What Bar Owners Need to Know About Liquor License Laws in Each State

As the owner of a bar, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest alcohol laws in the US, especially at state level. As of 1988, it is now illegal to purchase alcohol before the age of 21 in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. However, there are some exceptions to the rule in US territories like the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico where the minimum age to buy alcohol is 18.

Why Your Bar Needs an Alcohol Beverage License

Operating a bar without a liquor license is a serious offense. An alcohol beverage license allows you to sell alcoholic beverages to individual customers within your premises. A liquor license will be issued by a governing body in a local municipality at the city or town level.

Before applying for a liquor license in your state, it helps to understand more about local requirements needed to legally sell alcohol in your establishment. From there, you can complete an application that will be submitted to the alcohol beverage control agency at the state level, including necessary payments made to the county and state.

In order to comply with county and state requirements to receive a liquor license, you may have to jump through hoops in the screening process with an on-site visit from an inspector, a preliminary interview, and/or a court hearing. In a state like Texas, you’ll be required to appear with a Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission staff member in front of a county judge.

Possible Penalties for a Liquor License Violation

If you are caught knowingly violating the restrictions of your liquor license in your state, you could lose your license altogether. In more minor cases, a liquor license in a bar may be temporarily suspended, costing you thousands of dollars in potential sales.

Some of the most common liquor license violations include:

  • On-premises noise violation that could affect a liquor license.
  • Premises violation, like not disposing of trash properly.
  • Guest violations, including loitering.
  • Employing or selling liquor to a minor.
  • Employee violations, including improper record-keeping.

Depending on the offense, penalties could vary. If a bar sells alcohol to a minor, a first offense could result in a one-day suspension of a license with up to a $2000 fine. A second offense within 12 months could result in a week-long suspension of a liquor license with up to a $3000 fine.

To protect the integrity of your business, it’s important to play by the rules. Better understanding liquor laws and restrictions in your local area will keep your doors open.