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Ohio liquor license and insurance requirements

Ohio liquor license and insurance requirements

By Meg Furey-Marquess
Nov 16, 2022
11 min read

With over 20,000 locations, half a million employees (or 10% of employment in the state), and over $20 billion in sales, the Ohio restaurant industry is a crucial part of both the economy and culture of the Buckeye State.

If you're looking to open a place of your own that also sells alcohol in Ohio, you're going to need a license, and we'll show you what you need to do to get one.

Do you need a liquor license to sell alcohol in Ohio?

Food service business owners looking to include alcohol on their menu in Ohio must have a license issued by the Ohio Department of Commerce’s Division of Liquor Control (DOLC). 

According to Ohio laws, businesses may serve alcohol from 5:30 a.m. until 1:00 a.m. Monday through Saturday. Businesses may apply for a permit to extend sales hours until 2:30 a.m. on those days. The hours for alcohol sales on Sunday, if allowed, are determined by local statute. 


Additionally, Ohio allows for Local Option Elections, which allows cities and communities to limit the types of alcohol and selling hours in that area, up to and including an outright ban on all alcohol.

Finally, the DOLC issues service industry licenses on a quota system, which means they only issue a certain number of licenses based on local population size. This means you may not be able to get a new license from the state but will have to purchase someone's licensed business to get your own.

Types of liquor licenses in Ohio

The DOLC controls all alcohol sales within Ohio, from manufacturing to distribution to sales, and offers different licenses and permits depending on the type of business and the kinds of alcohol being made, delivered, and sold.

For those in the food service industry, the licenses you’ll want to look into are:

  • D-1: Beer only for on-premises consumption or in original sealed containers for carryout only until 1:00 A.M.
  • D-2: Wine and mixed beverages for on-premises consumption or in original sealed containers for carryout only until 1:00 A.M.
  • D-3: Spirituous liquor for on-premises consumption only until 1:00 A.M.
  • D-3A: Extends issued permit privileges until 2:30 A.M. (Must at least have D-3 to get the 3A.)
  • D-5: Spirituous liquor for on-premises consumption only, beer, wine, and mixed beverages for on-premises, or off-premises in original sealed containers, until 2:30 A.M.

While beer and wine are pretty straightforward, under Ohio law, "mixed beverages" are defined as bottled or prepared cordials, cocktails and pre-packaged drinks containing less than 21% alcohol by volume. "Spirituous liquor" is any intoxicating liquor that contains more than 21% alcohol by volume. 

All of the above licenses (except D-3A) have a quota of 1 license for every 2,000 people per municipal area or township.

How long does it take to get a liquor license?

The DOLC says that if everything goes perfectly, no protest hearing is requested, and no adverse information is discovered during your background check, a liquor license can be issued within 10 to 12 weeks of submitting your completed application. 

Of course, this assumes the license quota isn't full in your area. If it is, you have two choices: Keep your application with the DOLC or find someone willing to sell their license (and business).

When you keep your application with the DOLC, they put it at the back of the line for those wanting that license type. As businesses either choose not to renew or lose their license for any other reason, the DOLC takes the oldest application for that type of license and begins its approval process. 

The DOLC provides a liquor permit waitlist for every county, which is updated regularly so potential applicants can see how many applicants (if any) are ahead of them. 

Can a liquor license be transferred in Ohio?

If the license quota you want is already full and you don't feel like waiting for one to become available through the DOLC, you can purchase one.

However, business owners cannot purchase liquor licenses on their own. If you wish to purchase a license from someone else, you will have to purchase their entire business as well. 

There are three types of license transfers in Ohio: 

  • Person-to-person transfer: The business continues to operate at the original location under new ownership.
  • Location-to-location: The address of the business moves, but the ownership remains the same.
  • Person and location: There is new ownership, and the business location changes.

If you're doing a person-to-person transfer, you'll be able to continue selling alcohol while the DOLC is approving the transfer. However, if you transfer the location of the license, whether in moving your business or moving a business you've recently purchased, you cannot sell alcohol at the new location until the DOLC has approved the transfer.

How much does a liquor license cost in Ohio?

Applying for a new liquor license in Ohio comes with a non-refundable $100 fee. Once approved, the cost of the license varies depending on the type of license you are issued:

  • D-1: Beer only, $376
  • D-2: Wine and mixed beverages, $564
  • D-3: Spirituous liquor, $750
  • D-3A: Extended sales hours, $938
  • D-5: Spirituous liquor, beer, wine and mixed beverages, $2,344

Ohio liquor license requirements

The three main requirements to obtain a liquor license in Ohio are:

  • You must be a United States citizen
  • You must be 21 or older
  • You must not have been convicted of a felony that “is reasonably related to the person's fitness to operate a liquor permit business”

Local requirements, including zoning, health inspection, food service certificate, and/or insurance, will vary depending on local rules and regulations. Contact your local authorities to understand your local requirements.

How to get a liquor license in Ohio

The DOLC website lays out the process of getting a license, which boils down to:

  • Upon receipt, the DOLC reviews your application for completeness.  
  • If complete, the DOLC enters your application into its database.  
  • Within three weeks, the DOLC will begin to:
    • Send local legislative notices to your township trustees, county commissioners, or city council, as applicable, to determine whether they object to your pending new or transfer application and want a hearing.
    • Notify any institutions, like schools, churches, or public playgrounds, within 500 feet of your proposed permit location to determine whether they object to your application and want a hearing.
    • Inspect your proposed permit location to determine whether it meets Ohio's rules and regulations for the type of permit requested.
    • Provide your local law enforcement agency, city, or county a copy of your personal history background form so they can conduct a local police check of your criminal background.
    • Contact your county board of elections to determine your location's ward and precinct history so that your wet/dry status can be determined.
    • Request additional documents from you if the documents submitted at the time of your application require additional information.

If you have any questions along the way about the process, you can contact the Department of Commerce for help at fileinquiry@com.ohio.gov

If no objections are raised, and your background check comes back without issue, you can expect your license to be approved within 10 to 12 weeks.

Ohio liquor license renewal requirements

In Ohio, liquor licenses renew on either February 1st, June 1st, or October 1st, depending on where your business is located

Sixty days before your license expires, you will receive an invitation letter to renew your license. Anyone who objects to your license renewal must submit their objection at least 30 days before your license expires.

The cost for renewal depends on the type of license you hold:

  • D-1: Beer only, $376
  • D-2: Wine and mixed beverages, $564
  • D-3: Spirituous liquor, $750
  • D-3A: Extended sales hours, $938
  • D-5: Spirituous liquor, beer, wine, and mixed beverages, $2,344

You may renew for the standard fee up until 15 days before your license expires, at which point the DOLC will add a 10% late fee. You may renew your license with the additional late fee up until 30 days after your expiration date. 

After 30 days, you will lose your license, and the DOLC will begin the approval process for the next business on the waiting list for your license type.

What are employee requirements to serve alcohol in Ohio?

In Ohio, anyone serving alcoholic drinks in a restaurant must be at least 19 years old. However, to make drinks and sell them — to be a bartender at a restaurant — the employee must be at least 21 years of age.

Ohio’s liquor liability and dram shop laws

Ohio is a dram shop liability state. This means that if a minor or intoxicated person is served alcohol at a restaurant and then proceeds to cause damage, injury, or death due to their intoxication, the restaurant can be held responsible.

For example, say a group comes to your restaurant to celebrate a friend's wedding. 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 from the wedding party was over the legal limit. While it may seem unfair, your business could be held legally and financially responsible for this accident.

What kind of insurance do you need to get a liquor license in Ohio?

The state of Ohio does require certain business insurance for all businesses, but your local authorities may require additional coverage as well. Be sure to check your local laws when it comes to insurance liability. 

Here are some standard food service insurance options that Ohio business owners should consider:

Liquor Liability insurance

While not required, since Ohio does have dram shop laws on the books, liquor liability insurance can help cover medical expenses, property damage, and even court fees should you find yourself held responsible for the actions of a guest.

General Liability insurance

Accidents happen when you work with the public. General liability insurance helps cover the most common incidents, including slip and fall and accidental property damage.

Workers’ Comp insurance

Ohio is one of four monopolistic states regarding workers' comp insurance. This means every business must purchase workers comp insurance from the state. 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 building you run your business out of and covers your equipment, business goods, gear, and even inventory.

How NEXT helps Ohio businesses 

NEXT offers small business owners customized insurance on tap. We offer liquor liability insurance alongside our general liability coverage.

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.

Ohio liquor license and insurance requirements

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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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