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This article is for educational purposes and does not constitute legal or tax advice. For specific advice applicable to your business, please contact a professional.
If you’re planning to start a business that sells alcohol in Oklahoma, you’ll need to obtain the applicable liquor license(s). Licenses are issued by the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement (ABLE) Commission, and it’s important to understand the requirements for getting one.
Getting a liquor license is usually worth the hassle, even if you own a restaurant. For example, selling alcoholic beverages can not only help you attract more customers to your restaurant, but it can also increase your revenue. Restaurant profit margins for drinks can be as high as 80% based on pour cost; for bars, the margins can be up to 200%.
Here’s a guide to help you understand the requirements for getting a liquor license in Oklahoma.
Steps to apply for a liquor license in Oklahoma
1. Determine the type of license you need
Licenses differ based on the type of alcohol you intend to sell and where you want to sell them — on-premises or off-premises. You can serve beer, wine, spirits, all, or a combination of the three.
The most common licenses for restaurants, bars, and grocery stores are:
- Retail license – You can obtain a retail beer/wine license or a retail spirits license. If your retail store is incorporated, you will also need to provide a Certificate of Incorporation.
- Low point beer license – The state of Oklahoma issues a low point beer license for the sale of any beverage that contains more than one-half of one percent (1/2 of 1%) alcohol by volume, and not more than three and two-tenths percent (3.2%) alcohol by weight. Before you apply for this license type, check that your property is properly zoned for the sale of low-point beer.
- Employee license – An employee license is required for any employee selling or serving alcoholic beverages in any place where such beverages are sold, mixed, or served. Servers must be at least 18 years of age to obtain a license that allows them to sell beer and wine. For mixed beverages, servers must be 21 years of age.
2. Fill out the application form
The supporting documentation required depends on the license type. A Sales Tax Permit from the Oklahoma Tax Commission (OTC) is usually required for all applications. If you plan to sell mixed beverages, you may also need a Mixed Beverage Tax Permit. Other tax permits may also be required, depending on your county.
Additional documentation may be required, depending on your business and license type. For example, if you’re serving food on-premises, you’ll need a food service license. A food establishment inspection will also be conducted as part of the process.
3. Obtain a certificate of compliance
A certificate of compliance is required for all license applications in Oklahoma. This document is used to determine your compliance with Oklahoma City codes relating to zoning, fire, safety, and health. Supporting documentation required is:
- A copy of your lease agreement (unless you own the property)
- Site plans
- Floor plans
- Notice of intent
4. Pay the appropriate fees
Fees vary depending on the type of alcoholic drinks and business type. The full list can be accessed here.
For example, licenses for spirits are generally more expensive than those for beer and wine. The initial fee for an on-premise beer and wine license is $500 while that for retail spirits is $905.
5. Submit your application
Once you’ve completed all forms and paid the necessary fees, the final step is to submit your application — online, via post, or in person. Approval times vary depending on the license type and if you’ve provided all the necessary supporting documents.
Tips to avoid losing your liquor license
Getting a liquor license is only the first step. You must also abide by the rules regarding your license to avoid losing it. For starters, you must renew your license each year and adhere to the general rules:
- Check IDs to avoid serving minors.
- Do not overserve.
- Ensure that only trained and licensed employees serve alcohol.
There may be other specific laws applicable to your license type, such as closing hours. See the Oklahoma Beverage Control Act for more information on license prohibitions, restrictions, and penalties. Get familiar with the details and take the necessary steps to ensure compliance.