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How to Get a Liquor License in New York

The Basics

New York State requires a liquor license in order to manufacture or sell any alcoholic beverages in the state. Whether you want to open a brewery, a restaurant, or sell beer at your corner store, there are hoops you have to jump through to get your business up and running as soon as possible. This article will give you a detailed guide on everything you need to know.

Licensing Types

New York has 4 different types of liquor licenses:

  • On-Premise
  • Off-Premise
  • Manufacturing
  • Wholesale

Once you know what type of license you need, there are multiple sub-categories with different licensing requirements and restrictions.


This is the license you need if you plan to open a bar or restaurant that will sell alcohol to customers for consumption at the business. Depending on the type of establishment you plan on running, you will need to apply for the proper license. There are over 25 different on-premise licenses, including hotel, restaurant, club, concession, vessel, train and more. The license is also specific to the type of beverage you plan to sell. For example, you can get a license to sell only beer and wine at your restaurant and not liquor.


This is the license you need if you plan to open a store to sell alcohol to customers for them to take home, such as a wine or liquor store. There are 8 different off-premises licenses available. These include grocery, drug store, wine store, liquor store, farm market, and vendor. With this license you will not be able to serve open alcohol for consumption at your store.


This is the license you need if you plan to open a brewery, distillery, or other location where the alcohol will be manufactured. There are 20 different manufacturer licenses for distillers, brewers, cider makers, mead producers, and more.


This is the license you need if you plan to import or wholesale alcohol to businesses throughout the state. There are 7 wholesaler licenses depending on the type of alcohol you will be wholesaling.

How to Apply

New York State offers an online application portal. In order to apply online, you are required to meet a series of pre-requisites. For on-premise and off-premise licenses you cannot have any interest in wholesale or manufacturing business, must be 21 years old, must be a US citizen (with exceptions), and you must get fingerprinted. The requirements for manufacturing and wholesale are the same, except for these licenses you cannot have an interest in a retail liquor business.

In addition to the above stated requirements, you must have a series of documentation ready prior to filling out your application. The items required at filing vary depending on the type of license you are applying for, but typically include fees paid, photographs of the location, proof of property ownership, investment records, municipal approval, and more. For a comprehensive list of required items visit New York State business express website.

Costs of Applying

As you probably expect, the fees associated with a liquor license also vary widely depending on the type of license you need. The fees also vary by county. For this reason, it is not easy to give an estimate of total cost without having a better idea of what you are trying to accomplish. To give an example, an on-premise liquor license in New York County to serve liquor, beer, wine, and cider costs $4,352 plus a $200 application fee. The same license in Niagara Falls costs $2,432 plus a $200 application fee. Off-premise licenses are typically cheaper, and you can also seek a seasonal license if you do not plan to serve year round.

Renewing and Transferring Liquor License

If you are approved for an off-premise liquor license it is valid for 3 years before needing to be renewed. On-premise licenses for beer only are good for 3 years, but other on-premise licenses must be renewed every 2 years. Seasonal licenses must be renewed annually. Renewal periods for manufacturers and wholesalers vary.

Transferring a liquor license in New York is complicated. Liquor licenses in New York are not technically transferred. Instead, you can “transfer” your liquor license by selling your business that already has a liquor license. There are situations where the purchaser of the business can get a temporary liquor license while the purchase is pending. The State of New York is very strict when it comes to business sale requirements so it is important to be thorough.

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Buffalo Business Lawyer Serving New York State
Andrea A. Tarshus, Esq. is an award-winning attorney that delivers top-notch service to her clients. She has a diverse background representing business clients from many sectors and sizes.

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