There’s no way to put it lightly — the Sooner State has a quirky history with alcohol. As one of only nine states to not certify the 21st amendment — the one that ended Prohibition in 1933 — Oklahoma decided to stay “dry” even after alcohol was made legal in the United States…again. However, during the same year that Prohibition was lifted, Oklahomans voted to allow the sale of “near-beer,” or beer that was 3.2% alcohol by weight or less because it is a “non-intoxicating beverage.” 🤔
It wasn’t until 2018 (!) that the distinction between “near-beer” and other alcoholic drinks was eliminated. The last dry counties in the state finally allowed liquor sales by the drink. Long story short, today, you can open a food establishment that sells beer, wine, or mixed drinks in all 77 counties of Oklahoma.
Here’s what you’ll need to know:
- Do you need a liquor license to sell alcohol in Oklahoma?
- Types of liquor licenses in Oklahoma
- How long does it take to get a liquor license?
- How much does a liquor license cost in Oklahoma?
- Oklahoma liquor license requirements
- How to get a liquor license in Oklahoma
- Oklahoma liquor license renewal requirements
- Can a liquor license be transferred in Oklahoma?
- What are employee requirements to serve alcohol in Oklahoma?
- Oklahoma’s liquor liability and dram shop laws
- What kind of insurance do you need to get a liquor license in Oklahoma?
Do you need a liquor license to sell alcohol in Oklahoma?
In Oklahoma, if you’re interested in opening a food service business that also sells alcohol, you must have a license issued by the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission (ABLE). Depending on where you’re located, you may also need to apply for an additional license from the city or county where you plan to do business.
The state of Oklahoma allows the sale of alcohol for on-premise or off-premise consumption from 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM Monday through Saturday, while each county decides whether alcoholic beverages may be sold on Sunday and what hours those sales may occur.
While Oklahoma has a long history of separating beer from “near-beer” (beer that is 3.2% alcohol by weight or less), today, all alcoholic beverages are classified as alcoholic and overseen by ABLE.
Types of liquor licenses in Oklahoma
ABLE offers different liquor licenses depending on what type of business you own and what type of beverages you plan to sell. For food service establishments, the two licenses most businesses apply for are a Beer and Wine license or a Mixed Beverage license.
A Beer and Wine license allows restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, and other establishments to sell beer or wine up to 15% alcohol by volume. While some municipalities still offer “near-beer” licenses for selling beer with 3.2% alcohol by weight or less, you’ll still need to apply for a Beer and Wine license from ABLE.
A Mixed Beverage license allows food service establishments to sell any beverage, regardless of alcohol by weight or volume.
How long does it take to get a liquor license?
It generally takes around 30 days to receive your liquor license from ABLE. However, before you can get your liquor license, you need to get a Certificate of Compliance and proof of publication, which tacks on time.
To be licensed by ABLE, you’ll need to obtain a Certificate of Compliance from the city or county where your business is located stating all building codes for zoning, fire, safety, and health are in compliance or are not required.
In addition, before applying, you must publish a "Notice of Intention to Apply for an Alcoholic Beverage License" in a local paper twice over the course of two weeks.
How much does a liquor license cost in Oklahoma?
ABLE charges $525 for a Beer and Wine license and $1530 for a Mixed Beverage license. Both licenses are valid for a year and cost the same amount to renew.
In addition, the city or county you open your business in may require you to obtain a license from them as well. For example, if you want to open a beer and wine cafe in Oklahoma City, they have their own beer and wine license, which costs $500 for the first year and then $450 to renew. Or, if you want to offer a full bar in your restaurant, a mixed beverage license in Oklahoma City will run you $1,005 for the first year and $905 to renew.
On the other hand, if you want to open your business in Nowata, Oklahoma, the city only charges a $40 per year fee for a business license.
Be sure to check with your local government for any additional licenses once you’ve been approved by ABLE.
Oklahoma liquor license requirements
To get a liquor license in Oklahoma, the building you plan to operate out of must be completely built or within 60 days of completion of construction when you apply. You must also provide the property's deed, lease, management agreement, or sales contract with your application.
Oklahoma requires you to submit a Certificate of Compliance. This might involve your local county commission inspecting your place of business and determining that all building codes are in compliance or are not required.
Additionally, you’ll need a Tax Statement from the County Treasurer’s office stating you own no real or personal property taxes.
Lastly, you must provide a certificate of liability insurance showing your business has coverage for both bodily injury and property damage.
How to get a liquor license in Oklahoma
Before you apply to ABLE
- Publish a “Notice of Intention to Apply for an Alcoholic Beverage License” in your local paper twice within two weeks.
- Obtain a Certificate of Compliance from the city or county you plan to do business in, stating that the location of your establishment meets all local codes and regulations.
- Purchase general liability Insurance for your business.
When you apply to ABLE
- Be sure to fill out all forms completely and truthfully.
- Include all additional documents required, including proof of publication, copies of your Certificate of Compliance, and insurance certificate. You'll also need to submit a copy of your deed, lease, management agreement, or sales contract, county tax statement, and establishment diagram.
- Pay the application fees.
After applying to ABLE
- Check with your local city or county for any additional licenses or permits you may need to open your business.
Oklahoma liquor license renewal requirements
ABLE liquor licenses last for one year and cost $525 to renew a Beer and Wine license and $1530 to renew a Mixed Beverage license. License renewal can be done by emailing ABLE through their website.
Can a liquor license be transferred in Oklahoma?
Liquor licenses cannot be transferred between people or businesses in Oklahoma. One can be transferred from location to location if you decide to move your business.
The process is similar to applying for a new license but shorter. You must publish a notice in a local paper, obtain a Certificate of Compliance for your new location, provide a deed, lease, management agreement, or sales contract, supply a diagram of the location, and show proof of liability insurance.
If ABLE approves everything, they will transfer your existing license to your new location. There is no fee for transferring your license.
What are employee requirements to serve alcohol in Oklahoma?
Any employee participating in the “service, mixing, or sale” of alcoholic beverages in Oklahoma must get an employee license through ABLE. In addition, any manager of an establishment that sells alcohol must also have an employee license, even if they never touch the stuff.
ABLE offers a step-by-step guide on how to apply for an employee license on its website.
Once an employee receives their license, they have 14 days to successfully complete a server training program approved by ABLE.
Oklahoma’s liquor liability and dram shop laws
Oklahoma is not a dram shop liability state. This means businesses aren't automatically responsible if they serve alcohol to a patron who then causes harm while intoxicated.
However, Oklahoma courts have held that injured parties can sue establishments if they serve patrons younger than 21 or those who are noticeably intoxicated and later cause harm.
This is to say, just because Oklahoma doesn't have dram shop laws, it doesn't mean you're totally off the hook for your customers' actions, so it's smart to have insurance that covers those liabilities.
What kind of insurance do you need to get a liquor license in Oklahoma?
The following types of business insurance are recommended for anyone who has a food service business in Oklahoma:
Liquor Liability insurance
While there are no dram shop laws in Oklahoma, if one of your employees accidentally sells alcohol to someone under 21 or doesn’t notice how intoxicated a patron is, you could still be held responsible for their actions. Liquor liability insurance can help cover your costs, court fees, and medical bills should an event like that come to pass.
General Liability insurance
Getting general liability insurance is part of the ABLE application process. Make sure you have proof of coverage before you apply.
Workers’ Comp insurance
Nearly every employer in Oklahoma is required to have workers’ comp insurance or face penalties of up to $1,000 per day for lack of compliance.
Commercial Property insurance
Whether you lease or own the building you plan to do business in, should something happen to it, commercial property insurance not only helps with the cost of fixing the building, it can pay for lost revenue while you’re closed for remodeling.
How NEXT helps Oklahoma businesses
NEXT Insurance offers customized insurance on tap. We offer liquor liability insurance alongside our general liability coverage. Small business owners can get the right amount of insurance they need to run their businesses with peace of mind.
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.