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How to get a liquor license in Virginia

In 2021, the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) reached gross revenues of $1.4 billion. And this number just accounts for ABC store sales—not sales from other establishments in the state, such as restaurants and bars.

Suffice it to say: If you are a business in Virginia and are involved in the sale of alcoholic beverages, you must obtain an alcohol license from the ABC board. The application process is fairly lengthy, but do not let this discourage you from proceeding.

Virginia liquor license requirements and laws

Virginia ABC licenses fall under 3 main categories: banquet, retail, and industry. Keep in mind that you may be required to possess a permit(s) in addition to your license. Requirements will vary depending on the type of license, and we will highlight these requirements below.

As of July 2020, the State of Virginia enacted 19 ABC-related laws. These include but are not limited to:

  • The elimination of the one-year residency requirement for the issuance of liquor licenses
  • An increase in the number of local special event licenses available yearly (from 12 to 16 events)
  • Removal of provision that restricts distillers from manufacturing a minimum of 36,000 gallons of spirits per year

Some other laws have been put in place. One bill allows on-premises beer and wine licensees to sell beer and wine for off-premises consumption. And, restaurants are now allowed to offer cocktails to-go–thanks to the pandemic. Keep in mind that for you to offer alcoholic beverages through delivery, you may be required to obtain a delivery permit.

It is important to note that many cities across Virginia will require you to submit proof of liability insurance if you are hosting a special event. In addition to proof of insurance, you will need to ensure that your event or establishment location is following local zoning laws.

VA liquor license: Qualifications

To apply for a Virginia liquor license, applicants must be at least 21 years of age and legal citizens of the United States (proof of citizenship is required). As previously mentioned, Virginia has eliminated the one-year residency requirement for issuing liquor licenses. So, you do not need to be a Virginia resident to obtain a liquor license in the state.

VA liquor license: Taxes

If you are selling liquor in the Commonwealth of Virginia, you must obtain a Sales Tax Certificate. You will also be required to pay federal special occupational tax. This tax is paid annually to the United States Department of Treasury and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF). This tax varies depending on the type of liquor being sold. Retail licensees will pay $250, whereas a wholesaler is expected to pay $500.

Types of Virginia liquor licenses

There are 3 main types of liquor licenses in Virginia: Banquet, retail, and industry. Each license has a unique set of requirements, so be sure to study them carefully when choosing the correct one for your business.


Four types of licenses fall under the “banquet” category: Banquet, Banquet Special Event, Manufacturer’s Distilled Spirits Event, and Banquet Tasting. All of these licenses can be applied for using the same application. Banquet licenses are for events such as wedding receptions, tastings, fundraisers, or anywhere alcohol is served in an unlicensed location or club premise. A standard banquet application asks for the following information and documentation to be submitted:

  • Completed and signed application (including banquet location information, applicant name, applicant company, etc.)
  • Event invitation, flier, or advertisement
  • Facility rental contract
  • Tax-exempt letter (if you are a nonprofit organization)
  • Statement of organization acknowledgment form and Letter of Good Standing (if you are a political action committee or election campaign)
  • If you are not tax-exempt, include organization by-laws, membership list, and/or proof of financial records
  • If you are a manufacturer hosting an event, include contracts with production companies


Retail licenses allow restaurants, bars, hotels, grocery stores, and private clubs to sell alcohol. There are 3 categories of retail licenses, and, like banquet licenses, you only need to use one application to apply for each. The 3 categories of retail licenses are Mixed Beverage Restaurant, On/Off Premises Beer and Wine, and Marketplace. Here is what must be submitted for each license:

  • Completed application
  • Application fee of $195
  • Criminal background check
  • Proof of Citizenship
  • Health permit
  • Lease or deed
  • Virginia Sales Tax Certificate
  • Food Concession Agreement and List of Concessions (if food is being sold)

Specialty retail liquor licenses are issued to lifestyle centers, continuing care communities, hospitals, and museums.


Industry liquor licenses are issued to businesses involved in the manufacturing, wholesaling, and distribution of alcoholic beverages. Four types of businesses are eligible for an industry liquor license: Breweries, farm wineries, beer wholesalers, and wine wholesalers. Here is what must be submitted for each license type:

  • Completed application
  • Application fee of $195
  • Criminal background check
  • Lease or deed
  • Diagram of licensed space, equipment list, and federal permit (if brewery or farm winery)
  • Diagram of space, federal permit, and Wholesaler Indemnity Bond (if wholesaler)

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

Yes, you can get a one-day liquor license in South Carolina. These are usually granted to those hosting a banquet (see above). A one-day liquor license will cost anywhere from $50 to $175 per day, with extra fees for hosting an event for consecutive days.

How much does a Virginia liquor license cost?

License fees vary depending on the license. However, you can be expected to pay anywhere from $50 to $300. The Virginia ABC has a full rundown of license costs and payment schedules for each license.

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