Budding entrepreneurs might be tempted to open a home-based bar or restaurant to make money on the side and may wonder if they can sell alcohol without a liquor license. The answer is generally no, however, as Florida has strict laws regarding the production and sale of alcohol.
If you want to open a business that involves selling or serving alcohol, you should start by familiarizing yourself with the various types of alcohol licenses available in Florida. Almost all businesses that produce, distribute or sell alcohol to the general public require alcohol licensing with few exceptions.
What About Beer and Wine?
Alcohol, including beer and wine products, can only be sold to the public in Florida by a licensed alcohol retailer. Common alcohol retailers include liquor stores, supermarkets, bars, restaurants, hotels and nightclubs. However, in many cases, obtaining a beer and wine license can be much more economical. Depending on your business model, beer and wine may be sufficient to attract a crowd.
Licensing and Zoning Considerations
Businesses in Florida that want to sell alcohol must generally obtain zoning approval from the local municipality prior to applying for an alcohol license with the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages & Tobacco (“DABT”). Most businesses will also require food service licensing from the State of Florida Division of Hotels & Restaurants.
Businesses usually need to be located in a commercially zoned district to qualify for an alcohol license approval. Private homes do not generally qualify as proper venues for an alcohol license or alcohol service business because of local zoning regulations that restrict where alcohol can be produced, sold and consumed as well as food preparation and handling regulations that require specified kitchen equipment and food preparation processes.
What About Offering Complimentary Drinks?
Some businesses, such as spas and hair salons, offer their customers complimentary wine or champagne as they get their manicures or hair done. Barbershops have also welcomed the same concept by offering a glass of whiskey before getting your haircut. However, under Florida law, if the customer is paying for a service, the service of alcoholic beverages may be considered part of the “sale” in some cases. Therefore, these establishments may need to obtain a liquor license before offering any “free” drinks as part of their services to paying customers.
Learn More About Liquor Licenses in Florida
If you have additional questions about liquor licenses in Florida and the requirements, contact Spiritus Law for help. We specialize in all areas of law pertaining to restaurants, bars, taverns, hospitality, real estate, and related industries.