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Licensing 101

February 3, 2015

This will be a very, very basic overview of licensing/permitting.  I will, in the near future, write a more detailed post regarding the many nuances of the licensing process.

As we’ve discussed before, the beverage-alcohol industry has three tiers: (1) suppliers, (2) wholesalers, and (3) retailers.

Generally speaking, suppliers sell to wholesalers, wholesalers sell to retailers, and retailers sell to consumers.  Got it.

There are also three levels of jurisdiction governing the beverage-alcohol industry: (1) federal (TTB), (2) state (oftentimes via a state’s department of revenue), and (3) the local jurisdiction, i.e., city or county.

If you plan on starting a brewery, you will have to obtain a minimum of three licenses/permits – one from each jurisdiction.

At the federal level, you will need to apply for and obtain a federal Brewer’s Notice. The TTB does not charge for the permit. Here’s the form:

At the state level, at least in Georgia, you will need to apply for a Georgia manufacturer’s license.  The license cost $1,000. The necessary forms can be found here:  

You will also need to obtain a manufacturer’s license from the local jurisdiction.  The cost varies depending upon the local jurisdiction, but can range from $0-5,000.

Things to keep in mind when applying for these licenses/permits (of course, if you hire a good beverage-alcohol lawyer, he will make sure these things are handled properly and expeditiously):

  • Criminal background check – Officers, directors, shareholders, members, etc. will have to be fingerprinted and undergo a background check.  In certain instances, there are ownership threshold requirements to trigger reporting.  We can talk about those some other time.
  • Tax clearance – Same as above…without the fingerprinting.  I hope you’ve been paying Uncle Sam….
  • Source of funds – This is to make sure that you are not starting your brewery with drug money or mob money.
  • Inspection of premises – This needs a blog entry of its own.  Just know that your build-out affects your licensing timeline.
  • Your first born son
  • Left pinky toe

Folks always ask, “How long will it take?”  My answer, “It depends.”  People hate that answer, but it is the most accurate answer.  Nevertheless, the process usually takes between 6-12 months, depending upon a number of variables.

More to come soon.

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