How to get a liquor license in New York City
Whether you have an existing business or are looking to start one, a liquor license for your New York City business could increase traffic and revenue. But getting one isn’t a walk in the park. You must be aware of the process—the specifics of the licensing programs, eligibility, and how to apply.
The New York Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Law and State Liquor Authority (SLA) can be an excellent place to start. However, it’s best if you have a basic understanding of the license requirements and laws before you kick off your liquor license journey.
NYC liquor license requirements and laws
The New York State Liquor Authority is responsible for issuing licenses and permits. Submitting your application is easy through the New York Business Express website.
However, New York liquor licensing requirements can vary based on your business type and the type of license requested. For example, licensees applying for a grocery store or liquor store license will have a different liquor license application than a catering business that wants to serve alcohol.
Sales tax certificate
Before you can sell alcohol, you must set your business up to collect sales tax by registering with the New York State Tax Department. The department will issue you a Certificate of Authority—the official document that lets you collect tax on your liquor sales.
You’ll need to complete this step even if you’re buying an existing business because you can’t transfer the certificate from one owner to the next. Luckily, the process is simple. The New York Business Express has a portal that allows you to apply online for your sales tax certificate.
Business registration and insurance
Your business should have its own Employer Identification Number (EIN) through the IRS. The EIN, commonly called a tax ID number, is how the IRS identifies your business and tracks tax payments. It’s simple to apply for a number online or by phone, fax, or mail. If you’re near a local office, you can also get one in person.
Additionally, you have insurance obligations as an employer. New York City can require unemployment insurance and workers’ comp insurance, in addition to liquor liability or retail insurance.
Unless you’re operating your business under your legal name—which is unlikely—you may need a Certificate of Assumed Name, commonly called a DBA (doing business as) or simply a “business certificate.”
You may want to get legal advice to determine if a Certificate of Assumed Name is right for your company. When you’re ready to get your certificate, visit NYC.gov to get a listing of NYC county clerk contact information.
Health department approval
You might not need health department approval for your liquor license—it depends on the specifics of what your business will offer. However, if you’re opening a restaurant or bar, diner, or another establishment that will serve food to customers, you’ll likely need a stamp of approval from the health department.
After applying for approval, your business will have an inspection. The average processing time is 15 days, and you’ll need to renew your authorization every year.
Opinion by the Community Boards
Any time a permit or license is to be granted, the Community Board must weigh in with their opinion.Community Boards represent local districts or communities. Their function is to share viewpoints, but their opinions aren’t binding—the State Liquor Authority has the final say in whether your liquor license is approved.
However, a favorable opinion is crucial because attorneys have noted that the SLA is less likely to grant your license based on the Community Board’s opinion.
You’ve likely heard the saying, “location, location, location.” It suggests that location is everything—and that’s especially true for your alcohol business. Under the ABC law, your location can make or break your NY liquor license.
The ABC law includes two specific provisions:
- 200 Foot Rule
- 500 Foot Rule
The “200 Foot Rule” states you can’t have a liquor license if your company is on the same street and within 200 feet of a school, church, or place of worship. It only applies if alcohol will be sold for on-premises consumption.
The “500 Foot Rule” also applies to retail licenses where consumers will drink alcohol on-site. It states that a new liquor license can’t be issued if the building is within 500 feet of 3 other businesses with an on-premise liquor license.
Types of NYC liquor licenses
The state of New York has many license types available. According to the NYS Liquor Authority, licenses come in 4 main groups:
- On-premises licenses
- Off-premises licenses
- Manufacturing licenses
- Wholesale licenses
Each group contains several license types, and each can have specific application requirements. You can choose between off- or on-premises liquor licenses, beer licenses, wine licenses, or “full liquor licenses” that also allow distilled spirits.
If you aren’t sure which license type is right for your company, the New York Business Express can help. It has an application wizard for retailers, manufacturers, and wholesalers to point you in the right direction.
Can I get a one-day liquor license in NYC?
Yes, you can get a one-day temporary permit to sell liquor in NYC. You can choose from:
- One-day beer and wine products permit
- Catering permit
- New Year’s Eve
The type of license you’re looking for determines the application process, and you can learn more about temporary permits at NYC.gov.
How much does an NYC liquor license cost?
There’s no single set cost of a New York liquor license. How much you pay depends on a variety of factors. First, your fee is different depending on the type of license you need. Your price can be more or less if you want your liquor license to allow you to serve alcohol on-site vs. off-site.
Your location also determines your cost. There are 5 boroughs in NYC. The price is generally consistent if you’re in the counties of New York (Manhattan), Kings (Brooklyn), Bronx, or Queens. But you could pay a different fee if your business is in the county of Richmond (Staten Island).
Finally, you’ll encounter expenses beyond the required liquor license filing fee—there are costs to get health department approval, get a business certificate, and perform other steps along the way.