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Liquor License Caps and How to Deal with Them

May 17, 2019

One of the most stressful parts of a bar or restaurant owner’s job is obtaining a liquor license. Usually, this process is straightforward and only requires some research and paperwork.  However, the process becomes more complicated when a municipality has capped the number of liquor licenses it will issue.  This can be frustrating for small business entrepreneurs hoping to open a bar or restaurant in these municipalities, but that doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless.

Here’s some advice on how to handle liquor license caps:

Talk to Your Local Government

Many liquor license caps are instituted from antiquated laws passed decades ago after the repeal of Prohibition. It is possible that current local government officials don’t support those limits. Establishing a relationship with members of your local government can make them more amenable to changing the law and giving you the license you desire.

Ally with Fellow Small Business Owners

Chances are, you’re not the only person in your town or municipality who’s looking to open a restaurant or bar. There are probably other entrepreneurs who are facing the same obstacles you are. If you work with other small business owners to talk to the government about your collective concerns, you’re more likely to succeed.

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Use the Local Press

If your local government refuses to budge, you could take your case to the local press. Local media can convince people in your community to support removing license caps and petition the municipality to do so. Liquor license caps and similar regulations can be harmful to consumers, as they can be used to allow bars and restaurants to raise their prices on alcohol because they may be less worried about competition. However, this is a step that should be taken after considerable thought, as enlisting the media to work with you against local government could backfire by causing strained relationships with governmental officials.

Wait It Out

If you follow through all these steps and still can’t build enough momentum to change a city’s liquor license cap, you’ll now have to wait it out. When and if a current liquor license holder goes out of business, or an owner sells their establishment, an opportunity may present itself to obtain their license.  However, this strategy depends entirely on forces outside your control.

Consider Re-Locating

Ultimately, if your local government is refusing to budge, considering a new location for your establishment is probably the best option. There’s bound to be another town or city nearby with more relaxed liquor laws that won’t require you to lobby for an opportunity.

How did you deal with a liquor license cap? Let us know in the comments below!

Want to learn more about getting your liquor license in Illinois? Check out our guide here.

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