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How to get a liquor license in New York

“If your business deals with the importation, manufacture, distribution, or sale of alcohol in NY, you need a liquor license,” says the New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA).

The state makes it clear that your only path to alcohol revenue is through its bureaucratic process. So read on to find out how to navigate the administrative hurdles and get your business up and running as quickly as possible. And if you’re launching your new venture in New York City, check out our guide specifically for NYC liquor licenses.

New York liquor license requirements and laws

Under The Alcoholic Beverage Control Law, the NYSLA is the regulatory body in charge of license and permit issuance. However, ABC Law varies wildly, depending on the type of license you’re seeking and the business you’re starting. For example, the liquor license application process will be much different for a catering business than for a brewery.

So, the criteria listed below are commonalities and an overview, regardless of the type of business. Also, this info should help you decide whether you need to speak to a liquor license attorney or broker.

Sales tax certificate

Before selling anything, including alcohol, in New York, you must register with the NY State Tax Department. Once approved, you’ll receive a Certificate of Authority, which allows you to collect taxes on all sales, including those from alcohol.

You must acquire a brand-new certificate even if you’re purchasing an existing business. Also, you’ll need a separate certificate of authority for each business location. The state says the average time for the process is 5 days. You can apply for your certificate here.

Business registration and insurance

Along with taking care of your state tax requirements, you may also want to register with the federal government by getting an Employee Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. The EIN is like a Social Security Number for your business and is commonly referred to as a tax ID number. Your EIN helps the IRS track your business for tax purposes, and you can apply for an EIN here.

In addition, New York requires almost all employers to provide workers’ comp insurance. Also, your city or municipality may require specific types of small business insurance, including liquor liability coverage, retail insurance, or restaurant and bar insurance.

Business certificate

You’ll likely need a Certificate of Assumed Name, also called a DBA (doing business as), unless you plan to operate your company under your legal name. You can file for the certificate through the Department of State. For details and FAQs related to New York City, go to or here to learn more.

Opinion by the Community Boards

Community boards are government-appointed advisory groups in the 59 districts dispersed amongst the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island. They offer their viewpoints on land use and zoning. Although community opinions aren’t binding, they carry much weight with the NYSLA.

You must give 30 days of advance notice to your community board or municipality before submitting your licensing application. If your local body accepts email notification, you can do it by email; otherwise, there’s always snail mail.

Location requirements

Under ABC law, the location of your licensed premises must comply with 2 regulations, the 200 Foot Rule and the 500 Foot Rule.

The “200 Foot Rule” specifies that you cannot get a liquor license for on-premises consumption if your business is on the same street or avenue of a building used exclusively as a school, church, or place of worship. There are very few exceptions to this rule when it applies, and the SLA is pretty strict on its enforcement.

The “500 Foot Rule” also pertains to retail licenses that allow alcohol consumption on the premises. It stipulates that the state will not grant a new liquor license if the potential location is within 500 feet of 3 existing companies having on-premises liquor licenses. There is a little wiggle room around this rule. Still, you’ll likely need an experienced liquor license attorney to advocate for your location’s eligibility.

You can check out the local competition and other active licenses through the public license query.

Types of New York liquor licenses

The state of New York offers a wide range of licensing options. Licenses are divided into 4 categories by the NYS Liquor Authority:

  • On-premises licenses (for example, bars, restaurants, taverns, and hotels)
  • Off-premises licenses (e.g., liquor stores, wine stores, grocery stores, convenience stores, and drug stores)
  • Manufacturing licenses (e.g., breweries, wineries, distilleries, cideries, and meaderies)
  • Wholesale licenses (e.g., beer wholesalers, wine wholesalers, and importers)

Each category has several unique license types, and individual licenses have their own application criteria. For example, a grocery store beer license differs from an eating place beer license, which is altogether different from an importer license.

Not sure which is suitable for your venture?

The New York Business Express will assist you in determining which license type is appropriate. It offers an application wizard that guides on-premises retailers, off-premises retailers, manufacturers, and wholesalers.

It’s also possible to sell while you wait the 22 to 26 weeks it takes for your application to process. You can get a Temporary Operating Retail Permit if you buy a business from an existing licensee (a “transfer” application). Also, you can qualify for 1 if your new company applies for an on-premises license or grocery store. In addition, applicants looking for a manufacturer license can obtain a temporary permit.

Can I get a one-day liquor license in New York?

Yes, a one-day permit is available. You can select from the following options:

  • One-day beer and wine products permit
  • Catering permit
  • All night permit
  • Charitable event permit

For more details or to apply, go to the SLA website here.

How much does a New York liquor license cost?

Here are the liquor license schedule fees:

But the fees don’t take into account the cost of attorney or brokers, certificate fees, and other expenses for all the regulations businesses must comply with before opening. And license expiration is not uniform, so ensure you glance at the time the license lasts after issuance.

But it’s not all bad news because just reading this means you’re 1 step closer to adding alcohol revenue and its healthy margins to your bottom line. While you’re checking things off your list, you can check out liquor liability coverage and small business insurance.

In as little as 5 minutes, you can get a free online quote from Huckleberry.

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