This article is meant to provide general information about the process to obtain a liquor license and other regulatory and compliance permits for operations of a retail establishment selling alcohol for consumption on-premises, such as a restaurant or a bar.
Considering applying for a liquor license in Nebraska? Luckily as compared to other states, Nebraska’s liquor license process is relatively straight-forward. This quick guide provides general information about the process of obtaining a liquor license in Nebraska.
General Liquor License Types
The first step is to decide which type of license works best for the establishment’s situation; most will want to apply for either a Class I or a Class C license. Although there are many similarities between the two licenses, a big difference to note is where the alcoholic beverages can be consumed.
The Class I license allows for the sale of alcoholic beverages (including beer, wine, and liquor) for on premises consumption only. The Class C license allows for the sale of alcohol for either on premises consumption or off premises consumption. In other words, the Class C license can sell sealed alcoholic beverages to customers to take with them.
Generally, a Class C license may be a good option if your business concept is considering adding off-premises sales or if an establishment brews their own beer or has significant to-go sales of food. However, depending on your business concept, it is important to note that you may need a combination of licenses. There are also licenses permitting the sale of just beer and/or wine, which typically have lower fees than licenses that permit the sale of liquor.
The Nebraska Liquor License Application Process
At a high-level, the Nebraska liquor license application process involves:
1) Submitting a liquor license application to the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission (NLCC) for initial review. The application is then transferred to the local authority (usually the city where the establishment will be located).
2) The local authority makes a recommendation to approve or deny the license. A public hearing on the application may be held, at which a representative or designated license application manager should appear.
3) Once a recommendation is given by the local authority, the application is returned to the NLCC. Assuming no significant issues arise during the process and/or the local authority did not make a recommendation to deny, the NLCC may administratively approve the license for issuance without a second formal hearing.
4) The licensed premises must also receive approval from the State Fire Marshall, the Nebraska Department of Health and pass a background check administered by the Nebraska State Patrol before being issued a license.
Typically, the liquor license process in Nebraska takes around 90 to 120 days.
Depending on the local jurisdiction, there may be some “quirks” in the licensing process. For example, Omaha requires a detailed property search be conducted for the purpose of notifying nearby neighbors of the liquor license hearing, and Lincoln has special requirements for employee training.
Renewing Your Nebraska Liquor License
Renewals of retail liquor licenses are generally straight-forward. The applicant must pay an annual license fee and notify the NLCC of any material changes to the licensee, such as a new manager or a change of ownership. The renewal application and license fee can be submitted online.
Be aware that any licensee should provide updates to the NLCC of material changes within 30 to 60 days of the change occurring, no matter when the license renewal is due.
Other Frequently Asked Questions About Nebraska Liquor Licenses
Q: Can an establishment apply/receive one license that covers multiple locations?
A: Unlike some other states, Nebraska does not issue “master” licenses for multiple locations operated by the same entity – each location must apply for a new liquor license.
Q: Does the establishment need to sell food in order to receive any particular license type?
A: For retail liquor licenses, there are no minimum food sales that are required for the establishment. For instance, a bar and a family restaurant can have the same category of liquor license.
Q: Are there any other types of licenses or permits needed to operate a restaurant or bar?
A: Most local jurisdictions do not require a business license or permit to operate, although the establishment will need to obtain a Sales Tax Permit from the Nebraska Department of Revenue. Health permits are issued by the Nebraska Department of Health.
The above guidance is intended to provide general guidance on how to obtain a liquor license in Nebraska. It’s recommended to work with a licensed attorney experienced in assisting clients with obtaining a liquor license, should you need further assistance.
Fraser Stryker’s Liquor Licensing and Compliance attorneys routinely assist both national and locally based restaurants, bars, and other retail concepts in connection with obtaining liquor licenses. Please reach out to Robert Futhey or Ryan Ricke with questions or to learn more about the Nebraska liquor licensing process.
Author: Robert W. Futhey
This article has been prepared for general information purposes and (1) does not create or constitute an attorney-client relationship, (2) is not intended as a solicitation, (3) is not intended to convey or constitute legal advice, and (4) is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a qualified attorney. Always seek professional counsel prior to taking action.
Robert W. Futhey