Georgia is a great place to go into business for yourself. With over 1 million small businesses making up over 99.6% of all businesses in the state, The Peach State is extremely welcoming to those looking to open a place of their own.
If you're interested in starting a business that sells alcohol, Georgia does things a little differently than most states regarding getting a liquor license.
- Do you need a liquor license to sell alcohol in Georgia?
- Types of liquor licenses in Georgia
- How long does it take to get a liquor license?
- How much does a liquor license cost in Georgia?
- Georgia liquor license requirements
- How to get a liquor license in Georgia
- Georgia liquor license renewal requirements
- Can a liquor license be transferred in Georgia?
- What are employee requirements to serve alcohol in Georgia?
- Georgia’s liquor liability and dram shop laws
- What kind of insurance do you need to get a liquor license in Georgia?
Do you need a liquor license to sell alcohol in Georgia?
If you're a business owner in Georgia looking to include alcohol in your offerings, you'll need a liquor license issued by your local municipality and one issued by the state.
Unlike other states where liquor licensing is done by a centralized agency, in Georgia, each municipality is responsible for setting its own requirements and fees.
Once you obtain a local license, you must then be approved by the Georgia Department of Revenue (DOR) before you can legally sell or serve alcohol.
Types of liquor licenses in Georgia
When it comes to alcohol retailers, that is, people who sell alcohol to the public, the state of Georgia offers four distinct types of licenses:
- Hotel In-Room. Just what it sounds like — a license for hoteliers to sell unopened alcohol to the guests in their room. This is a separate license from the license required for the bar located in the hotel.
- Retail Dealer. Selling unopened beer or wine, not spirits, to the public.
- Retail Package. Selling unopened beer, wine, or spirits to the public.
- Consumption on Premise. For the sale of alcohol by the glass in an establishment.
While each municipality has its own set of rules, regulations, and names for the liquor licenses it issues, food service establishments usually apply for a Consumption on Premise license.
How long does it take to get a liquor license?
Since getting a liquor license in Georgia requires getting a local license and then state approval, it can take upwards of 120 days to get a new one. So if you want to serve alcohol on your opening night, be sure to plan ahead.
How much does a liquor license cost in Georgia?
The DOR charges $50 for a beer or wine license and $200 for a liquor license. Your local municipality will have its own fees.
Note: This is just the cost of the license; depending on your local laws and requirements, you may have to pay for a building inspection, fingerprinting, background check, health department inspection, insurance or other parts of the approval process, which can add to your total cost.
Georgia liquor license requirements
When applying for a liquor license in Georgia, you will be required to complete a Personnel Statement, which includes work history, criminal record, and family information.
You also must complete and submit a Financial Affidavit detailing all loans and investments you have in your business.
Finally, you must provide a Citizenship Affidavit, proving you are a US citizen or legal permanent resident.
How to get a liquor license in Georgia
With over 150 counties in Georgia, each with its own set of rules, regulations, and requirements, it'd be nearly impossible for us to list them all. That said, while each municipality has its own quirks, in general, the two-step process goes like this:
- Fill out and submit a local application
- Your local authority will perform a background check to ensure you’re legally allowed to have a liquor license
- Your proposed place of business will be investigated to ensure it’s up to code and meets local zoning ordinances
- Additionally, you may need to provide financial disclosures, a personal history form, corporate papers, proof of residence, reference letters, a lease for your location, or any other documents the authorities need to verify and approve your license
- Fill out and submit an application with the DOR
- In addition to the requirements listed above, as part of the DOR application process, you will have to provide your local license number
- Pay all necessary fees
- Get approved by the state
Georgia liquor license renewal requirements
Business owners can renew liquor licenses in Georgia from the first business day of September through December 31st. The DOR recommends renewing before November 1st to ensure you receive your license before January 1st.
Renewals can be completed online through the Georgia Tax Center portal on the DOR website.
In general, your local liquor license is linked to your state license when you first apply, so you can renew your local license and pay all the necessary fees through the same DOR portal.
Can a liquor license be transferred in Georgia?
Transferring a license depends on the county you're doing business in. Some allow for transfers as long as all city and property taxes are paid. Others don't allow it and will require you to apply for a new license even if you're purchasing an established business.
Your city or town office should be able to answer any questions you may have regarding local regulations.
What are employee requirements to serve alcohol in Georgia?
By Georgia state law, there are no requirements for who can serve, sell, or make alcoholic drinks as long as the employee is 18 or older.
However, your local municipality may have different rules or require training for employees who serve, sell, or make alcoholic drinks.
In Decatur, for example, employees must be 19 years or older and get an Alcohol Server Permit issued by the Decatur Police Department to serve alcohol.
As ever in Georgia, check with your local authorities to ensure you and your employees meet all local requirements.
Georgia’s liquor liability and dram shop laws
Georgia is a dram shop liability state. This means that by law, any business serving alcohol to a person younger than age 21 or to a person who's noticeably intoxicated can be held liable for any injuries or death that person may cause while intoxicated.
For example, say a group comes to your restaurant to celebrate a friend's birthday. They order multiple rounds of drinks and have a good time. Unfortunately, they get into a car accident that injures the other driver on the way home. Your business can be sued if the driver is over the legal limit. While it may seem unfair, your business could be held responsible for this accident.
What kind of insurance do you need to get a liquor license in Georgia?
The following is general and applies to state law; your local authority may require additional insurance coverage before you can open your business. The following types of business insurance are recommended for anyone who has a business in Georgia:
Liquor Liability insurance
Since Georgia is a dram shop liability state, you could get sued for your customers’ actions. Liquor liability insurance helps you cover medical bills, legal fees, and more should you find yourself on the wrong end of this type of lawsuit.
General Liability insurance
General liability insurance protects you against the most common incidents that occur when working with the public. This includes slip-and-fall injuries to people who are not your employees and accidental property damage to property you don’t own.
Workers’ Comp insurance
In Georgia, if you have three or more employees, you need to have workers’ comp insurance. This coverage can help cover expenses if an employee is injured or becomes ill because of their job.
Commercial Property insurance
Whether you own or lease your building, commercial property insurance protects the walls around you and provides coverage for your business goods, gear, equipment, and even inventory should something happen.
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