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44819State By State Liquor License Fees - USA only

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  • Alli Bugger
    Jan 23, 2014
    When Gary asked what it would cost to get a distiller's license in Massachusetts, I thought it might be interesting to compare the fees that each state charges to get a manufacturer's distillery license. This is not an in-depth scientific survey and I in no way guarantee accuracy, however I did attempt to look at the website of each alcohol authority in every state.  In a number of cases, the websites were either difficult to follow or did not explain the differences in license types and I had to call the authority and ask an agent my questions to be sure I was on the right track. Katie in Iowa went so far as to send me a description of the various licenses she had prepared to send out to anyone interested in opening a distillery in Iowa. The only questions I asked were: 1) is a state license required, 2) how much in the application fee and the annual fee, 3) is a surety bond required and if so how much, 4) I added any comments that I thought interesting.  Here is what I think I learned:
    1) The fees are all over the map from $10/yr. in Kansas to $9,000/yr. in Massachusetts.  I have no idea where the fee structures came from or what is driving them.  
    2) This is significant - Many states are moving toward micro or craft distilleries as a tactic to encourage new businesses and jobs.  Many of the micro type licenses carry specific stipulations - in West Virginia a micro distillery must buy at lest 25% of all of their natural ingredients from producers/suppliers in West Virginia.  Most micro type licenses allow for limited production of spirits that range from 20,000 to 30,000 proof gallons per year.  This makes good economic sense for every state, so while you are waiting for your congressman in DC to call you back on legalization, call you state representative and tell them to get on the band wagon with micro distilleries that carry very low permit fees. 
    3) The fees in many states make legal licensing very affordable if you choose to go the legal route.  Craft or micro licenses are a win-win for everyone and if your state has or is considering this new law, that will make it even more affordable for the hobbyist.  The TTB License cost nothing but the minimum $5000 bond - I called my insurance agent yesterday and a 4 year bond in $46/yr.  The most expensive pain in the ass will be your state requirements/fees. 
    4)  The primary focus of the TTB is taxation.  All they want is your $13.50 per gallon of booze.  State laws are as much or more geared toward enforcement of all the things you can't do as apposed to what you can do.   Many states have stand alone alcohol beverage control agencies while others are part of the state police or revenue department.  Most state offices are understaffed - of the 12 or so states I called, only 2 actually answered the phone; for the rest I had to leave a message.  All eventually called me back.
    5)  While I believe that our primary goal is to legalize hobby distilling at the national level, there will still be the individual states to deal with.  There are a million laws out there about alcohol use, but if we can get the TTB laws changed to coincide with hobby/home beer and wine laws, the states may be more easily convinced to go along. 
    Hope some find this interesting and helpful.  If you have any questions, contact me at allibugger@....
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