Different States Have a Multitude of Liquor License Types

Multitude of Liquor Licence TypesWhether you want to serve or sell alcohol in a state with a quota system or in a state without such a system, you’re going to need a liquor license. That’s not as easy as it sounds since every state has various types of liquor licenses.

In the simplest form, we can break them into on-premises licenses (sell and consume on-site) or off-premises licenses (e.g. retail sales without on-site consumption). However, that is where the simplicity ends.

Massachusetts Liquor Licenses

In Massachusetts, liquor licenses predominantly fall into two classifications: Section 12 licenses (on-premises, often referred to as pouring licenses) or Section 15 (off-premises, usually referred to as package store licenses). (See Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission “Most Frequently Asked Questions.”) Within each classification, there are then four categories: all alcoholic, wine only, malt only, and wine and malt. Of course, there are always exceptions, and “certain businesses that hold a wine and malt beverages license under Section 12 of M.G.L. Chapter 138 as well as a common victualler’s license may be given a permit to sell also cordials and liqueurs.”

But let’s say you simply want to get a pouring license to sell alcohol at your establishment. It turns out there are six different types of pouring licenses: hotel, restaurant, tavern, club, general on-premises, and war veterans club. It all depends on the type of establishment you operate.

Types of Liquor Licenses in Montana

If the liquor license system in Massachusetts seems complicated, look to the other side of the country in Montana – also a quota state like Massachusetts. Legalized gambling in Montana creates even more complexity. Montana’s official state website lists 17 different on-premises retail licenses and four off-premises retail licenses… including one for sacramental wine. Seems even churches have to play by the rules in Big Sky Country.

Some restaurateurs in Montana, who may pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a liquor license, opt to offer gambling to turn a profit and help pay for a liquor license that ends up being the equivalent of a second mortgage. Kalispell restaurateur, Bill Goodman (quoted in Newwest’sThe Strange World of Montana Alcohol Law”) said, “I would never make a nickel without putting in gaming machines. I don’t want my gambling license; I wish I could strip it off and sell it. They really shouldn’t be attached to liquor licenses.”

Liquor Licenses in Illinois

As the saying goes: “How does it play in Peoria?” The city with the reputation for representing Middle America is located in a state without liquor license quotas. However, that doesn’t necessarily make the process simple. The State of Illinois Liquor Control Commission lists 16 different types of liquor licenses.

Quota system or not, state regulations are complex, and adding to that complexity are the local regulations and restrictions that may be in force. The moral of the story: Don’t go it alone when pursuing a liquor license acquisition. Working with a consultant that knows the landscape (both literally and figuratively) always pays off in the end.