If you’re interested in opening a business that sells alcohol in Indiana, you’ll need to get an Indiana liquor license.
The process for obtaining your license from the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission (ATC) can be difficult, but NEXT is here to help you understand how to get the license you need.
Here’s what we’re going to cover:
- Do you need a liquor license to sell alcohol in Indiana?
- Types of liquor licenses in Indiana
- Can a liquor license be transferred in Indiana?
- How much does a liquor license cost in Indiana?
- How long does it take to get a liquor license?
- Indiana liquor license requirements
- How to get a liquor license in Indiana
- Indiana liquor license renewal requirements
- What are employee requirements to serve alcohol in Indiana?
- Indiana’s liquor liability and dram shop laws
- What kind of insurance do you need to get a liquor license in Indiana?
Do you need a liquor license to sell alcohol in Indiana?
Food service business owners looking to serve alcohol in Indiana must have a license issued by the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission (ATC).
This can get tricky because Indiana offers over 70 types of liquor licenses depending on your business type and what kind of beverages you plan on selling.
Indiana also caps the number of licenses available, making acquiring one a sometimes long — and expensive — process.
Types of liquor licenses in Indiana
It’s important to decide what kind of drinks you want to serve before you apply for a liquor license.
Indiana offers different licenses depending on if you want to serve just beer, just wine, wine and beer, or have a full bar with wine, beer and liquor.
It gets even more segmented than that. If your business is incorporated, you need to apply for a different permit than if you’re unincorporated.
There’s a different permit if your food service business plan includes carry-out alcohol sales, as well.
Once you know what you want to sell in your establishment and how you want to sell it, locating the license type you need to apply for is fairly simple.
The ATC has made it as straightforward as possible by listing every license type they offer with simple descriptions on their website.
Can a liquor license be transferred in Indiana?
Yes. In fact, this is how most food service businesses obtain their license.
Indiana caps the number of licenses available, and 99% of them are already taken, meaning a transfer is pretty much the only way you can get a liquor license.
How much does a liquor license cost in Indiana?
Due to the limited nature of Indiana liquor licenses, the competition (and price) of obtaining one can be extremely high.
Because Indiana caps the number of liquor licenses they allow, you'll probably have to purchase one from another business to obtain a license in an area that has reached its quota.
This can be a simple and cheap process or a very difficult and expensive one. Due to Indiana law, the ATC is required to collect and post sale prices for transferred permits.
Transfer prices range from $1 to over $1 million, depending on the type of permit and location.
If you have a friend retiring from the restaurant industry in the same area you want to open your restaurant, you might not pay much at all.
However, if you're trying to open a spot in a competitive area, you might pay six figures or higher to someone who is interested in selling their license.
You don't need to knock on every restaurant's door in your area to try to buy a permit. The ATC can send you a listing of individuals and firms that will assist you in locating a license on the market.
If you’re lucky enough to get a new liquor license in Indiana from the ATC, fees range from $500 for beer up to $1,000 to offer beer, wine and liquor. Licenses last one year, and if renewed on time (more than 90 days before their expiration date), the renewal costs are the same.
How long does it take to get a liquor license?
The entire process for obtaining a liquor license can take as long as 10-12 weeks, according to the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission. That timeline applies to new license applications and transfers. Renewing a permit can take 8-10 weeks. (See process below.)
Due to this lengthy process — which you can't expedite — the ATC recommends not setting an opening date for your business until you have your license in hand.
Indiana liquor license requirements
The ATC offers a simple checklist of everything you need to have to obtain a liquor license in Indiana:
- New or transfer permit application
- Property tax clearance schedule
- County Verification of Business Location
- Certificate of Existence from the Indiana Secretary of State
- A floor plan that meets ATC requirements
- Payment in the form of a business check, cashier’s check, or credit card
If you are getting your license through a transfer (which most likely you are), in addition to the above, you’ll need to supply the following documents:
- Consent to Transfer
- Affidavit of Purchase Price
All of the above, including forms, formatting, and where to submit, can be found on the Indiana ATC website.
How to get a liquor license in Indiana
1. Decide on the license to get and where you’re operating
To get your liquor license in Indiana, the first step is to decide which of the over 70 types of licenses you want for your business. The full list, with simple descriptions, can be found here.
Once you know what kind of license you want, you need to decide where you want to open your business.
Remember, Indiana caps the number of licenses available based on population, so bigger cities will have more licenses available than small towns but more competition to obtain them.
2. Contact the ATC
You can call the ATC and speak to a processor who will tell you if the type of license you need is available at the location where you want to do business.
If the quota is full (which most likely it is), you’ll have to find a current license holder who is willing to sell their license.
3. File your liquor licensing paperwork
Once you are approved to file for a new license or have purchased the license from another business, it's time to fill out forms and file the required paperwork to the ATC.
4. Wait for your license to get approved
After the ATC reviews your initial paperwork, they'll send it to the local liquor board for a hearing. You’ll be given a chance to make your case for why you should be given a license to sell alcohol at your business.
Post-hearing, the board makes a recommendation to the ATC. The ATC reviews the recommendations at a monthly meeting and makes a final decision to approve or deny the license.
If you’re into flowcharts, ATC has laid out the whole process (including what happens if you appeal their decision) here.
Phew! It may seem like a lot, but it's Indiana's way of ensuring that every business selling alcohol has been thoroughly vetted and will benefit the community they serve.
Indiana liquor license renewal requirements
Renewing your liquor license is much simpler than getting a new one. If you renew more than 90 days from when your current license expires, all it takes is:
- Renewal of alcoholic beverage permit application
- Property tax clearance schedule
- Payment in the form of business check, cashier’s check or credit card
If you’re within 90 days of your permit expiring, you’ll have to file a Request for Extension of Alcoholic Beverage Permit and pay an additional extension fee of $200.
What are employee requirements to serve alcohol in Indiana?
The ATC requires any employee who serves alcohol to obtain a permit. That could include your restaurant’s bartender, a server or even a manager. If someone brings drinks to patrons, they need an employee permit, which can be applied for online.
Once employees receive their permit, they must complete a mandatory server training course within 120 days. ATC offers free online server training courses that can be completed simultaneously with the permit application.
Indiana’s liquor liability and dram shop laws
Indiana is a dram shop liability state. That means that state law allows a person injured in an alcohol-related accident to:
- File a civil suit for damages against the person who caused the accident and;
- File against the business that sold or served alcohol to the intoxicated person.
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 on the way home that injures the other driver.
If the driver who was at your business is over the legal limit, the other driver can sue them for damages. Your business could be sued because that’s where the drinks came from.
What kind of insurance do you need to get a liquor license in Indiana?
Indiana doesn’t require insurance to get a liquor license. However, it can still provide important protections for businesses that sell alcohol.
Here are some of the food service insurance options that Indiana business owners should consider:
Liquor Liability insurance
Liquor liability insurance can protect your business from some of the risks associated with serving alcohol.
For example, say an intoxicated customer knocks another patron down, causing an injury. Liquor liability insurance can help pay for alcohol-related injuries, property damage, legal and medical fees.
General Liability insurance
General liability insurance can help protect you from financial losses associated with some of the most common risks of working with the public, including slip-and-fall injuries to people who are not your employees and accidental property damage to property you don’t own.
Workers’ Comp insurance
Indiana law states that most businesses with employees must have workers’ comp insurance. It can help cover expenses if an employee is injured or becomes ill because of their job.
Commercial Property insurance
Commercial property insurance helps protect the things you need to do business, including your food inventory, kitchen equipment, front-of-house furnishings and the structure where your business is located if you own it.
How NEXT helps Indiana businesses
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 an instant quote online today.