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How to get a liquor license in North Carolina

One of the privileges of adulthood is consuming alcoholic beverages, and North Carolina is no stranger to a booze-friendly environment. With a slew of fantastic bars, breweries, and eateries located in Raleigh and other areas of the state, North Carolina proudly serves its citizens and patrons responsibly.

Suppose you’re looking to get into the alcohol serving or distribution business. In that case, you’ll need to secure a liquor license.

The following steps will guide you through the North Carolina liquor license application process so you’ll be well on your way to serving the great people of The Tar Heel State their favorite libations with ease.

1. North Carolina liquor license requirements and laws

In the state of North Carolina, the liquor license application process is faster and much smoother than in many other states. You can download application forms from the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission—ABC Board—website,, along with other requested documentation and paperwork.

After submitting your ABC license application to the North Carolina ABC Board, your proposed location will be vetted and investigated by the commission, with help from the Alcohol Law Enforcement Division, to ensure that all requirements are being met. Some of these requirements include:

  • Validating that the space adheres to building and fire codes
  • Evaluating if the space is within 50 feet of a school or church
  • Exploring if your proposed alcohol-serving establishment will negatively impact the surrounding area

Identification and background check

As part of securing a North Carolina liquor license, the ABC Commission will look into your background and evaluate if your character or criminal history might indicate if you’re prone to lawbreaking. The North Carolina ABC Commission is the sole entity determining whether your application lives up to their standards. You’ll want to be honest, forthright, and transparent with all of the information you submit.

Each owner of the company applying for the liquor license must also provide their fingerprints—in the form of fingerprint cards—as part of the ABC permit application, the processing fee of $38 per person.

Application process

You’ll need the following information and documentation to properly submit your liquor license to the North Carolina ABC Commission, which ultimately empowers local government opinion to have the final say as to whether or not your application will be approved or denied: A copy of your lease or deed, your company’s formation documents, signed inspection compliance and zoning forms, copies of your driver’s license or military ID, proof of alcohol seller/server training, an agreeance to recycling rules and regulations, and proof of liquor liability insurance. Additional license mandates include:

  • The manager of a business selling alcohol must be at least 19 years of age
  • Owners of businesses that sell alcohol in North Carolina must be residents of North Carolina
  • No manager of a company that sells alcohol can have a felony record within the last 3 years

You’ll also need to provide a rendering of the premises to help aid the NC ABC Commission inspection process with their due diligence. The Commission will also administer license fees, but those will be determined based on the type of liquor license you’re securing.

2. Types of North Carolina liquor licenses

There are 2 main types of alcohol permits available in North Carolina that are each associated with different parts of the sale of alcoholic beverages supply chain:

  • Retail permits: Retail permits are required if you’re selling alcohol at retail convenience stores.
  • Commercial permits: Commercial permits are required if you’re involved in the importing, distributing, manufacturing, transporting, or bottling of alcoholic beverages; run distilleries or wineries; or are engaged in activities typically handled by wholesalers.

Depending on the nature of your specific alcohol business initiatives, you may need to apply for more than one permit or may need to fill out additional forms outside of the North Carolina liquor license documents.

3. Can I get a one-day liquor license in North Carolina?

North Carolina does provide a one-day liquor license for a $400 permit fee for special events. The special one-time permit allows permit holders to run an event or reception and bring in alcohol for guests. Remember to have your date for the event locked in beforehand because it’s a temporary permit valid for the specific day outlined on the license. The last thing you’d want to do is throw your event, only to realize your permit contains the wrong date because you thought you could use it on whichever date you locked in after receiving it.

4. How much does a North Carolina liquor license cost?

Depending on the type of permit you need, the ABC liquor license cost in North Carolina ranges from $100 to $1,000.

  • Selling beer or wine retail requires a $400 liquor license
  • A club, bar, restaurant, private club, or hotel that sells a variety of alcoholic beverages requires a $1,000 liquor license
  • The license for a mixed-beverage catering company costs $200
  • For restaurants that allow BYOB—Bring Your Own Beverage—a liquor license in the $200 to $400 range is required, depending on the size of the restaurant
  • The license for a North Carolina wine shop or wine tasting room is a $100 wine license or wine permit

Each alcohol-providing establishment is different, so be sure you have a thorough understanding of your business and know if it may require more than one license to be run successfully and legally.

Adding to the cost of the North Carolina liquor license is the mandatory purchase of liquor liability insurance.

To protect your business and its future growth, you can snag a liquor liability insurance policy along with your restaurant and bar insurance or your catering operation, depending on the nature of your business.

Additionally, if you have 3 or more employees on your payroll, you’ll need to protect them and your business from unforeseen accidents with workers' compensation insurance and general liability insurance.

In such a heavily regulated industry, you’ll be happy to operate your company knowing you’re covered from a multitude of risks and unforeseen events and circumstances through business insurance. For all things business insurance, check out Huckleberry.

In less time than it takes to whip up a well-acclaimed North Carolina mimosa, Huckleberry can provide you with insurance quotes and policy options that meet all of your business needs, safeguarding your bar or restaurant today and in the years to come.

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