Obtaining a liquor license in Texas requires businesses to consider several factors.
Manufacturing, selling, and serving alcohol for on- or off-premises consumption can be extremely profitable for restaurants, retailers, clubs, breweries, groceries, and more. However, for businesses to legally sell or serve beer, wine, distilled spirits, malt beverages, and other alcoholic beverages, they must first obtain a license. Alcohol is regulated federally and locally, and failure to obtain the correct liquor license can bring serious consequences to you and your business. Here’s what you need to know about how to get an alcoholic beverage license in the state of Texas.
What is a Liquor License?
Alcohol can be a lucrative addition to your menu, but you must have an alcohol permit to legally sell it. The license can protect your patrons and your business by ensuring you are serving safely and legally.
Alcohol is regulated federally, and each state and many municipalities have additional regulations to ensure safety. In Texas, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, or TABC, regulates the liquor industry in the state, including manufacturing, importing, advertising, selling, on premise consumption, off premise consumption, and anything related to the sale and service of alcohol by a commercial business. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code requires all businesses, including restaurants, cafes, diners, and bars, to have the appropriate liquor licenses on hand before they serve any type of alcoholic beverage.
Types of Texas Liquor Licenses
Each type of license authorizes a business owner to complete specific transactions and sales, and permits the sale or serving of alcohol in particular venues.
Available liquor licenses include:
- Manufacturing Permits, such as a Winery Permit
- Distribution Permits
- Retailer Permits, such as a Mixed Beverage Permit
- Other specialty permits, such as a Consumer Delivery Permit or Nonprofit Temporary Event Permit
- Subordinate Licenses and Permits, such as a Local Distributor’s Permit
For a breakdown for the different permit types, visit TABC Licenses and Permits page for a comprehensive list.
Requirements to get a liquor license in Texas
Obtaining a Texas liquor license involves more than just completing an application form and paying a fee. The TABC has established stringent eligibility criteria that every applicant must fulfill prior to initiating the liquor license application process. The key factors to consider during the licensing procedure include:
- Age Limit: The applicant must be at least 21 years old to apply for a liquor license. This requirement aligns with the legal drinking age in the United States, ensuring that those involved in the sale and distribution of alcohol are themselves of legal age.
- Criminal Record: Texas requires that applicants for a liquor license have no felony convictions within the five years preceding the application. This underscores the state’s serious stance on the sale and distribution of alcohol, and ensures that only individuals of good moral standing can obtain this permit or license.
- No Cross-Tier Interests: The applicant must not hold any vested interest in a TABC permit within a different tier of the system. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code enforces a strict three-tier system, with separate tiers for manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. In most instances, a company or individual is prohibited from holding permits in more than one tier simultaneously.
- No Recent Violations of Moral Turpitude: Applicants cannot have any moral turpitude violations within six months of applying for the permit or license to sell beer or liquor. This includes crimes associated with dishonest or immoral behavior, such as fraud or theft. This requirement ensures that those selling alcohol will adhere to the law.
You will also need to follow any applicable rules and ordinances about your locality, including zoning restrictions, occupancy restrictions, rules for late hours, fees, and more. For example, Houston disallows liquor sales within 1,000 feet of public schools.
These requirements form part of the state’s regulatory system to oversee the alcohol industry. You must meet these requirements before applying for your Texas liquor license. If you do not meet any single eligibility requirement according to Texas law or local ordinance, your application could be denied.
The Texas Liquor License Application Process
The majority of TABC permit applicants must obtain location approval from their municipality or County prior to submitting their application with the state. Texas requires certain applicants to post a public notice of application on their premises for at least 60 days prior to submitting their application. You may also need to post a notice in the newspaper or notify your neighbors that you have applied for a liquor license.
Once you apply, the TABC will check your eligibility, evaluate your forms and supporting documents, and determine that your business is properly zoned to sell wine and other alcoholic beverages. This process can be time-intensive: You should expect to wait between 30 and 60 days from the time you submit your application to receive your new license.
TABC has a website that makes it easy to learn more about Texas liquor license requirements and apply for and renew liquor licenses online. Once you create an account with AIMS, the interface will walk you through each step of the process, including:
- Choosing the correct alcoholic beverage industry tier
- Creating and registering your business with the Texas Secretary of State and the Comptroller of Public Accounts
- Obtaining all necessary signs
- Completing your application and the public notice, publisher’s affidavit, and all necessary certificates
- Submitting your application
- Waiting, which typically takes about 50 days but could take up to 90
The Alcohol Industry Management System (AIMS)
AIMS simplifies and streamlines the application process. Once you create your AIMS account, you’ll have access to the many benefits of AIMS. You’ll be able to complete necessary tasks, register products, and complete excise tax reports all from your mobile device or computer.
AIMS’ “Needs Analysis Wizard” can help you choose the right license for your business and provide you with an easy-to-use checklist of everything you’ll need to submit your application. Supporting documents, forms, and electronic signatures can all be uploaded with a few simple clicks. You can even save your work and complete it later or make secure payments anytime and from any place.
Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission Licensing Courses
The TABC Licensing Course can be beneficial for sole proprietorships, LLCs, corporations, partnerships, private clubs, business owners, and joint ventures. While applicants aren’t required to complete the TABC Licensing Course, it will provide you with in-depth information about the responsibilities you will have as an alcohol license holder. You’ll learn how to avoid common missteps and be well-positioned to protect the health and safety of those you serve alcohol.
Checking the Status of Your Application
Most applicants for liquor licenses will have a response between 30 and 60 days after submitting their application. Common roadblocks in the application process include:
- Mistakes or omissions on the application or supporting documents
- Liens placed against the business
- Fee mistakes or omissions
For the smoothest experience, you should start the licensing process four to six months before you’re ready to open to ensure your license is ready when you are.
How Much Do Liquor Licenses Cost in Texas?
The Texas liquor license cost can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, based on the specific permit or license you’re seeking. The location of your business also plays a role in determining these costs. Here’s a general outline of the costs:
- State Fees
- City and County Fees
- Application and processing fees
- Renewal Fees
Renewing a liquor license in Texas
Your license or permit will expire two years after it is issued. You will need to renew your license if you want to keep alcohol on your menu and remain in compliance with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code. You’ll be notified by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission before your license expires and renew through AIMS. With the exception of the Mixed Beverage Permit and Mixed Beverage with FB Required Permit, the two-year renewal fees are the same as the initial fees. The fee for the Mixed Beverage permit is halved, and you’ll pay just $2,650 when it’s time to renew.
Maintaining Your Liquor License
Liquor license violations can result in the loss of your license or even your business. You must comply with all Texas liquor law regulations and requirements to maintain your mixed beverage permit or other license in good standing.
The most common TABC license violations include:
- Selling or serving alcohol to minors
- Serving intoxicated patrons or over-serving customers
- Selling alcohol to non-members in a private club
- Selling alcohol without a TABC permit
- Engaging in or allowing illegal activities to occur on the premises, including gambling, prostitution, or drug use
In some cases, you could even face criminal prosecution for violations in selling alcoholic beverages.
When you apply for your license in Texas, you might need to post a notification of your intent to sell alcohol at your business location. The sign will need to be displayed prominently outdoors, and you will need to upload an image of the sign to AIMS to meet the “Sixy-Day Sign Requirement.”
Not everyone is required to post a sign. Those who have had licenses or permits for on-premises sales in the two years preceding the application review might not need a sign. A liquor lawyer can help you determine if you need a sign.
When serving alcoholic beverages for on-premise consumption, you must follow the law regarding alcohol sales hours. Texas law disallows alcohol sales between 2:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.
TABC Seller-Server Certification provides businesses and their staff with critical information that helps them comply with all applicable laws. The program’s courses will teach employees about the state laws that govern alcohol sales and provide them with critical information on how they can ensure they are not selling to minors or customers who are already intoxicated.
You can stay on the right side of the law through server and employee education that includes TABC certification, requiring ID from all customers who appear to be below the age of 30, and maintaining a clean and legal environment. You also need to ensure you’re following all state and local ordinances regarding the times you serve or sell alcohol for on-premise consumption.
Citizens can report liquor law violations or concerns directly to the TABC. To minimize the risk of damage to your reputation or your standing with the TABC, you need to resolve complaints and issues quickly and appropriately.
The Renewal Process
The easiest and fastest way to renew your Texas liquor license is through AIMS. Once your account has been created, you can log in to the system and submit the necessary information and fees. You can also renew your license via mail or in person.
All waivers and exemptions associated with COVID-19 have expired. However, COVID-19 has led to lasting changes in the TABC licensing process, including changes in liquor laws, license structures, and technology. A liquor lawyer can help you tackle the liquor licensing process and local ordinances.
Navigating the Liquor License Process Efficiently and Effectively
Liquor licenses are controlled at the state level with some counties and municipalities including additional ordinances and regulations. The process of getting a new license can seem complicated, but you can simplify it in a few simple steps.
1. Preparing your documents
The “supporting documents” list for a beer retailer’s permit can be extensive. You might need zoning permits, menus, floor plans, insurance documents, and more. Find out what you need, make copies, and prepare everything in advance.
2. Completing the Application
In Texas, you can complete your new license application online via the AIMS site. You’ll also be able to upload all your supporting documents and pay your fees online.
3. Defending your proposal
Members of the community have the right to express concerns about potential new alcohol licenses in Texas and protest the issuance of any license within the community. If your license is protested, you’ll need to defend your proposal at a public hearing.
Legal Advice and Consultation
Monshaugen & Van Huff, P.C. can help you move through the application process more efficiently and with less stress. We can help you avoid common pitfalls and mistakes and ensure you get the right license for your business. Our team of experienced liquor lawyers can also help you gather supporting documents, obtain other essential documents like a building or zoning permit, defend your proposal at public hearings, and more. Call (713) 880-2992 or contact us for a free consultation.
- TABC Website
- Sign requirements
- Types of permits
- AIMS licensing courses and fee schedule
- Renew your license
Whether you want to sell beer, sell wine, sell liquor, manufacture, distribute, or serve other alcoholic drinks, you’ll need to have your TABC license in place. TABC licensing ensures you are in compliance with the TABC Code and applicable local laws. Your first step is learning how to get a alcoholic beverage license in Texas. While the application process can seem intimidating, we are here to simplify and streamline it. Call (713) 880-2992 or contact us for a free consultation.