If you’re opening any type of business that serves alcohol, you’re going to have to get approved by the Department of Revenue (DOR). There are several forms and requirements. But, that’s not surprising since you’ll soon be allowed to distribute alcohol. The key is making sure that you get approved and that you do it in time to open your business!

 

Timing

How long does it take? This is one of the first questions I’m always asked. The short answer is that it usually takes 6-8 weeks if you get the filings correct on the front end. There are a number of pitfalls and submissions that take some time. For example, you will need to get your local permit option prior to filing the application. and you have to publish in the newspaper for several weeks. Nothing too overwhelming but a “slip-up” here and a “slip-up” there can really delay the process.

 

Qualifications for applicants

To apply for a license, all applicants must own the business, and be at least 21 years old. All principals, officers, agents, and employees listed on the license must be over 21 and be of good moral character. A criminal background check must be submitted with the application for each person. Applicants cannot apply if you have had a license revoked in the past 5 years. Applicants must obtain a sales tax retail license to conduct business and if charging admission you must obtain an admissions tax license. Plus, you’ll need to comply with your local zoning and business license requirements you might have. Oh, and you won’t be issued a license if you have any outstanding tax liability with the DOR so go ahead and knock that out as well.

 

Permit and License Types

This is where it starts to get a little more confusing. Deciding which license you need can be challenging considering the DOR recognizes several different types of licenses. Here’s the different types according to the DOR:

  1. Off-premises beer and wine permit. Authorizes the sale of beer and wine “to go” only.
  2. On-premises beer and wine permit. Authorizes the sale of beer and wine “to go” and also authorizes consumption on the licensed premises.
  3. 7-day on premise beer and wine permit. Authorizes the sale of beer and wine “to go” and also authorizes consumption on the licensed premises, 7 days a week, only issued in counties or municipalities that have passed a referendum allowing Sunday sales of beer and wine, and has been approved for Sunday sales of alcoholic liquors pursuant to 61-6-2010.
  4. 7-day off promise beer and wine permit. Authorizes the sale of beer “to go” only, 7 days a week, with no restrictions on hours of sale and only issued in counties or municipalities that have passed a referendum allowing Sunday sale of beer.
  5. Brewpub permit. Authorizes the sale of beer and wine, the manufacturer of beer, and the consumption of these products on the permitted premises.
  6. Sunday/Sabbath beer and wine permit. Authorizes the sale and consumption of beer and wine on Sunday, if you close your business on Saturday for religious purposes. These permits are only issued in counties or municipalities that have passed a referendum allowing Sunday sale of beer.
  7. Business liquor by the drink licenses. Authorizes the sale and consumption of alcoholic liquors on the licensed premises. These licenses are issued to Restaurants and Hotels/Motels ONLY.
  8. Nonprofit private club liquor by the drink license. Authorizes the sale and consumption of alcoholic liquors on the licensed premises. These licenses are issued only to nonprofit organizations chartered by SC Secretary of State Office. These locations may not be open to the general public.
  9. Retail liquor licenses. Authorizes the sale of liquor “to go” only. These licenses are issued to retail locations for the sale of alcoholic liquors and/or wines containing up to 21% alcohol by volume.
  10. Alcoholic liquors cooking license. Authorizes the holder to use alcoholic liquors for cooking purposes only.
  11. 120 day temporary nonprofit or business (restaurant/hotel/motel) liquor by the drink license. Authorizes a person who purchase or otherwise acquires a retail business which is licensed to sell liquor, by the drink, at the business, upon initiating the application process, may be issued a temporary Liquor by the Drink licenses.
  12. 120 day temporary retail liquor license. Authorizes a person who purchases or otherwise acquires a retail business, which is licensed to sell retail liquor at the business, upon initiating the application process, may be issued a temporary liquor license.
  13. Local option permit. Only available to food establishments and places of lodging that have a liquor by the drink license. Permits are only available in those counties and municipalities where a majority of the qualified electors have approved them in a referendum vote.

 

 

Denials

It’s also important to examine some of the common reasons for denial to make sure you avoid a misstep. Here are some of the more common reasons: being too close to a church, school, or playground; the same with a neighborhood; problems with moral character (this one is pretty vague but think background check issues or other red flags); and, some evidence that the location is not suitable or is already saturated among others.

 

There are so many moving parts involved in a business that needs an alcohol license. To make sure that you are able to open on time (and are not held hostage by an alcohol license), do your best to get this right on the first try.

 

The attorneys at Henderson and Henderson are more than happy to take over this licensing responsibility or assist in guiding you through the process. Contact Wesley Henderson at wesley@hhlawsc.com or 843-212-3188.

Note that this is distinct from my law practice. If you are searching for personalized legal advice for your business in South Carolina, please contact me, Wesley Henderson, directly at wesley@hhlawsc.com or check out our firm’s website for more information.