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What You Will Need before Opening a Bar or Restaurant

On Behalf of | Feb 28, 2016 | Business Law, Liquor License

Potential business owners interested in opening a bar or restaurant will find that there are a number of licenses and permits that they must obtain prior to opening their doors. Permits and licenses for hospitality and food businesses are regulated at the federal, state and local levels, so it is important to be aware of the proper documentation you will need so that your business does not face citations in the future. This article serves to provide a basic and general list of licenses and permits a food service or bar owner may need, but does not completely illustrate all of the necessary requirements.

After Registering Your Business…

After you have formed your company by registering your business with the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (for legal entities), you will need to obtain your Employer Identification Number from the Internal Revenue Service. Once you have this number you will also be able to open a bank account and obtain your business’s tax registration numbers, which you will need in order to apply for necessary licenses and to pay proper taxes at the local, state and federal level. The state of Maryland tax registration issues these numbers through the Comptroller of Maryland.

Next, you will need to register your business’s tradename, if different from your company’s name with the State Department of Assessments and Taxation.

Apply for Required Licenses…

The first license that you will need to obtain is a general business license. This is necessary before being able to open your business as it is required by the state of Maryland. In order to be considered for a business license, you must fill out an application from the Clerk of the Circuit Court for the intended county of location for your restaurant or bar.

There are a number of regulatory licenses that are required to operate a restaurant or bar. Specifically, a business that will serve food or liquor will be required to obtain a food service license and a liquor license, respectively. Food Service Facility and safety licenses are intended to ensure that the business is aware of proper food storage and handling procedures, as well as proper sanitation practices. In addition to this, restaurant managers may also be required to obtain Food Service Manager Certification, and for this to be updated every few years.   The business location will be subject to Health Department and Fire Marshall inspections and approvals before opening for business.

Further, There are a number of other licenses at both the county and state level that you may need to obtain, depending on the nature of your bar or restaurant. For full service restaurants that intend to serve alcohol, there may be up to as many as are five specific licenses to obtain, including an Alcoholic Beverage Permit and a Food Processing Plant License. It is essential that you determine exactly which licenses you will need at both state and local levels before attempting to operate your business.

Specifically regarding liquor service, a business owner will need to obtain the proper licenses from the local governing authority.  The Liquor Control Board for the county where your business will operate.  In some locations, a vendor may not be able to obtain a liquor license unless they buy one from another licensee, while other counties prohibit the outright purchase and sale of a liquor license. The costs and requirements of a liquor license will vary throughout each county of Maryland, and are heavily regulated. For example, Harford County, a liquor license applicant must be a resident of the County for at least one year prior to applying for a liquor license and cannot have been convicted of a felony at any time. The license qualifications also vary depending on the registration of the business entity, i.e. corporation vs. limited liability company vs a publicly traded entity.

Apply for Permits…

The next step to take in the process is to apply for the proper permits with regards to the location, occupancy and safety requirements of the county of your business. In order to do so, a potential business owner must ensure that the location they have selected is zoned properly for the nature of their business and the intended use of the property where the business is located.  If performing any renovations you will also need to obtain a building permit.  This will include issuing a use and occupancy permit.

Keep in Mind…

While the information provided above is not an all-inclusive list of the requirements needed in order to open a bar or restaurant, it does establish that the process is lengthy—requiring the satisfaction of various qualifications and that an owner obtain of a multitude of registrations, licenses and permits. Often potential business owners find it advantageous to consult with experienced business attorneys prior to initiating the process, as they are better able to provide guidance tailored to a specific business. If you have questions or would like more information regarding the process of opening a business in Maryland, contact Joseph F. Snee, Jr. or Colleen Ferg Helmlinger  Snee, Lutche, Helmlinger & Spielberger, P.A.