The liquor licensing process can be very complex and confusing. It is imperative that applicants begin their journey on the right path. There are over 30 types of liquor licenses and permits in Colorado, many having overlapping privileges and they all have distinct differences. Many of these licenses also have different levels of regulatory approval. Without the proper information and guidance, this can often lead to an application for a type of license that doesn’t meet your intended operations. Choosing the license or licenses that fit your desires is the first step in starting the liquor licensing process.

Colorado, like most states, allows the public to operate in all three tiers of the liquor industry: manufacturer, wholesaler, and retailer. Each tier is separate and distinct, however, there are many exceptions that often blur those lines. For example, a wine or spirits manufacturer may sell their products at retail on their manufacturing premises if they obtain a sales room permit, however, a beer manufacturer may only sell at retail if they obtain a separate wholesale license with a designated sales room permit. These privileges only allow the sale of the alcohol which the manufacturer produces for wine and spirits, but does allow retail sales of other manufacturers’ beer for brewers, and each requires multiple licenses or permits.

On the retail side, the most common licenses are taverns, hotel and restaurant licenses, the new lodging and entertainment license, retail liquor store, liquor-licensed drugstore, brew pubs, distillery pubs, and vintner’s restaurant. Yes, brew pubs, distillery pubs, and vintner’s restaurants are retail licenses. They are retail licenses that allow wholesaling and manufacturing privileges with certain limits. These licenses also allow the sale of other manufacturers’ products, but come with strict requirements for the sale of food. They allow people to consume alcohol on-premises, and they permit certain sales for people to take alcohol off-premises.

Taverns, hotel and restaurants, and lodging and entertainment licenses each allow on-premises consumption, yet have separate operational requirements, food requirements, and in limited circumstances permission to take opened wine off-premises. Retail liquor stores and liquor licensed drugstores are the most common off-premises licenses in Colorado, both allowing the sale of beer, wine, and spirits, but they have separate and strict requirements as to how much of non-alcohol products can be sold, and how many locations can operate.

This is not an exhaustive list of the Colorado liquor licenses, and there are many more requirements about what each license can or cannot do. Once you have picked out the type of license or licenses that meet your desired operations, then the matter of federal, state, and/or local licensing, corporate formation, leasing, funding and all of the other issues arise. Our attorneys have the knowledge and experience to help educate clients on the permissions and requirements for each Colorado liquor license to help determine what license or licenses fit best and navigate the entire process of licensing and starting the business. Contact Us for a free consultation do discuss the liquor licensing process.