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Understanding FL’s Law on Liquor Licenses for Restaurants

Mar 24, 2020 - News by

I frequently receive telephone calls from clients, who possess the misconception that getting a beer and wine license, or liquor license in South Florida will be a straightforward process. Prior to speaking with me, clients are often frustrated with the delays caused by the convoluted application requirements that must be met before a state alcohol license can be issued. Causing additional confusion, local municipal requirements vary greatly. For example, the City of Fort Lauderdale requires that you obtain a Business Tax Receipt and a Liquor Measurement before you can apply for your state alcohol beverage license. Below is an overview about what Florida restaurants need to know.

General Law for 4COP SFS Full Liquor Licenses for Restaurants:

Under general law, restaurants can qualify for a type 4COP SFS full liquor license if they meet three general requirements:

  1. It has at least 2,500 square feet of service area;
  2. It is equipped to serve meals to 150 people at one time; and
  3. It derives at least 51 percent of its gross food and beverage revenue from the sale of food and non-alcoholic beverages.

The square foot and seating requirements are difficult for smaller restaurants to meet, which often prevents those restaurants from getting a full liquor license. Smaller restaurants have two alternatives. The first option is that the restaurant can apply for a type 2COP beer and wine license (and forego liquor/spirits sales).  Florida law does not restrict the number of beer and wine licenses the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (“ABT”) can issue.  However, full liquor licenses, known colloquially as “quota” license, are limited to one license per 7,500 residents per county, with a minimum of three (3) licenses per county with approved alcohol beverage sales.  Thus, the only other option for a restaurant not meeting the 4COP SFS requirements is to purchase a “quota” full liquor licenses on the open market.  Quota licenses are much more costly to acquire than a type 4COP SFS license.

SFS licenses are obtained directly from the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco and require an annual license fee of $1,820.00. If you do not qualify for one of these special restaurant licenses, there are still options available to you.

These include:

  • 1COP – allows for the sale of beer only at a bar or restaurant, for an annual fee of $280
  • 1APS – allows for the sale of beer only for package sales (off-premise consumption) for an annual fee of $140
  • 2COP – allows for the sale of beer and wine at a bar or restaurant, for an annual fee of $392
  • 2APS – allows for the sale of beer and wine for package sales (off-premise consumption) for an annual fee of $196
  • 4COP – allows for the sale of beer, wine, and spirits at a bar or restaurant, for an annual fee of $1,820
  • 3PS – allows for the sale of beer, wine, and spirits at a package liquor store, for an annual fee of $1,365

New Alcohol License Law for Restaurants in Orlando’s Downtown Restaurant Area:

House Bill 1447 authorized the ABT to issue 4COP SFS licenses to smaller restaurants in Orlando’s Downtown Restaurant Area.  To qualify for this license, the new law merely requires that the restaurant:

  • Fall within the Downtown Restaurant Area;
  • Occupy at least 1,800 square feet of contiguous space;
  • Be equipped to serve meals to at least 80 people at one time; and
  • Derive at least 51% of its gross food and beverage revenue from the sale of food and non-alcoholic beverages during the first 60-day operating period and each 12-month operating thereafter.

Contact an Attorney at Firm to Make Sure You Fully Understand Florida’s Zoning Law for Alcohol at Restaurants

Before signing a lease or purchasing a property for your restaurant use, it is advisable to retain experienced Florida alcohol beverage law legal counsel familiar with the nuanced zoning and alcohol beverage considerations unique to restaurants.  Please do not hesitate to contact Ms. Armada at (954)334-2253 with any questions.