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How to get a liquor license in Arizona

Starting a business is an exciting venture, but it can also come with a significant amount of paperwork and red tape. Getting an Arizona liquor license is no exception.

Although the process for different types of liquor licenses and businesses can vary, one thing is clear: The steps are strongly regulated in the State of Arizona. Here are some of the hurdles you’ll need to jump through to get an Arizona liquor license.

Arizona liquor license requirements and laws

If you’re looking for an Arizona liquor license, you must first determine the kind of liquor you want to sell—beer, wine, liquor, or a combination of the three. You must also decide if you want an on-sale (to serve customers on-site) or off-sale (to allow liquor to be taken off-site for consumption) license or one that covers both scenarios.

The application process can vary depending on the type and purpose, but it involves the city council making a recommendation to the state liquor board. Here are additional Arizona liquor license requirements you’ll encounter along the way.

Business license

Arizona doesn’t issue or require a business license at the state level. But that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook—most cities and towns issue business licenses. The Arizona Revised Statutes can answer questions about location-specific regulatory rules.

Keep in mind that requirements vary by county, so you may need to consult with one or several county offices depending on where you want to conduct business.

Additionally, while you may not need a special license to open a liquor store, you might need a restaurant license before the issuance of an alcohol beverage license if you plan to open a food establishment or catering business.

Location and zoning

Liquor liability is no joke—the liquor industry is highly regulated, and you’ll come across restrictions on where you can locate your business. The local planning and zoning division can help you with zoning laws before you commit to a location.

If you’re hoping to set up licensed premises in a city or town, contact that area’s zoning or development services department. You can also contact the county offices if you want to operate in an unincorporated region.

Transaction privilege tax (TPT) license

A transaction privilege tax in Arizona is commonly referred to as a sales tax, resale, wholesale, vendor, or tax license. You must have a TPT license to open a business that sells alcohol.

The Arizona Department of Revenue (ADOR) is where you’ll register to get the TPT license. You can also register for withholding tax with the ADOR if you plan to employ individuals as part of your business operations. However, you’ll first need an Employer Identification Number from the IRS.

County or city health permit

Whether your establishment will be serving food or alcohol only, you’ll likely need an inspection and permit for health approval. The local county health department typically issues permits for food establishments (restaurants and bars that serve food). However, the city clerk’s office, city hall, or town office is a better choice if your restaurant or brewery will discharge into the local sewer system.

Title 4 (Arizona liquor law) training

The state may require licensees to complete a training course before approving their liquor license application form. The Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control (DLLC) provides Title 4 training. Title 4 is an education training program for sellers and servers of alcoholic beverages with 2 course options:

  • Basic Training
  • Management Training

Owners, Agents, and Managers who handle day-to-day business operations must complete Basic Training. You’ll need a Basic Certificate of Completion whether you’re applying for a license that’s on-sale, off-sale, or both.

After getting a Basic Certificate of Completion, you may also need to enroll in and complete Management Training. The DLLC has a list of state-approved Title 4 training providers.

Types of Arizona liquor licenses

For your business to serve alcohol, you must apply and gain approval for a liquor license. But first, you must determine the type of liquor license you need. Depending on your business goals, you might want to serve beer, wine, or spirits—or a combination of the three.

There are several types of Arizona liquor licenses, but they generally exist in three tiers:

  • Manufacturers or producers who sell to wholesalers
  • Wholesalers who sell to retailers
  • Retailers who sell to consumers (not for resale)

For example, manufacturers and producers can choose between in-state or out-of-state liquor license applications. Wholesaler (Series 4) licenses authorize the sale and distribution of beer, wine, and distilled spirits but limit sales to Arizona-licensed retailers only.

A retail business has several license types available, depending on the industry you’re in. For example, a restaurant would apply for a Series 12 license so long as 40% or more of gross revenue is from the sale of food.

But a bar may need a Series 6 (beer, wine, and spirituous liquor) or Series 7 (beer and wine only) license. Both are considered “quota” licenses. According to the Administrative Rulemaking System (ARS), quota licenses are limited in number, and the total available depends on the county.

Can I get a one-day liquor license in Arizona?

Yes, temporary liquor licenses are available in Arizona. A wine festival, county fair allowing distiller sales, or another type of special event could apply for a Special Event Liquor License (Series 15).

Once you apply, the police department assists in processing your application form. The average approval time is 1 to 7 days, but the guidelines suggest you apply at least 10 days before the event date.

A single license can authorize sales for more than one day, but only if the special event is held on consecutive days at the same location. You also can’t get a temporary license for more than 10 days per calendar year.

How much does an Arizona liquor license cost?

Liquor license application fees depend on the type of license. The Department of Liquor Licenses and Control has a complete list of Arizona liquor license fees, but the cost generally ranges from $50 to $2,000.

For example, let’s say you’re opening a microbrewery in Phoenix—your cost would be $600 for a full-year license according to the fee schedule. However, the price of a Special Event Liquor Permit is a flat $25 per day of the event.

You’ll also pay a renewal fee to keep your license active year after year. The renewal deadline varies by county and license type. For example, a Series 6 license in Maricopa County must be renewed by January 31, while out-of-state licenses have a deadline of November 30.

Getting an Arizona liquor license can be a complex process—but it’s one of the many requirements to open a business. And remember, owning your own business can open you up to significant risk. That’s where liquor liability and restaurant and bar insurance come in.

Don’t leave the future of your business to chance. Contact Huckleberry to get a free quote (the process is entirely online, so you don’t even have to pick up a phone!)

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