Wondering how to get a liquor license for your business in Illinois?

The cost of a State of Illinois liquor license can cost anywhere from $25 to $5,000. The exact cost of your specific license and the rules you have to follow will depend on your business. Both your local government and the State of Illinois Liquor Control Commission play a role in granting Illinois liquor licenses.

Below are the steps you will need to take to obtain a liquor license in Illinois. 

Have a question about Liquor Licences in Illinois?

Determining the Type of License You Need

alcohol drink shot on bar

Image via Pixabay by Social Butterfly

Illinois has several steps applicants need to take when obtaining a liquor license, the first being determining what kind of liquor license you will need. There are several different types of liquor licenses available in Illinois, including:

  • Retail: A state license covering grocery stores, liquor stores, convenience stores, restaurants, and bars. The cost of this license in 2020 is $750.
  • Manufacturing: This includes distillers, brewers, and winemakers with license fees ranging between $350 to $5,000. 
  • Serving: All employees involved in checking IDs or selling alcohol need to pass the BASSET (Beverage Alcohol Sellers and Servers Education and Training) licensing course. In 2020, this license costs $350. 
  • Specialty liquor license: This license if for serving alcohol at an auction or on a plane, boat, or train. 
  • Non-beverage users: This includes laboratories, hospitals, and schools using liquor for medicinal or research purposes. There's no fee for this license if you qualify. 

Special licensing is required for restaurants and bars wanting to hold off-premises events or liquor tastings. 

Obtaining Your Local Liquor License

Once you determine what kind of liquor license suits your business best, you need to request the appropriate application for the municipality, city, or district for which the license will be used. Sometimes, municipalities may not issue applications until you make a presentation before its Village Staff or Board of Trustees. For this reason, it may be helpful to meet with the appropriate licensing department, municipal staff, or economic development director who can explain the specific application process and requirements.  

Usually, initial meetings are informal. As the applicant, you may need to complete a pre-printed form answering standard questions. Other times, applicants are asked to make thorough presentations that include the proposed business's value to the community, such as job creation and economic impact, managerial experience, menu, target market, floor plan, hours of operation, and size. 

Different cities may have licensing restrictions or special regulations they have set. For example, in Chicago, some regions of city wards have placed a moratorium, or prohibition, on issuing particular classes of liquor licenses, such as a tavern or packaged goods licenses, even though the area may allow an incidental liquor sales license. Throughout the state liquor licenses won't be issued to businesses that are located within 100 feet of nursing homes, libraries, daycares, hospitals, churches, or schools. 

While going through this process, you should investigate the kinds of restrictions that may prevent or impede your business from obtaining a liquor license. 

Finally, during the license application process, a city's zoning department or its municipal equivalent will likely ask you to submit a business site plan and floor plan. In many cases, applicants applying for liquor licenses will also be required to undergo a police background check and pass scheduled inspections from the health department, plumbing and ventilation department, and fire department. 

Many municipalities, including Chicago, require staff, managers, and owners to be trained to be responsible servers or present proof that they are BASST trained

The time frame for obtaining a local liquor license depends on your location. For example, in Chicago, you have 30 days to submit your application once you start the process, but it could take up to 60 days for it to be reviewed. 

Applying for Your State of Illinois Liquor License

Once you have obtained a liquor license from the applicable city or municipality, you will need to file an application with the ILCC (Illinois Liquor Control Commission) and pay any required fees. You will also be required to register your business with the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau of the United States Department of Treasury.

You will be able to find all the necessary forms on the ILCC website. Fill them out, providing all required documents and information requested along with the licensing fee. For example, retail license requirements include: 

  • A copy of a local liquor license. You need to get your local liquor license before you can apply for a state license.
  • A copy of your business' insurance policy if it allows alcohol consumption on the premises. 
  • The lease or deed of the property where your business will be selling alcohol.
  • Your state and federal tax ID.
  • Your business's legal structure, such as sole proprietorship, corporation, or partnership. If you're a sole proprietor, you need to live within the county or city, issuing your local license. 
  • A complete list of all business owners.
  • The hours you plan on having your business open. These need to conform to local laws. 
  • Answers to any eligibility questions, such as if you've had an Illinois liquor license previously revoked or if you've been convicted of a felony. 
  • Your signature and contact information.

After you submit your application, you usually need to wait between one to five business days for the ILCC to review it. 

Once you receive all the licenses and permits you need, you must comply with any rules and regulations of both the ILCC and your municipality. Violating any of these rules or regulations could result in you receiving a fine or your liquor license being suspended or revoked. 

Once you obtain a liquor license for your business, you need to do everything within your power to protect it. You can do the following to ensure you comply with all of the rules and regulations: 

  • Have ID scanning technology.
  • Install digital security cameras.
  • Use cash registers with software that prevents sales unless an ID is checked.
  • Provide regular training to employees.
  • Require employees to sign a contract when hired detailing your business's alcohol policies.

Are you thinking of starting a business that's going to need a liquor license? Contact the team at Pasquesi Sheppard to help streamline the process.