Georgia liquor license and insurance requirements

Georgia liquor license and insurance requirements

Meg Furey-Marquess
By Meg Furey-Marquess
Feb 5, 2024
9 min read

If you want to serve alcohol at your business, you must follow Georgia liquor license procedures and requirements.

What do you need to know to serve drinks at your restaurant, cafe, catering company or other food service business? Jump ahead to get the facts, including:

Do you need a Georgia liquor license to sell alcohol?

If you’re a business owner in Georgia looking to include alcohol in your offerings, you’ll need a liquor license from 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. 

When it comes to alcohol retailers, that is, people who sell alcohol to the public, the state of Georgia offers four types of licenses:

  1. Hotel In-Room: Allows hotels to sell unopened alcohol in guest rooms.
  2. Retail Dealer. For selling unopened beer or wine, not spirits, to the public.
  3. Retail Package. Permits the sale of unopened beer, wine, or spirits to the public.
  4. Consumption on Premise. Suitable for establishments selling alcohol by the glass.

Each municipality issues its own set of rules, regulations, and names for liquor licenses, but food service establishments typically apply for Consumption on Premise licenses.

How much is a liquor license in Georgia?

The costs for liquor licenses in Georgia include a standard fee from the DOR and varying local fees. You’ll pay the DOR $50 for a retail wine license or $200 for a retail dealer or packer license. Local fees will vary depending on your municipality. 

In Atlanta, for example, the City of Atlanta Police Department License and Permit Unit charges $2,500 for a beer license and $5,000 to sell beer, wine and mixed drinks. In Macon, fees depend on the license type and the month you apply for the license but generally costs $700 to serve wine, $800 to serve beer, and $2,900 to serve mixed drinks.

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.

How to get a liquor license in Georgia

Georgia is home to more than 150 counties, each with its own set of rules, regulations, and requirements. Given this diversity, it’s nearly impossible to detail every individual set of guidelines. However, despite the quirks of each municipality, you’ll generally follow a two-step process.

  1. Fill out and submit a local application
  • Pass a background check to ensure you’re legally allowed to have a liquor license.
  • Consent to your business being investigated to ensure it’s up to code and meets local zoning ordinances.
  • Be prepared 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.
  1. Fill out and submit an application with the DOR
  • Provide your local license number to the DOR as part of the state’s application process.
  • Pay all necessary fees, depending on your license type.
  • Receive approval by the state.

When applying for a liquor license in Georgia, you must complete a Personnel Statement, which includes work history, criminal record and family information. 

You also must 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 long does it take to get a liquor license in Georgia?

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. While it’s best to plan ahead if you want to serve alcohol on your opening night, a Temporary Permit from the state is available as long as you have a valid local license.

Transferring a license depends on the county where your business operates. Some jurisdictions 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 can answer any questions you may have regarding local regulations.

Insurance for a Georgia liquor license

Before opening a business that requires a liquor license in Georgia, it’s crucial to have the right insurance coverage. While these are the general requirements, your local authorities might have additional insurance demands for your business. The key types of business insurance you should consider are:

Liquor liability insurance

Since Georgia is a dram shop liability state, a liquor liability policy is essential protection against being sued for your customers’ actions. It picks up the cost of medical bills, legal fees and more if you find yourself on the wrong end of this type of lawsuit.

General liability insurance

General liability insurance safeguards you against the most common incidents that occur when working with the public. For instance, it can cover slip-and-fall injuries to people who are not your employees and accidental property damage to property you don’t own.

Workers’ compensation insurance

In Georgia, if you have three or more employees, you must have workers’ compensation insurance. It helps to pay for costs related to injuries or illnesses that employees might get 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.

Georgia liquor license requirements for renewal

Business owners can renew liquor licenses in Georgia from the first business day of September through December 31st. To make sure you get your license before January 1st, the DOR recommends renewing before the end of October.

Renewals for both your state and local liquor license can be completed online through the Georgia Tax Center portal on the DOR website.

Georgia’s liquor liability and dram shop laws

Georgia is a dram shop liability state. 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 under the influence of alcohol.

For example, imagine a scenario where a group visits your restaurant to celebrate a friend’s birthday. They enjoy themselves, ordering several rounds of drinks throughout the evening. Unfortunately, on the way home, one of them is in a car accident that injures another driver. If the driver from the group was over the legal limit, your business could face legal action. While it may seem harsh, the law can hold your business accountable for the accident due to serving alcohol to the driver.

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 involved in serving, selling, or preparing 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. 

Be sure you and your employees meet all local requirements by contacting your local authorities.

How NEXT helps support Georgia restaurants, cafes, caterers and food service businesses

NEXT offers customized business insurance to Georgia business owners. We offer liquor liability insurance alongside our general liability coverage to help protect your food and beverage business.

With our online services, you can get a quote, review coverage options, purchase insurance and have your certificate of insurance in about 10 minutes.

Start a free quote with NEXT.

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Meg Furey-Marquess
About the author

Meg Furey-Marquess is an experienced writer from Austin, Texas. With a special interest in both small business and personal finance, she believes that big ideas often start small. With a knack for narrative and a relentlessly curious nature, her goal is to amplify the “little guys.”

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