If you've been dreaming of chucking it all and opening an oyster bar on the Florida coast, the good news is that applying for a beer and wine license is not too expensive or complicated. Would-be restaurateurs with the paperwork in order and their fingerprints on file could be up and running in no time at all.
Licensing Options in Florida
The state of Florida issues three types of licenses: beer and wine only; special restaurant licenses for use only in full service restaurants as defined by statute; and full liquor licenses (usually referred to as 4COP SRX licenses.) New and prospective restaurant owners in Florida hoping to get a license to sell beer and wine anywhere in Florida must first apply for a license from the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco. Applications may be mailed or hand delivered to the DABT Office in the county where your business is or will be located. The fees are relatively low and vary by county.
Florida law specifically states that, in order to obtain an SRX licence to serve beer and wine, a food service establishment must have a 2,500 square foot service area that is equipped to serve meals to 150 people and gets 51 percent of its gross revenue from food and non-alcoholic beverages. If the business can’t meet the required percentage, the license may be revoked or denied.
Documents Needed for a Beer and Wine License
Applicants for the Florida beer and wine license must have all the required documents prior to beginning the application process, or the application will be considered incomplete.
Before a license can be approved, the application must first have a location for the business already purchased or leased. Florida, like many other states, requires applicants to submit legible and executed copies of the lease or deed to the property.
Applicants also need to provide documents showing approval by the local zoning board, registration with the Division of Corporations, and a sketch of the building premises, either drawn in ink or computer-generated, that includes clearly labeled rooms, permanent fixtures and any outside areas where beer and wine will be sold. They may also be asked to produce documents showing Right of Occupancy, service agreements and management contracts.
Businesses that serve food must also obtain approval from the Division of Hotels and Restaurants. Businesses that do not plan to serve food will need approval from the state or county health department. Approval from the Department of Revenue is also required.
Providing Personal Information and Fingerprints
In addition to providing detailed information about business operations, applicants also have to provide detailed personal information. The Florida DABT prohibits anyone who has been convicted of any beverage law-related offense within the past five years from holding an alcoholic beverage license of any kind. Any criminal violation of the controlled substances act, charges of solicitation or anyone convicted of a felony in the last 15 years is also ineligible for a license to sell beer and wine in Florida.
New applicants will be asked to submit fingerprints for each sole proprietor, officers, directors and any persons directly receiving financial proceeds from the business. The DABT suggests submitting fingerprints using an approved Livescan Device Vendor at least five days prior to submitting your application to allow time for processing. If results are not received when the application is being processed, it will be considered incomplete. More details about the fingerprinting process can be found on the DABT website.
Notification and Approval Process
The application must be signed in the presence of a notary and then mailed or hand-delivered with all the required documents to the DABT district office in the county where applicants will use the license. After the application is reviewed and a site inspection of the premises is conducted, a decision will be made to approve or deny the license. If the license is approved, the business owner will be charged a fee and the license will be mailed.
Applying for a beer and wine license in Florida is a multi-step process, but the good news is that there are no restrictions on the number of available licenses, and the cost of the license is minimal.
- Flordia DPBR: Alcohol Beverages and Tobacco
- WFUT: Florida’s Alcohol Sale Laws Remain A Widely-Varying Patchwork
- Florida DPBR: How Do I Get an Alcoholic Beverage License
- Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco FAQ
- Florida DPBR: Annual License Fees October 2017
- Florida Statutes Title 34, Chapter 561: Beverage Law Administration
- Beer Industry of Florida: Alcoholic Beverage Laws
- Florida DPBR: Frequently Asked Questions: Electronic Fingerprinting
- You can also mail your completed application to the ABT headquarters in Tallahassee; however, to hand-deliver your application to the Tallahassee office, you must first call the Customer Contact Center to make an appointment.
- ABT is required to process a completed application within 90 days of receipt.
Frances Katz is an attorney who writes about legal issues in business for a variety of publications including The New York Times, The Week, Paste, The Independent and The New York Times. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.