How difficult is it to open a liquor store in an ABC controlled state?
February 28, 2013 7:42 AM   Subscribe

I recently moved to an affluent, food obsessed city and am surprised by the lack of a well-stocked liquor store downtown. There's a growing microdistillery movement throughout the state and many well established local craft beers. Appealing to tourists would be a hook, but with more than 150,000 residents (many of whom work in high-end restaurants) there is a sizable community to serve.
posted by wensink to Food & Drink (10 answers total)
This REALLY depends on the laws of the state in which you live. In my state (NC), you cannot open a liquor store as a private party. Liquor stores are run by local ABC boards and sell only liquor (no beer, no wine, no mixers). Private parties can run beer and wine specialty shops, but can't sell liquor.

Having lived in several states as an adult, liquor laws vary wildly from place to place, and you'll really have to read up on what is allowed and not in your state.

If the venture is legal, figuring out how difficult it will be to have a successful shop depends on you stocking the right stuff, finding the right location, accurately assessing demand, etc. - typical retail stuff.
posted by jeoc at 7:48 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Where are you located? This varies wildly by state. Regardless, if you google to find your state's ABC website you should be able to find a lot of information. I work with my state's ABC Commission on a daily basis and they are generally very helpful by phone, also. Call and ask them questions.
posted by something something at 7:49 AM on February 28, 2013

Yes, laws vary significantly from state to state.

The lack of a liquor store in your city may be an indication of stringent controls on liquor sales. The best way for you to proceed is to find an attorney well-versed in the relevant state laws and ask him this question.
posted by dfriedman at 7:49 AM on February 28, 2013

OP's profile implies that s/he lives in Massachusetts, FWIW.
posted by Aizkolari at 7:55 AM on February 28, 2013

Also, if the location in your profile is right, I think you may be just overlooking some excellent liquor stores.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:56 AM on February 28, 2013

Mass. does not do state-run stores but licenses are determined town by town and are often limited in number and very expensive.

My guess is that the OPmay not be in MA, but has moved recently to somewhere like NH, where all spirits are sold only by the state (which does mean there are no great bottle shops in great foodie towns).
posted by Miko at 8:12 AM on February 28, 2013

Response by poster: Sorry, old profile. I'm in South Carolina.
posted by wensink at 8:30 AM on February 28, 2013

There's quite a bit of info about licensing and requirements at the SC Tax site, in case you haven't already browsed it.
posted by ftm at 8:36 AM on February 28, 2013

And here's some more detail on getting a retail liquor license.

One thing that might give you trouble is the bit about "license saturation" (II.m): if other liquor store owners in your area make a case that that there's already enough liquor stores in town, they can block your application.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 8:45 AM on February 28, 2013

Your best bet might be to talk to some bar owners and ask them what they've seen about the retail liquor business in town. They won't be your direct competitors — in fact, they might be future customers of yours — so there's no conflict of interest there. But if there's been drama or difficulty in the past about liquor licenses they'll probably still know about it and be able to fill you in.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 8:48 AM on February 28, 2013

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