How to get a liquor license in Michigan
Getting a liquor license can open up a significant opportunity for business owners. The profit margin for liquor sales is one of the largest, at 75 percent to 80 percent. However, before you can tap into that market, you must obtain a liquor license.
You’ll need to jump through a few hoops to get a Michigan liquor license. For example, suppose you’re opening a restaurant, bar, or liquor store to sell alcohol in Michigan. In that case, you must be at least 21 years of age, have the right insurance (such as restaurant or bar insurance), check for proper zoning, and have a business license and seller’s permit.
Different types of liquor licenses exist, and the requirements and laws can vary by location. Your nearest Michigan Liquor Control Commission office can offer resources and answer FAQs to guide you through the process- but here’s what you need to know to get started.
Michigan liquor license requirements and laws
According to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, there are some specific laws that a licensee must follow. Among the most important are:
- A licensee cannot allow any staff members who are minors under the age of 18 to sell alcoholic beverages.
- To possess a liquor license, you must be at least 21 years of age.
- There are also times when alcohol sales are prohibited, including select holidays. For example, in the State of Michigan, it is illegal to sell alcohol after 9 pm on Christmas Eve and for the entirety of Christmas Day.
To start acquiring a new license, you will be required to take part in a face-to-face meeting with an Enforcement Division Investigator. The documentation you will need to bring includes but is not limited to: a photo ID, income tax returns, and a property document for the proposed licensed premises.
Any business with a Michigan liquor license is also required by law to display the following signs:
- An Under 21 Penalty Sign that warns of the penalties for selling and serving alcohol to persons under 21 years of age.
- An Age Sign that displays the year and day that an individual must be born to be of age (21) to purchase alcoholic beverages.
Requirements can also vary depending on the type of license you are applying for. Additional information on the liquor license applications, and the criteria for each, can be found by going to www.michigan.gov and looking up the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
Liquor licenses are effective from May 1 through April 30 of each year, regardless of the date of issuance of the license. Renewal applications are mailed by the middle of March to the business address unless a different address is on file.
Types of Michigan liquor licenses
Several types of licenses are available, depending on the type of business you intend to operate and the category of beverages you want to sell. For example, a company that sells directly to the public needs a different license than one that manufactures or distributes alcoholic beverages.
There are 3 main “tiers” of liquor licenses that categorize the different types:
- Manufacturers such as breweries and wineries
- Distributors who sell to wholesalers and importers
- Retailers who sell to the general public
The main Supplier tier includes 6 licenses: Outstate seller of beer, Outstate Seller of Mixed Spirit Drink, Outstate Seller of Wine, Outstate Self-Distributor, Vendor of Spirits, and Vendor Representative.
The supplier tier also includes manufacturer licenses:
- Limited Production Manufacturer
- Distiller, Wine Maker
- Mixed Spirit Drink Manufacturer
- Tasting Room
- Consumer Sampling Event
- Direct Shipper
- Limited Alcohol Buyer
- Seller Of Alcohol
- Industrial Manufacturer
Obtaining a Manufacturer or Wholesaler license requires the following documentation and information:
- A completed application
- A livescan fingerprint formInspection, license, and permit fees
- Corporate documents (such as articles of organization and operating agreement)
- Multi-tier organizational chart (if you have more than 3 levels of ownership structure)
- Local government authorization
- A lease, deed, or land contract
The Retailer license tier contains 14 license types, both for an on-premises license and an off-premises license. The on-premise licenses include:
- Class CB-Hotel
- G-1 and G-2 (for golf clubs)
- Waterfront (boats)
- Special License (non-profits)
- Beer Festival Special License
- Continuing Care Center
The off-premise licenses are for Specially Designed Merchants or Distributors, and Third Party Facilitator Services.
To obtain a Retailer license, you need the same documentation and information from the Manufacturer/Wholesaler application. Additionally, you will be required to fill out an on-premises resort questionnaire for a new resort, redevelopment, or development district license.
There are also several permits that you may need depending on your business. These include but are not limited to:
- Additional Bar
- Banquet Facility
- Beer and Wine Tasting
- Extended Hours
- Farmers Markets
Sunday Sales. Each permit type has its requirements, which you can find by consulting the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.
Can I get a one-day liquor license in Michigan?
Yes, you can get a one-day liquor license in Michigan. This can come in handy for special catering events and other occasions where you will want to serve alcohol for a limited time.
You will need to submit your application to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission at least 10 days before the event. The application package should include the following information:
- A drawing of the outdoor area being utilized if the event is at an outdoor space (dimensions of location, fencing, entry/exit points, etc.)
- School or church consent from the appropriate representatives if the event will be within 500 feet of a school or church
- Security details for the event
- Distribution of alcohol plan (free or selling)
- First time requestor (articles of incorporation, by-laws, and certification of non-profit status
- Credit/debit card for payment of the application fee
The Grand Rapids Police Department will ask you questions about the details of your planned event, including what measures you will put in place to differentiate persons 21 years of age and up from minors, prevent over-serving patrons, and handle unruly patrons. They will also inquire about staffing for your entry and exit points and whether you hold this event on personal property or a city park (city parks require their own permits).
You will then fill out and print both the Police Department and State of Michigan applications, and schedule a review meeting to which you will bring them. The State application is available on the MLCC website.
The total cost to apply can vary based on what kind of event you are hosting and the types of permits required.
How much does a Michigan liquor license cost?
How much you pay for a Michigan liquor license depends on the type, license, purpose, and miscellaneous services you may need.
The Michigan state website has an application checklist and timeline that you can view. However, here are a few examples of the more common costs you may encounter:
- Inspection fees are generally $70 to inspect the premises
- A Class C license (for restaurants and bars to have on-premise consumption of beer, wine, spirits, and mixed drinks) has a $600 license and permit fee
- The A Hotel license (for hotels looking to sell beer and wine for consumption) carries a $250 fee
- The B Hotel license (for hotels to sell beer, wine, spirits, and mixed drinks) has a $600 fee
Michigan liquor license: Taxes
There are also select taxes that are associated with some licenses. Wholesaler, Microbrewer, Brewpub, Brewer, Direct Shipper, Winemaker, and Mixed Spirit Drink Manufacturer licensees all pay taxes to the Liquor Control Commission.
A retailer selling beer, wine, or liquor will also be required to obtain a sales tax license. Property taxes will also apply.
Remember: The specifics and costs of obtaining a liquor license vary by state, county, and the local area. Check with your local government officials, including your city clerk, city council, and local law enforcement, about all business licenses and permits that you may need. Contact the Michigan Liquor Control Commission and consult the Michigan Liquor Control Code and other local laws to ensure you are compliant with all regulations.
The state and commission websites will also contain answers to frequently asked questions about the process and information on the proper license type you should apply for and how much your total license fee will be. They will also have the appropriate phone numbers to call for any questions.
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