TABC License and Permit FAQs
Note: This FAQs page has not yet been updated to reflect new laws, license and permit structure, fees, and technology that took effect Sept. 1, 2021. To learn more, visit the TABC 2021 Changes page.
A retailer is a business like as a package store (liquor store), bar, restaurant or grocery store. The alcoholic beverage industry in Texas has three tiers —manufacturing, distribution/wholesale and retail. At its most basic, manufacturers make alcoholic beverages, distributors and wholesalers deliver them to businesses, and retailers sell directly to consumers. Of course, each license and permit has certain authorities to make, distribute or sell alcohol, and you’ll need to check your license or permit type to see what’s allowed.
You will have to fill out an application and obtain all required certifications from the city, county, Texas Secretary of State and the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. You may have to post a 60-day sign and publish notice in the local newspaper. The application has to be submitted to your local TABC office.
Follow these steps to apply:
- See the license and permit type descriptions to find the best type that will best fit your business. Contact your city or county to be sure the license or permit chosen is available in your business area.
- Download or print the application packet and instructions from our TABC Licensing Forms page.
- Fill out the application and visit your business’s local city offices, county offices and state comptroller offices to get certified to do business. Your application may also need to put a notice to the surrounding community by sign, by mail and in the local newspaper.
- Submit your application in person or by mail to your local TABC office, and our staff will help you start the payment process.
The approximate time to obtain a permit is 45-60 days. This time frame can vary depending on the type of license or permit you applied for and the certification required by the local governing authorities in the city and county of the proposed location. In some situations, it can take longer than 60 days, so it is important begin the application process as early as possible.
Fees and surcharges differ based on the type of license or permit you are applying for. See the fee chart.
A license or permit is good for two years. It expires on the second anniversary of the date it is issued.
If you’re a retailer applying for a new license or permit, you might have to post a sign at your businesses to notify the public of your intent to sell alcohol. Whether you need a sign depends on if your location has been licensed or permitted for on-premise sales in the two years before our first review of your application. If you’re required to post it, your outdoor sign needs to be visible for 60 days before TABC issues your license or permit.
Not displaying this sign could delay the application process. You can get copies of your 60-Day Sign at your local TABC office or download the 60-Day Sign, print and assemble.
Contact the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau before you apply to determine which permit, if any, you would need to conduct your business.
Under current law, alcohol permits are only issued to a permanent physical address that has been certified by local authorities. For example, a food truck that moves around a city does not have a permanent physical address.
Temporary Permits and Fundraising Events
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code issues temporary permits in two scenarios:
- Retail permittees may be eligible to get a temporary permit to sell or serve alcoholic beverages at an event taking place at a location separate from their TABC-licensed premises.
- Certain nonprofits may be eligible to get a temporary permit to sell or serve alcoholic beverages at a special event not being held on TABC-licensed premises.
You can’t get a temporary permit to sell alcoholic beverages if you don’t hold a TABC retailer permit or represent a nonprofit.
Follow these steps to apply:
- View the list of temporary permits to see which permit you should apply for.
- Download the Temporary License/Permit Application Packet with Instructions.
- Apply in person at your local TABC office.
Submit your application 10 business days before the event to avoid additional fees and processing delays.
Visit our Temporary Licenses and Permits page for more information about permit types, who is eligible to apply for them, and which chapter in the Alcoholic Beverage Code addresses them.
TABC Marketing Practice Bulletin MPB-026 includes a summary of various options available to nonprofits that wish to serve alcoholic beverages at fundraising events.
Yes. It is legal to provide free alcoholic beverages without a permit. But to be truly "free," the beverage must be available to any adult who walks in the door and requests it. If it’s only for paying customers, the assumption is that the cost of the alcohol is included in the price of the service. This constitutes a sale of alcoholic beverages, and you would need a TABC permit. When you provide the alcoholic beverage, there can’t be any expectation of receiving money. You can’t ask for a donation or tip. You will need a permit if the drinks will only be available to paying guests.
A couple examples of "free” include:
- A wedding reception with free drinks.
- A boutique that serves free wine while you shop, even if you don't buy anything.
A few examples of “not free” include:
- A nail salon with a "free" drink when you pay for a manicure.
- If you buy tickets to attend a charity ball and they serve "free" drinks.
- If a tip jar sits next to a keg of beer expecting "donations.”