You’re thinking about opening a restaurant but the one thing that keeps getting in the way of your entrepreneurial dream is the cost of an alcohol beverage license. You’ve heard that they’re really expensive…in the range of $100,000.00 to as much as $750,000.00. Guess what? Your right, quota liquor licenses are very expensive. They are sold like any commodity on the open market and the price varies on their availability in a given Florida County. Their numbers are limited and the State of Florida only issues new quota licenses when there is a population increase of 7500 people or more in a specific county. Quota licenses have few restrictions on them and can be placed and used across retail venues from liquor stores to restaurants. But they are indeed very expensive.

So our entrepreneur’s trepidation continues. How will the dream come to fruition? Fear not-there is a solution (other than financing options – which will be addressed in later blog entries). The Alcohol Beverage Law is rich with special license options that may be a solution.

As an example, and to stick to our theme, our restaurant entrepreneur has the option of obtaining an “SFS” license. The “SFS” is available to restaurants that (by state law) are at a minimum, 2,500 square feet, equipped to serve 150 meals at one time and derive 51% of its gross revenue from the sale of food and non-alcoholic beverages. Note that special ordinances may be in effect in a given county that dictate conditions like square footage or seating requirements. If various zoning and health requirements are met (among other things) an “SFS” can be placed at a restaurant for the sale of wine, beer and spirts for consumption on the premises. The state annual fee for this license is a few thousand dollars.

Another example of an available special license is an “S” license. This license is available to hotels and motels (generally speaking) with 100 or more rooms. The hotel or motel (depending on the sketch submitted to the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco) may sell alcoholic beverages, including wine, beer and spirits at restaurants, bars, room mini-bars and on the grounds of the hotel including the pool area. As with the “SFS”, the annual fees for this type of license is a few thousand dollars as well.

Other special licenses (at nominal fees) include those available to preforming arts centers, catering companies, bowling alleys, civic centers, passenger carriers, airports, live performance theaters, fairs and expos and not-for-profit organizations and the list goes on.

The complex aspect of obtaining these types of licenses is ensuring that the applicant(s) is compliant with alcohol beverage laws and code sections, Florida Department of Health, Hotel and Restaurants (or Department of Agriculture) regulations and municipal codes that pertain to the placement of these types of licenses. Lack of understanding of the complex regulations will surely end up in added expenses, prolonged times and perhaps even denial of the application.