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How to get a liquor license in Oregon

If your business includes joining Oregon’s thriving craft beer, wine, and spirit scene, you’ll find you’re in good company. Portland often gets credit for being a top brew town, with more than 85 breweries located within its borders. It is also home to a growing culture of fruit wines, food trucks, caterers, and mobile bike saloons. Wineries abound on the outskirts of Eugene and Salem. Overall, plenty of Oregonians find their business plans include making and serving alcoholic beverages.

Before a bartender pours a drink for your first customer, however, you’ll follow some steps to secure a liquor license. Let’s get started.

Oregon liquor license requirements and laws

The process of getting a liquor license begins with the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission. Don’t be confused by the newly changed name. What was once the Oregon Liquor Control Commission is still known as OLCC.

The application forms depend on the type of license you desire and your city (if your business is within the town’s boundaries) or county (if your business is outside city limits).

You’ll first need the location’s address where you will sell liquor and start the process of purchasing or leasing the space and a mailing address in Oregon.

You’ll also need to contact the Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to make sure you’re complying with federal laws. In addition, the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Division may require additional licensing if you sell retail beer, wine, or distilled beverages for drinking on-site.

To apply for the license, get the packet of forms from OLCC in your jurisdiction and complete the following:

  • Liquor license application
  • Individual history
  • Real property attestation
  • Business information
  • Floor plan
  • Written proposal (for a Full On-Premises Sales License)

You’ll also fill out a questionnaire corresponding to your status as a corporation, limited liability company, or limited partnership. The form you need differs according to how you’ve structured your new business.

Your local government may charge additional fees since your application may appear before the city council and even get approved by the Police Chief. Approval can take up to 45 days. Ultimately, your city or county will make a recommendation to OLCC, which will complete the process. If it is your first time applying, you can see typical questions that cities consider in approving your license in Portland’s Community Liquor Guide.

For some businesses, there will be an additional requirement to post a public notice at your location. All in all, the entire process can take up to 4 to 8 weeks or longer.
You’re almost there, but don’t forget Alcohol Service Permits from OLCC, meant for servers, managers, and owners who might be mixing and selling drinks at your business. Getting a permit requires:

  • Creating an online account or visiting your local OLCC office
  • Filling out the required forms
  • Taking the OLCC alcohol service education online course
  • Passing an alcohol server permit test
  • Paying processing fees totaling $28.65

You may choose to cover these costs for employees who become your first Oregon alcohol servers. There are additional fees for the alcohol server education course. Alcohol server training has many approved providers.

You won’t need an Alcohol Service Permit if you are selling, but not serving, alcohol. This includes kitchen staff, bouncers, and employees who check IDs. For example, convenience stores require an Oregon liquor license to sell liquor, but no service permit.

Types of Oregon liquor licenses

OLCC offers 28 different licenses to serve your small business in Oregon:

  • Brewery
  • Brewery-Public House
  • Certificate of Approval (wholesale and importers)
  • Direct Shipper permit
  • Distillery
  • Distillery tasting
  • Full On-Premises Sales (multiple types)
  • Grower Sales Privilege
  • Limited On-Premises Sales
  • Warehouse (various types)
  • Winery
  • Special Event Licensing

As you might notice, types of licenses are specific to the kinds of alcohol you want to sell as well as the location of sales. Restaurants that plan to offer mixed liquor drinks, beer, and wine will need a full liquor license. Wineries, distilleries, and breweries selling their beverages may only need a more limited license type.

Where alcohol is sold and consumed is also central to the license type you will need. For instance, if you are opening a distillery to make and export spirits for sale in liquor stores, you will need a distillery license. You can offer small drinks samples with a tasting license, letting you sell sealed bottles to retail customers. If you want to sell drinks to visitors, you may also apply for a full on-premises license. You can apply for one or all of these types of permits at the same time.

There are rules for filling growlers that differ by licensing type as well. If you serve alcohol that your customers will consume off-premises in a growler, you’ll want to pay attention to the requirements for different licenses.

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

Yes! You can get a special event license in Oregon to allow for the sale of spirits, malt beverages, wine, and cider. To have your application approved before your event, be sure to allow 2 to 4 weeks for processing.

Make sure you need a temporary liquor license at all. You need a liquor license to sell alcohol or make alcohol available when charging or accepting donations for admission. If your event includes selling products, you will also need a permit.

You do not need a one-day license if alcohol is available without payment at an event that does not accept donations for attendance, like a wedding reception.

Oregon nonprofits registered with the Oregon Secretary of State may also qualify for an exemption. You’ll need prior approval from OLCC for each day you need an exemption, so you’ll have to submit a form in the county where the event will occur. There is no fee to request an exemption. Be aware that auctions and raffles, including sealed liquor bottles, require filing an exemption.

Other businesses that need a one-day license will submit a Temporary Sales License--For Profit (TSL-FP) form in the city or county where they will hold the event. If you expect more than 300 attendees, you’ll need to have at least $300,000 in liquor liability insurance.

Now is the time to protect your business from other liabilities. You may need retail insurance, general liability insurance, and workers’ compensation insurance to hire employees.

How much does an Oregon liquor license cost?

You can reference Oregon’s complete list of license types and fees. Some of the most common costs are:

  • Full On-Premises Liquor License: $800
  • Brewery (no fee for 2nd and 3rd locations): $1,000
  • Brewery public house and winery permits: $500
  • Distillery license: $200
  • Distillery tasting: No fee
  • Temporary and special event permits: $10 to $50 per day

You may encounter some hiccups in the liquor license process, and it may take a couple of months to get your license.

Luckily, one step is easy: You can get the affordable liquor liability insurance you’ll need from Huckleberry in minutes. It’s part of the small business insurance that will safeguard your hard work, and it’s all online.

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