you are not charging for the alcohol, you do not need a license.  Weddings and private parties would fall under this exemption.  However, if you are a non-profit organization and auctioning off special wines or personal beer brews, you most likely would.  Always check with your state’s local alcohol authority beforehand to be on the safe side.