Can a Felon Get a Liquor License?

After being convicted of a felony you may ponder what exactly is out there for you in the world.

There are retail jobs, warehouse jobs and many opportunities out there. You may consider can a felon get a liquor license?

Keep reading to find out.

Can a Felon Get Liquor License

What is a Liquor License?

To sell or serve alcohol in a public place a liquor license must exist.

In the United States, these licenses are issued under laws that differ from state to state. In some states it comes down to the county’s decision. While other’s, the city will be approving or disapproving of the license.

Most states do consider it a privilege to have a liquor license. As a result, the process to actually obtain one can feel a bit extensive. Many states even put a cap on how many liquor licenses see approval.

If you find yourself looking to acquire a liquor license it is best to start by contacting your state’s ABC board. Alcohol Beverage Control Boards, also known as ABC boards, are groups in each state that keep track of production, sale, and distribution regarding alcohol.

Once you contact the ABC board for your state you will be aware of the amount of licenses available as well as what permit it is that you need. Then comes the application process- more on this later!

You do not personally have to have a liquor license if you are a waitress or a bartender at a restaurant.

There are different types of liquor licenses.

Types of Liquor Licenses

Can Felon Get Liquor the License

There are four main categories when it comes to liquor licenses. These four main categories are as follows:

  • Wholesales or supplies
  • Manufacturing or brewing
  • Onsite sales
  • Special events

The most common license is for onsite sales. The frequent need for this type of license requires it to be subdivided. Different types of onsite sale liquor licenses have different requirements.

There are licenses that are specific for only selling beer and wine. If cocktails are not a part of your establishments sales a beer and wine license is the way to go!

A restaurant license is also known as an “all liquor license.” This requires that a certain percentage of sales comes strictly from alcohol. This percentage varies from state to state, but there is often a requirement of 40%. This is the most common subdivision. You do not personally have to have a liquor license if you are a waitress or a bartender at a restaurant.

Tavern is another subdivision of onsite sales. These are handled in a different way than establishments where food sales is the majority. Think of a local bar that only sells spirits and craft cocktails. They would need to have a tavern license.

Overall, the three main subdivisions of onsite sales licenses are restaurant, tavern and beer and wine. There are hotel, brewpub and club licenses as well!

Application Process

The application process begins with calling your state’s ABC board. Your state’s ABC board can give you any information you would like to know regarding a liquor license for your state.

Your Alcohol Beverage Control Board will tell you the amount of licenses available if your state has a quota. Your state’s ABC board can also help you to determine what specific permit you need.

Once you have been in contact with your state’s ABC board, the application process will begin.

You can apply online or mail your application into your state’s ABC board. The actual application is quite thorough and requires a large amount of personal information.

Preparation of your application is very important. You want to show your state’s board that you are worthy of a license. It is crucial that you put your best foot forward.

Your application will go through processing. Approval can take up to six months.

If approval takes place, the license does not come cheap. This cost can range anywhere from $300 to the upwards of $400,000. Once you obtain a license you must renew it every one to three years.

A thorough background check is a requirement of this process. So, does a felon stand a chance in obtaining one? Keep reading to find out.

Can a Felon Get a Liquor License?

Can Felon Get Liquor License

Some things can be difficult for ex-convicts. Obtaining a liquor license is one of the instances that can be difficult.

The requirements vary state to state. In some states, a felon will automatically disqualify you from obtaining a liquor license. You can find out if your state will accept felons by calling your state’s Alcohol Beverage Control Board and asking.

This is not true for all states though! A similar application process and a background check will take place. Some states will be more forgiving when it comes to criminal offences.

Some states consider the amount of time that it has been since the incident took place. If the crime took place over five or ten years ago, you would be more likely to get an approval. On the other hand, if you have recent convictions, it will lower your chance.

The nature of the crime is another huge factor. For instance, in states that consider felon’s applications, if the crime is in relation to drugs or alcohol they will be disqualified.

A moral character assessment will often take place. There are a few things that come into consideration regarding a moral character.

A person of good moral character should be able to distinguish right from wrong.

The person must show that they can follow rules of conduct.

A person of good moral character is a must.


A liquor license is a requirement to serve or sell alcohol. There are different types of liquor licenses. They are wholesales or supplies, manufacturing or brewing, special events, and onsite sales. Onsite sales is subdivided into more categories.

As a felon, it comes down to the state you live in whether you can obtain a liquor license or not.

You can contact your state’s Alcohol Beverage Control Board, ABC for short, to ask any questions!

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