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Types of Liquor Licenses in Colorado

Originally Posted On May 4, 2023 and Last Updated On

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Types of Liquor Licenses in Colorado

If you plan to open a bar or brewery in Colorado the very first thing you’ll need to do is decide which type of liquor license you need for your business.

Basically there are five common types of liquor licenses in Colorado. Each license is different and has their own unique set of requirements. So be clear on which type you’ll be applying for.

The most common Colorado liquor license types are the Colorado Tavern License (Bars and Pubs), Colorado Hotel and Restaurant License, Colorado Retail Liquor Store License and the Colorado Brew Pub License.

Common Liquor Licenses in Colorado:

Colorado Hotel and Restaurant

This allows restaurants and hotels that have their own restaurants to sell alcohol. These establishments must serve food and have proper dinning facilities and commercial kitchens.

This is the type of license you’ll need if your goal is to have an “Italian style restaurant” and want to be able to offer wine, beer and other types of mixed drinks to your guests. This is the same license whether you have one restaurant or are a large chain.

You are not allowed to sell any spirit on a “take out” basis, and all alcohol must be served and consumed on the premises.

Colorado Tavern License

This is the license you’ll need if you want to run a bar or pub where food is secondary or even non-existant. This license allows you to sell any type of beer, alcohol, wines or spirits.

This does have the limitation of not being able to sell for “take-away” sales. All alcohol must be served and consumed on the premises.

Colorado Beer and Wine License

This type of license is more for wine bars or establishments that do not sell “hard” liquor. With this license you are only allowed to sell malt and vinous liquors (wine) only and they must be served and consumed within your premises.

This is the type of license you’d need for a wine bar that specializes in wine tastings and possibly locally produced wines. Again, no outside sales of any alcohol are permitted.

Colorado Brew Pub License

This is what you want if you plan to brew your own beer or malt liquor. These have become very popular due to the boom in microbreweries in recent years. Your license will allow you to manufacture beers and malt liquors that can be consumed on the premises. You are also allowed to sell “take-out” style malt. Meaning your customers can get a six pack to go.

Furthermore you’re also allowed to sell to independent wholesalers that can then distribute your products to other bars and even grocery food chains. This license basically lets you compete with other breweries anywhere in, but on a smaller scale.

Colorado Retail Liquor Store License

This is exactly what it says, for a store only. This means your customers are not allowed to open their products within the store or consume anything. This is for a retail outlet only. You are allowed to buy product from microbreweries and resell them to the public.

Classes of Liquor Licenses in Colorado

There are more than 27 classes of liquor licenses in Colorado. You will need to speak to your local authorities to see which one is best for your particular needs. They are pretty self explanatory and I have listed them below:

  • Art gallery permit
  • Arts license
  • Bed and breakfast permit
  • Beer and wine license
  • Brew pub license
  • Club license
  • Distillery pub license
  • Hotel and restaurant license
  • Importer’s license
  • Limited winery license
  • Liquor–licensed drugstore license
  • Liquor–licensed drugstore manager’s permit
  • Lodging and entertainment license
  • Manufacturer’s license
  • Nonresident manufacturers and importers of malt liquor
  • Optional premises license
  • Public transportation system license
  • Racetrack license
  • Removal of vinous liquor from licensed premises
  • Retail gaming tavern license
  • Retail liquor store license
  • Tavern license
  • Vintner’s restaurant license
  • Wholesaler’s license
  • Wine festival permit
  • Wine packaging permit
  • 3.2% Beer License

Where Do I Apply?

Although you are applying for a state liquor license, the actual municipalities are the ones that govern their own requirements for each license. That means each city or county decides has their own codes that you’ll need to go by. And you’ll need to check yourself as to who will issue your license.

The best place to start is at the county level unless you live in a big city like Boulder, as all Boulder breweries and liquor licenses are controlled through the city itself.

If the county doesn’t handle licensing, they will tell you who does. But make sure you’re already clear on which type you need as this will allow them to better assist you.

How Long to Get My License?

Getting a liquor licenses in Colorado can take anywhere from 3 month to a year in some circumstances. But usually it will be around three or four months from start to finish as long as there aren’t any extenuating circumstances. The biggest problem is each city, county or municipality is different, so it really does depend on where you live and what they require.

In some circumstances, it may be best to use a lawyer or someone who specializes in the application process. They know exactly how to get a liquor license and what forms and where everything needs to go in order to expedite the process. But it is not necessary, you can hand in your application on your own.

About the Author

  • Bill Allen

    I'm Bill Allen, the guy behind this site. I've been a bartender, bar owner and sitting on both sides of a bar for almost 35 years, so I have some experience in the whole mixology scene. And now I'm just building out my site with as much helpful content as I can share with you.

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