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Obtaining an Alcohol Retail License

Posted by Lanre J. Abiola | Aug 28, 2023

An alcohol retail license allows individuals to sell alcoholic beverages to individual retail customers from a particular premises. See State of Wisconsin Department of Revenue, Alcohol Beverage Laws for Retailers-Licenses. You can obtain your alcohol retail license from the municipality (i.e., village, city, town) where you intend to sell alcoholic beverages; permits are issued by the state. Thus, although there are some overlaps between licenses and permits, municipalities issue alcohol retail licenses while the State of Wisconsin issues permits for production and wholesale in the alcohol industry.

Additionally, the sale of alcoholic beverages must occur at the licensed premises.The three classes of alcohol retail licenses include the following:

  • Class "A" licenses allow the retail sale of liquor, cider, and wine for off-premises consumption. You will need a Class "A" alcohol retail license if you intend to operate grocery stores, convenience stores, or liquor stores. See also Wis. Stat. § 125.25.
  • Class "B" licenses allow the retail sale of liquor, wine, and beer for on or off-premises consumption; and off-premises consumption of wine in original sealed containers, depending on the municipal governing body that will issue the Class "B" license. Wis. Stat. § 125.26. You will need a Class "B" alcohol retail license if you intend to operate taverns and restaurants with alcoholic beverage service. 
  • Class "C" licenses allow the sale of wine for consumption only on the premises and allow the carryout of a single opened, resealed, bottle if sold with a meal. Sale of additional bottles of wine for consumption off the premises is not allowed. Wis. Stat. § 125.51(3m).

Applying for an Alcohol Retail License

To obtain an alcohol retail license, you must apply for the license with the municipality (i.e., village, city, or town) where you intend to do business with the license. If you own multiple business entities that sell alcoholic beverages, each business entity requires its own alcohol retail license. 

After applying, the clerk's office will publish your application in a local newspaper to see if there are objections in the community where you intend to do business with the license. Further, based on any feedback from the community, if any, the licensing authority (i.e., city council, council licensing board, town board, etc.) votes on your application. The alcohol retail license may not be granted until at least fifteen days after the application is filed with the clerk's office. Wis. Stat. § 125.04(3)(f)1.

Basic Qualifications for an Alcohol Retail License

Alcohol retail licenses may be granted if the applicant meets the following basic qualifications: 

  1. the applicant has resided in Wisconsin continuously for at least 90 days prior to the application date;
  2. the applicant is at least 21 years old; and
  3. the applicant has been issued a seller's permit by the State of Wisconsin Department of Revenue.

Moreover, an alcohol retail license applicant must consider local zoning laws—that restrict the sale of alcoholic beverages within a certain distance of a school or church—that may prevent the sale of alcoholic beverages. Wis. Stat. § 125.68(3).

Are you Eligible for an Alcohol Retail License if you have a Criminal Record?

It depends. Although a criminal record is not an automatic barrier to getting an alcohol retail license, a criminal record may prevent an applicant from obtaining the license. The municipality will determine if the criminal record is substantially related to the business of selling alcoholic beverages. If your criminal record is substantially related to the business of selling alcoholic beverages, you will likely be denied an alcohol retail license. However, if your criminal record is not closely related to the business of selling alcoholic beverages, the municipality will likely issue you an alcohol retail license.

Accordingly, with Prestige Law Office's guidance, you will likely obtain an alcohol retail license if you meet the requirements above. 

To learn more about creating a business entity and obtaining an alcohol retail license, contact Prestige Law Office, LLC. The firm handles business law for Wauwatosa, Pewaukee, Brookfield, Waukesha, Kenosha, Racine, Whitefish Bay, and the greater Milwaukee area. Contact the firm at 414-459-1632 to get started and to schedule a consultation.

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About the Author

Lanre J. Abiola

Mr. Lanre Abiola founded Prestige Law Office, LLC, with the objective of providing individuals, entrepreneurs, and small and mid-sized businesses with high-quality, cost-effective legal services to achieve the best possible result for clients at a fair cost. Mr. Abiola believes in vigorous advocacy on clients' behalf.

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Prestige Law Office, LLC, is committed to answering your questions about business law, estate planning, and real estate law in Wisconsin. Schedule a consultation and the firm will gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact the firm to get started by scheduling a consultation and taking the first step in securing your future.

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