How to Get a Liquor License in Tennessee

By Sylvia Cochran

The state of Tennessee has a number of requirements that govern the sale and service of liquor, wine and beer in its domain. There are different application costs and processes for clubs, restaurants, special events, hotels, caterers and even theaters.


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Step 1

Finish construction on your new restaurant and have the reasonable expectation to open your doors to the public in the next three to four weeks. Apply for and receive your sales tax number and your "liquor by the drink" bond. These fall under the jurisdiction of the state’s department of revenue.

Step 2

Call the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission (ABC) at (615) 741-1602, extension 106, and request a liquor license application package.

Step 3

Fill out the forms. You will find a generic application form, an employee permit form, questionnaires directed at all those who have a 5 percent or more ownership interest in the new restaurant, a form that seeks to establish your right to actually operate your restaurant out of the real estate that houses it and a proposed price list for the drinks you are serving. If your restaurant is owned by a corporation, there are additional forms you will find in the package.

Step 4

Return the completed package to the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission located at 226 Capitol Boulevard in Nashville, Tennessee, 37219.

Step 5

Include the appropriate fees. There is a $300 application fee and an additional fee that is dependent on the number of guests that may be seated at your venue. Fees range from $750 to $1,200. These fees change if you only serve wine but no liquor. The Alcoholic Beverage Commission posts an up to date fee schedule on its website (a link is included in the resources section).

Step 6

File form ATF F 5630.5, which is entitled “Federal Form to Sell Liquor” with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Funds in the amount of $250 must accompany this filing.

Step 7

Undergo an inspection by an agent of the Alcoholic Beverage Commission after your new restaurants is open. At this time, the statements you made on the forms of your application package will be compared to the actual venue you are operating, and assuming that all is in order, you are granted a Tennessee liquor license.

Step 8

Meet the criteria for a special event Tennessee liquor license. Such a permit is issued only to a non-profit organization that meets the tax-exemption criteria as outlined by the IRS, or to a political party or political campaign committee. If you are a member of a group that donates 60 percent or more of their income to tax-exempt charities, you do not have to fall under the IRS guidelines, but you must have documentation to prove your claim to the state of Tennessee.

Step 9

Choose a venue that is zoned for the sale or enjoyment of alcoholic beverages. You must state the exact locale for which you are requesting the special event license. This rules out any events taking place in establishments where children may be present.

Step 10

Identify the office of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission that is closest to you. There are currently four branches in Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville and Chattanooga.

Step 11

Apply for the special liquor license Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Even though the offices will be open until 4:30 p.m., the application cutoff time of 4 p.m. is strictly observed.

Step 12

Pay the licensing fee of $100 per special event day. You may apply for up to 12 special event days in a given calendar year.