How to get a Liquor License in Ohio

If you own or plan on owning a bar, gas station, or other kinds of place that sells alcohol, you must own a liquor license—some states refer to them as liquor permits. Selling alcohol without the required licenses or permits could end in bankruptcy or even jail time. You could lose your business, your livelihood, or your freedom. States take the sale and consumption of alcohol seriously. To ensure public safety, they mandate following certain steps to ensure that you’re responsible and will comply with their laws and statutes.


Requirements to Hold a License

If you’re wondering how to get a liquor license, you should start with the basics. Many states allow for a certain amount of licenses at any given time. In Ohio, the number of licenses available depend on the population of the area where you own—or would like to own—a business serving alcohol.  You’ll find times in which no licenses are available. Since they’re renewed annually, however, it’s possible that some place will shut their doors or others will lose their licenses for one reason or the other.

Before applying for a license, you must prove that you—and any potential partners—are an American citizen. If you, or any partners, have been convicted of a felony, you’re automatically disqualified. Ohio also requires you to own, or at least lease, a building. After you apply for a license, your property must undergo an inspection to ensure the facilities are up to code. Failing the inspection could disqualify you from acquiring the permit.


Types of Liquor Licenses

Ohio doesn’t offer a single license. Their licenses—permits, as they’re called in Ohio—vary depending on the kind of establishment you own and the kind of alcohol you intend to sell. Knowing how to get a liquor permit requires understanding the various kinds of permits offered.

You should first be aware that not all counties in the United States allow the sale or consumption of alcohol. Some counties forbid it. In these areas, called dry counties or dry zones, the sale of alcohol of strictly prohibited. If you’re in the early stages of planning your business, be certain to investigate whether or not your county allows the sale of alcohol.


  • D1 – The D1 permit allows restaurant or nightclub to only sell beer. This permit also regulates where your customers are allowed to consume the beer: either on the premises or they’re allowed to buy beer for the purpose of taking it home. To sell beer meant for carry out, you must ensure that it’s sealed in its original container, such as an unopened beer bottle. Currently, Ohio allows D1 permit holders to sell beer for carry out until 1 am. 


  • D2 – This permit allows restaurants and nightclubs to sell wine and mixed beverages. Like the D1 permit, D2 limits the consumption on-site or for carry out. Also, like D1, the beverages must be sealed in their original containers.


  • D3 – D3 permit holders must own either a restaurant or a nightclub. This permit allows for the sale of “spirituous liquor” only for on-site consumption and only until 1 am. “Spirituous liquor” is a tricky term. It basically refers to any alcohol that’s inflammable and distilled. Under this definition, wine doesn’t qualify as “spirituous liquor.


  • D4 – This permit is designated for clubs only. It allows for the sale of beer or other hard liquors, anything capable of producing intoxicating effects. Only members of the club are allowed to purchase alcohol under this permit and they must consume it on-site until 1 am.


  • D6 – The D6 permit allows for the sale of liquor on Sundays. Permit holders can only sell liquor between the hours of 10 am—or 11 am, depending on the county—and midnight. To sell liquor in the state of Ohio on Sunday, you must possess a permit.


How to Get a Liquor License in OH

Learning how to get a liquor permit in Ohio requires research or expertise. You can hire experts who specialize in acquiring permits or you can attempt all the legwork yourself.

If you meet the requirements mentioned above, and you’ve settled on the kind of business you want and the permit you’ll need, you must apply for a license with the state of Ohio. You can find the application online or you can pick up a copy at the local courthouse. As with all legal applications, you must fully and honestly fill it out. Leaving any holes or creating ambiguities or outright lies could come back to haunt you.

Ohio controls and distributes liquor permits on both the state and local level.

Your paperwork is filed with the state and your local government. After an extensive background check and property inspections, a local board will determine whether or not to grant your business a permit. This process can take from several weeks to several months—or longer, depending on the availability of permits.

As with anything in a capitalist system, supply and demand can affect the prices of liquor licenses, especially if you’re attempting to buy it on the open market. This is an often overlooked aspect: Ohio allows for the purchase of liquor licenses on the open market—for example, someone’s closing their business—although it regulates the sale. You’ll still need to meet the requirements above in order to obtain a license, even if you purchase it from a private citizen.

If permits in your area have reached their quota, then you should expect to pay a premium for it. In this case, you might expect to pay a rate exponentially higher than if you were purchasing it from the state. Keep in mind that buying permits on the open market entails nuances we haven’t covered here. If you do choose to buy on the open market, it’s in your best interest to hire an attorney. Their expertise could prove invaluable, saving you time, money, and anxiety.

Don’t fret if you’re wondering how to get a liquor license on the open market without knowing anyone selling a permit.

License owners are entered into the public records. You can access these records at the local Department of Commerce to identify all current permits holders. With this knowledge, you could ask owners if they’re willing to sell their permits—or hire an attorney to make an offer on your behalf. Again, if the quota has been met, expect to spend a good deal of money if you go this route.


Unexpressed Liabilities with Owning a Bar or Restaurant

Just like in other businesses, owning a bar can be very rewarding, but to make it successful you need planning. In many cases, the liabilities of owning a bar may seem high at the time you are starting the business. Despite this, there are major benefits if you follow a few requirements.


Liabilities of Owning a Bar or Restaurant

With a liquor liability, you are protected from suits arising from damages related to intoxication. More to this, the liability of owning a bar gives you a guideline on how to handle the alcoholism of your staff. Despite your established work rules, the liability gives them a way to handle the job. More to this, it allows you to look for a policy that will cover them as patrons, an option that will help protect your business from liquor-related incidents.

Another common measure is to have your bartenders trained appropriately. One of the key benefits of training is equipping them with the knowledge on how to handle drunken customers as well as alcohol-related damages and fights. The training should be on a one-on-one basis with each of them owning an insurance scheme that will act as a shield against any incident that may occur at work.


Department of health

Legally, any company or restaurant that serves consumables to customers should take liability coverage. This is one of the best policies that help protect one from any alcohol-related incident once a patron has an incident in your bar. The legal fees from liquor-related claims are always higher than the insurance legal fees. To avoid such incidents, always protect your business from any liability through the adequate coverage.

Just like in restaurants, this legal policy goes hand in hand with the food inspection that you offer in your bar. The main aim of the inspection officers is usually to determine whether what you sell is within the legal frameworks and the requirements of the state. The process is always important as it helps protect your business from incidents that may emanate from the products you sell. The inspection is conducted at least twice a year meaning that you should always cooperate with the inspection officers.


Proper insurance

After you have worked hard to establish your business, you do not have to commence the operations immediately. Legally, once you acquire a liquor license to operate or use the premises you can. Also, the insurance policies that cover the liability of owning a bar may vary depending on where you live. It is therefore important to consider research on the specific needs of your state requirements on how to carry out the process.

While looking for suitable insurance agents, you should always be keen to get ones that are familiar with the different state laws. They should also be in a position to explain to you the specific coverage requirements that will be important for you. As a bar owner, you should always be ready for non-scheduled inspections on your premises. This is done following the state laws aimed at ensuring your insurance and other policies are in place and effective.


Fire department

More to the liabilities, your bar should always be inspected and awarded an occupancy permit. The bar is always prone to flammable decorations, a factor that would cause great mayhem if not looked into. A rigorous inspection on sprinklers and fire extinguishers should be conducted. Other injuries may emanate from accidental spills of either hot foods or beverages.

Ultimately, the customers and the owner of the bar feel the repercussions of any injuries. To avoid these altogether, safety evaluation is important through various independent bodies that inspect business premises to identify any hazards.