Frequently Asked Questions
1. What state government agency licenses and regulates the sale of alcoholic beverages and tobacco in Florida?
The Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (“DABT”), regulates and licenses the alcoholic beverage and tobacco industries, collects and audits taxes and fees paid by the licensees, and enforces the laws and regulations of the alcoholic beverage and tobacco industries, pursuant to Chapter 210, Chapters 561-565 and Chapters 567-569 of Florida Statutes. Florida has approximately 75,000 active alcoholic beverage and tobacco license holders. The Division generates over $1.6 billion in license fees, taxes, fines, etc. With over 300 employees, these responsibilities are carried out through three bureaus within the division: Licensing, Auditing and Enforcement.
2. What type of license do I need to sell alcoholic beverages in Florida?
If you wish to sell beer and/or wine, you can apply for and obtain a consumption-on-premises (COP) license or a package store (PS) license. There are no restrictions on the number of licenses issued to sell beer and wine. If you wish to sell liquor, you must obtain a quota license unless your business qualifies for one of the special licenses offered by the State (e.g., restaurants, bowling alleys, hotels, etc. that meet certain zoning, square footage, seating requirements or other special requirements). Quota licenses are issued by the State, are limited in number for each county and are based upon the county population. To view the various types of alcoholic beverage and tobacco licenses available, please visit:
3. What is a quota license and how can I get one?
Quota licenses authorize the sale of beer, wine and liquor. They are limited in the number issued for each county. At present, according to the census bureau and as further analyzed by the University of Florida, for every 7,500 people residing in the county, one quota license is made available for issuance. The licenses are specific to the county in which they are issued and may not be moved to any other county. A quota license may be issued and utilized by a licensee either strictly for package sales or for consumption on premise with package sales, subject to applicable zoning regulations at the location.
There are two methods by which a prospective purchaser can acquire a quota license:
- Purchase an existing quota license from a current licensee. The cost to purchase an existing quota license is determined by the available supply and the demand that exists. The available supply and demand can vary greatly from county to county.
- Enter the Quota License Lottery Drawing and win the right to apply for a quota license (entry forms are accepted for 45 days starting the 3rd Monday in August of each year). For a new quota license, there is an annual license fee, which varies by county, as well as a one-time activation fee in the amount of $10,750.00, entitled the Hughes Act Fee. This amount is used towards alcohol and drug abuse education, treatment and prevention programs. A penalty transfer fee applies if the transfer of the license is within 3 years of the original issuance. The penalty transfer fee is calculated at 15 times the annual quota license fee for a consumption on premise license. For more information on quota licenses, see F.S. 561.19 and 561.20, which provides additional license requirements.
4. What type of license is used to sell alcoholic beverages at a restaurant?
If the establishment meets certain requirements, a special restaurant (SFS) alcoholic beverage license can be applied for. Unlike a quota license, there is no limit to the number of SFS licenses issued per county. Note that an SFS license allows you to sell beer, wine and liquor for consumption on the premises only in connection with the operation of a restaurant. The restaurant must derive at least 51% of its revenue from food and non-alcoholic beverages to qualify for an SFS license. If this percentage and other requirements (e.g., zoning, square footage and number of seats) cannot be met and maintained, the restaurant would not qualify for issuance of an SFS license
5. How long does it take to obtain an alcoholic beverage license?
Processing time for a license can vary depending upon the complexity of the type of license. Filing a complete and accurate application with all requisite attachments and information can substantially decrease the processing time and expedite the issuance of your permanent license.
Note that within 2-5 days of delivering a completed application to the DABT, an applicant may purchase a temporary license at a cost of $100.00 or ¼ the annual license fee, whichever is greater, for new and increase in series applications. Once the temporary license is issued, the licensee may begin the purchase and sale of alcoholic beverages.
6. Can a beverage license be transferred from county to county?
A license to sell beer and wine can be transferred from county to county. A change of location fee is applicable. A license to sell liquor cannot be transferred out of the county in which it was initially issued.
7. I belong to a non-profit civic organization. As part of a fundraiser, can we sell alcoholic beverages?
Yes, non-profit civic organizations can obtain a temporary permit for the sale of alcoholic beverages, for consumption on premises only, and for a period not to exceed 3 days per event. With the exception of small areas within specific counties which are allowed to have an additional number of permits per calendar year, each non-profit organization may obtain up to 3 such permits per calendar year. Areas of exception can be verified by going to the DABT’s web page and reviewing the One, Two, Three Day Permit (IDP) Special Acts.
8. What is the minimum age requirement for serving alcoholic beverages?
Although it is unlawful for any person under the age of 21 years to have in her or his possession alcoholic beverages, this does not preclude the employment of any person 18 years of age or older in the sale, preparation or service of alcoholic beverages in any establishment licensed by the DABT or the Division of Hotels and Restaurants. Generally, it is unlawful for any vendor licensed under the Beverage Law to employ any person who is under 18 years of age. However, there are certain exemptions that may be found in F.S. 562.13.
9. Does the state regulate the hours of operation for an establishment that serves alcoholic beverages?
Operating hours are regulated by the county or municipality in which the business is located. However, in the absence of county or municipal ordinances, no alcoholic beverages may be sold, consumed, served, or permitted to be served or consumed in any place holding a license with the DABT between the hours of midnight and 7:00 a.m. the following day.
10. I’m going out of business. What do I do with my leftover alcoholic beverages?
Section 61A-1.0108, Florida Administrative Code, allows retailers to make a request for return of product to the distributor within 10 days after delivery of the product. Exceptions to the 10-day period include the termination of business and require the distributor to maintain documentation which details the request, the date, the licensed vendor, business name and address, the vendor’s license number and the product returned. The distributor must make the records available to the division upon request.
11. May I buy alcohol from a retailer and offer it for sale at my retail establishment?
No. Vendor-to-vendor purchases or sales of alcoholic beverages are not allowed. Alcoholic beverages must be purchased from a licensed wholesale distributor.
12. What is a stand-alone bar?
Florida Statute 386.203 defines a “stand-alone bar” as any licensed premises devoted during any time of operation predominantly or totally to serving alcoholic beverages, intoxicating beverages, or intoxicating liquors, or any combination thereof, for consumption on the licensed premises. The business shall not derive more than 10% of its gross revenue from the sale of food consumed on the licensed premises. Additionally, the business cannot share any common entryway or common indoor area with, any enclosed indoor workplace, including any business for which the sale of food or any other product or service is more than an incidental source of gross income.
13. Is smoking permitted indoors in a stand-alone bar?
Smoking is permitted indoors in a stand-alone bar if certain conditions and restrictions are met and the business is issued a smoking designation, which must be obtained through the Division of Alcoholic Beverages & Tobacco.
14. How do I transfer a quota liquor license after purchasing it?
The transfer of a quota liquor license requires DABT Form ABT-6002, available on the DABT’s web site. The form may require sign-off from the Department of Revenue, local Zoning Department and/or the Health Department or Division of Hotels & Restaurants, depending on the specifics of the location and type of business. Once the application is properly submitted, a temporary license can be obtained for a fee. The temporary license remains active until the permanent license is issued.
15. Who should I contact for assistance in applying for, purchasing, financing and transferring my alcoholic beverage license?
The best choice to handle licensing transactions is a law firm dedicated to alcoholic beverage and regulatory law. Attorneys and their trust accounts are regulated by the Florida Bar. Additionally, attorneys must follow a strict code of ethics which provides additional safeguards to the public. As the alcoholic beverage industry is highly regulated, constantly changing and complex, it is important to retain a law firm to work on your behalf that is knowledgeable and works well with the various local and state agencies required to obtain or transfer an alcoholic beverage license. Our alcoholic beverage practice attorneys have developed an excellent rapport with the local and state offices of the various agencies through years of practicing in this area, ensuring the license application and transfer process is correct, timely and convenient for you. Further, our firm performs a full and complete due diligence on all licenses bought and sold to ensure your license is transferred clear of any liens or encumbrances. We understand the industry well and can effectively avoid any potential problems or issues that may result in the delay or denial of your license issuance.