Liquor License and Insurance Requirements in Washington State

Jun 20, 2023 · 8 minutes to read

Washington State is home to the best food in America. From farm fresh fruits and vegetables to coastal seafood, Washington has it all. The Evergreen State offers a streamlined and user-friendly process for obtaining a liquor license or a banquet permit in Washington if you are looking to start a business offering alcohol.

Washington’s liquor license application process takes less than 90 days, so make sure that you are about three months away from opening your business before you apply. We’ll cover the following:

You need a license to sell liquor in Washington

Instead of applying separately for a liquor license or a banquet permit in Washington, business owners who want to sell alcohol are required to apply for a special endorsement with their business license. The alcohol endorsement will be included in your business license after you have successfully applied.

Note that business license applications will be handled by the Washington State Department of Revenue, while liquor license endorsements will be handled by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board.

Washington has different types of liquor licenses

Washington offers a variety of liquor licenses based on the type of business you have and what alcohol you plan to sell. In the food service sector, there are four main license types: a Beer License, a Wine License, a Beer & Wine License, and a Beer, Wine & Spirits License.

The Washington State Department of Revenue’s (DOR) website offers a very useful tool called the Licensing Wizard.

The Business Licensing Wizard asks you questions about your business and the type you are planning to start. The Wizard will help you determine the type of business license you need. It also shows you what endorsements you may have to request with the WSLCB.

How long does it usually take to obtain a liquor license?

It takes about 60 days from the date you submit your business license application for the DOR to finish their investigation and issue a license with endorsements.

Washington requires that you submit any licenses or endorsements needed 90 days prior to the opening date of your business to give enough time for processing. The DOR will send back your application if you submit it too far in advance.

What is the cost of a Washington liquor license?

The DOR charges $90 for a business license. The cost of a liquor endorsement varies based on what you intend to sell, and how your business is set up.

  • Beer: $200
  • Wine: $200
  • Beer and Wine: $400
  • Beer, Wine, and Spirits: Service Bar Only – $1,000
  • Beer, Wine, and Spirits – dedicated dining area of 50% or more: $1,600
  • Beer, Wine, and Spirits – less than 50% of the dining area dedicated: $2,000

You may also have to pay additional fees in your local county for an alcohol or business license.

Washington liquor license requirements

Only businesses that are ready to begin selling or manufacturing alcohol within three months can be granted a license by the WSLCB. They recommend that you file 90 days before your anticipated opening date.

You should prepare a business plan, even if it is not required. This will help you to explain your business’s purpose, identify the owners, describe the costs of opening the business, and provide the funding sources.

You should also check the local requirements for building permits, such as zoning and other regulations. This can be done on your own or as part of the licensing process on the website.

How to obtain a Washington liquor license?

Washington State has a simplified process for getting the business licenses and alcohol endorsements that you need.

You can apply for your licenses and endorsements on the DOR site 90 days before you open.

The DOR will then forward your application to the WSLCB. A Licensing specialist is assigned to you to help guide you through the process of applying for a liquor license and to explain all the required documentation.

You will be contacted by a Licensing specialist within a week after submitting your application. They are available to answer all questions throughout the entire process.

They will then schedule a phone interview with you to understand your business plan. The Licensing Specialist will first schedule a telephone interview to better understand your business plan.

The Licensing Specialist, after understanding your business plan, will ask for documents related to the start-up of your company, including:

  • Business Structure
  • Financing/start-up costs
  • Lease or purchase agreements
  • Floor plans
  • Personal/Criminal History Statement
  • Public Posting Notification

The WSLCB notifies the local authority, i.e. the county commission or the mayor, that you have applied for a license.

The WSLCB also conducts a neighbourhood search to identify nearby schools and churches, both public and private. They will notify you if there are any schools or churches within 500 feet. You can then ask them to support your application.

Your Licensing Specialist reviews your documents once you submit them to make sure that your application complies with all licensing requirements. They will ask you to complete an online course on liquor laws and upload photos of your business.

You will receive a letter of approval if your documentation has been approved and received by the WSLCB. If there are no outstanding issues you will be issued a 30-day license to serve alcohol until you obtain your Master Business License and liquor endorsement from the Department of Revenue.

Washington liquor license renewal requirements

The WSLCB will notify your local authority 90 days before your license expiration that it is time to renew your liquor license. You can renew your license online as long as there are no objections.

The renewal fee is $10 for any number of endorsements. This cost is the same as it was when you first applied.

  • Beer: $200
  • Wine: $200
  • Beer and Wine: $400
  • Beer, Wine, and Spirits: Service Bar Only: $1000
  • Beer, Wine, and Spirits – dedicated dining area of 50% or more: $1,600
  • Beer, Wine, and Spirits – less than 50% of the dining area dedicated: $2,000

The DOR website allows you to renew most city and county licenses annually.

Can you transfer a Washington liquor license?

No. Washington does not allow liquor licenses to be transferred. Even if you buy an existing business, you must apply for your license.

If you already have a restaurant but want to serve alcohol, you will need to get a new license. You can also add the endorsements that you desire.

What are the requirements for the employees to serve alcohol in Washington State?

Washington State law requires anyone who serves, sells, or supervises the sales of alcohol to take Mandatory Alcohol Server Training. Certified third-party providers teach MAST courses.

The MAST certificate is valid for five years. It is not renewable, so the employee will need to take it again at that point. When selling or handling alcohol, employees must be able to show a valid ID card and a MAST permit for law enforcement.

Washington’s liquor liability laws and dram shops laws

Washington is a state that has dram shop liability laws. This means that state law can hold businesses liable if they sell or serve alcohol to people who are intoxicated and cause injury or death.

Say, for example, a group of people comes to your restaurant to celebrate a marriage. They enjoy themselves and order several rounds of drinks. On the way home, they have a car crash that causes injury to the other driver. If the driver of the wedding party exceeded the legal limit, your business could be sued. It may seem unfair, but your business can be held responsible if the driver of the wedding party exceeded the legal limit.

What type of insurance is required to obtain a Washington liquor license?

You will need to wait 90 days for your business to be licensed and endorsed by the state of Washington. Be sure that you are prepared with the right insurance before opening night.

Liquor Liability Insurance

Liquor liability insurance will protect your business from the risk of serving alcohol in Washington. This insurance can cover anything from court costs to medical bills if a customer makes a mistake and you are held liable.

General Liability Insurance

Even without alcohol, working with the public can be risky. General Liability Insurance protects against most incidents, such as slips and falls or property damage.

Workers Compensation Insurance

Workers’ comp insurance in Washington is handled entirely by the state government. This insurance will cover medical costs, lost wages, and other expenses if you or your staff suffer an injury at work.

Commercial Property Insurance

Commercial Property covers your building, goods, equipment, and inventory, regardless of whether you own it or rent it. You can quickly get back to work if something happens.

How BizInsure helps businesses in Washington

BizInsure provides customized insurance to Washington business owners. Liquor coverage is available in addition to our general insurance coverage.

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