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How to get a liquor license in Georgia

So, you’re opening a bar in Georgia. Or, perhaps you own a salon and want to offer your clients a blowout with a side of pinot grigio. Whatever your situation may be, you will need to obtain a Georgia liquor license.

Keep in mind, however: To sell alcoholic beverages in Georgia, you must be at least 21 years of age, possess the correct insurance (restaurant or bar insurance, if that is your business), a local alcohol license, as well as a federal basic permit. In addition to this, you will also need a business license.

Georgia has different types of alcoholic beverage licenses depending on the business you are operating, and this is where things can get a bit confusing. Luckily, we have outlined everything for you in clear terms. Read on to find out what is needed to get started and answer some FAQs.

Georgia liquor license requirements and laws

A Georgia liquor license is not something you will receive overnight. And the application process does take some time. A new liquor license can take up to about 120 days to process.

Since Georgia liquor licenses are obtained at the municipal level first, you will encounter requirements such as zoning regulations and other regulations that are unique to the individual town or city you are operating in. And these requirements can impact the types of licenses and permits you will receive. Once you have received your local license, you will be required to obtain a state license.

Business location

Licensing requirements can vary greatly depending on the city you are conducting business in. Selling liquor in Atlanta may involve different requirements than selling in Macon. And, local zoning laws will come into play, adding potential hurdles to the process of obtaining a license.

Federal basic permit

The Alcohol and Tobacco Trade Bureau issues federal alcohol permits. For this permit, you will need to provide the following:

  • Name and premises address
  • Operating name
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • Business conducted on-premises
  • Reason for application
  • Owner information

The TTB has a streamlined online application for federal permits. First, determine your permit type and business type using the provided descriptions on the site. Then visit Permits Online to complete and submit your application electronically. The TTB site states the process takes “a matter of minutes,” so you won’t need to set aside a significant amount of time for this step.

Local regulations

Depending on the county or city you are selling alcohol in, there may be some unique requirements. Guidelines can vary in Atlanta, Savannah, or Augusta, and some cities may require you to have small business insurance or retail insurance. Your city or town office should be able to answer any questions you may have regarding local regulations and guide you through the process.

Many municipalities will have zoning regulations. In Atlanta, for example, you must have zoning approval for at least 50,000 square feet of retail space (if you are a standalone establishment). If your business is in a mixed-use development, such as a plaza, the area must comprise no less than 99,000 square feet, and your establishment must get approval for at least 2,000 square feet of retail space. If you are hosting an event, there may be some distance requirements you will need to adhere to if you are selling alcoholic beverages.

Liquor license transfer

Georgia consists of 152 counties, and not every county will allow you to transfer a liquor license from another city or state.

For example, liquor licenses are not transferable in Atlanta (Fulton County). But, in Columbus (Muscogee County), liquor licenses are transferable as long as all city taxes and property taxes are paid at the time of transfer.

Renewing your Georgia liquor license

If you wish to renew your Georgia liquor license, it must be done between the first business day in September and December 31st of each year.

The liquor license renewal application can be completed online through the Georgia Tax Center, and there are 3 types of license renewals available:

  • Retail Alcohol Renewal
  • Non-Retail Alcohol Renewal
  • Bulk Alcohol Renewal

You can find all the information you need regarding liquor license renewal on the Georgia Department of Revenue website.

Here are some documents you may be asked to provide along with your alcohol beverage license application:

  • Personal history form
  • Corporate papers
  • Letter of clearance
  • Proof of residence
  • Reference letters
  • Lease or valid documents

You may also need approval from the city hall, the police department, fire department, and/or health department to receive your Special Events liquor license. In addition to these departments, you may need approval from the city’s Board of Commissioners and city council. If any of these departments reject you, you may need to attend a public hearing.

Should you need to review the laws, your local municipality should have a Code of Ordinances available for you to read.

Types of Georgia liquor licenses

The State of Georgia offers 5 main categories of liquor licenses, depending on the business you are operating. These are:

  • Retailers license (liquor store)
  • Special Events license
  • Brewpub license
  • Manufacturer/Broker license
  • Wholesaler/Distributor license

Each category of liquor licenses, except for brewpub and wholesaler, have subcategories. Here is how these are broken down:

  • For Retailers: Consumption On-Premises, Hotel In-Room, Retail Dealer, and Retail Package
  • For Special Events: Special Event for Profit, Special Event Non-Profit, Special Event Use, and Special Event Wine Auction
  • For Manufacturers: Broker, Brewery, Distillery, Farm Winery, Importer, Wine Special Order Shipping, and Non-Beverage Manufacturer/Importer

If you are hosting an event, keep in mind that you will most likely need a permit(s) in addition to your standard liquor license. Especially if you are selling alcohol off-premises—most venues will require it for on-premise consumption. You can find a full list of license and permit applications on the Georgia Department of Revenue website.

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

In short: yes, Georgia does offer Special Events alcohol licenses for one-day events. However, these are usually issued by the individual cities. The time it takes to receive your Special Events liquor license will vary depending on the city. Still, in Atlanta, it is recommended that you submit your application 90 days before the event is scheduled to happen.

How much does a Georgia liquor license cost?

The application fee for Georgia liquor licenses varies depending on the type of license you need. The Georgia Department of Revenue has a full list of license fees available to review ahead of time. Here are some of the most common fees you will come across:

  • Brewery, Distillery, or Winery: $1,000
  • Broker: $50 or $100
  • Wholesaler: $500 or $1,000
  • Retail: $50 or $200
  • Special Event: $25 to $100

If you are a distiller, there will be a $1 per liter tax on alcohol produced. And, licensees in Georgia who sell these distilled beverages are charged an excise tax of 3 percent.

The specifics of acquiring a liquor license vary by state, county, and local area. Contact the Georgia Department of Revenue to determine what kind of liquor license is best, and ask your local officials about business licenses or permits you may need.

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