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What licences are required to sell alcohol?

Updated November 29, 2022

Whether you want to open a café, bar or restaurant, you will need a specific license if you want to serve alcoholic beverages to your customers. To help you understand this, this article explains the regulations, the different licenses related to the sale of alcohol, and the steps required to obtain your license.

The license is mandatory

A restaurant license is required if you are opening an establishment with a liquor store. However, there are several types of licenses depending on the beverages you offer, and the service: you will not need the same license if you serve the beverage during the meal or not.

When opening your restaurant, you should therefore ask yourself a number of questions:

  • "Do I want to sell alcoholic beverages?"
  • "Will I serve alcohol outside of meals?"
  • "What type(s) of alcohol do I want to sell?"

Your answers to these questions will guide your choice, and allow you to select the appropriate license.

Licenses and alcohol groups

First of all, you should know that the different types of alcohol are divided into four groups (formerly 5), classified by alcohol content. To these groups correspond the different licenses.

Group 1 - free sale

  • All non-alcoholic drinks
  • No license is required to sell this type of beverage

Group 3 - license III

  • These are non-distilled fermented beverages and natural sweet wines (wine, beer, cider, perry, liqueur wines, wine-based aperitifs and strawberry, raspberry, blackcurrant or cherry liqueurs, not exceeding 18 degrees of pure alcohol). To summarize, these are alcoholic beverages below 18° of alcohol.
  • To sell this type of beverage, it is necessary to obtain a License III (License 3), also known as a restricted license or small restaurant license.

Groups 4 and 5 - license IV

  • These are rums, distilled spirits and other alcoholic beverages above 18° of alcohol (gin, vodka, whisky...)
  • To sell these drinks, you need a License IV (License 4), also known as a large license, full license or restaurant license.

Good to know : you wonder where the group 2 license went ? It was merged with the group 3 license in 2015. The licenses II still valid therefore automatically become Licenses III.

Alcohol and Meals

You may choose to serve alcohol outside of meals or not; you will need to apply for a different license.

If you only serve alcohol during meals, you will have to apply for a "restaurant license" (for all alcohol groups) or a "small restaurant license" (for group 3 drinks only, i.e. wines, beers, ciders etc.).

If you want to sell alcohol outside of meals as well, you will have to turn to a license III (to sell only wines, beers, ciders etc.) or to a license IV (to be able to serve all types of alcohol). In this case, you will not need a restaurant license or a small restaurant license.

Finally, if you want to sell alcoholic beverages to take away, you only need to have the license corresponding to the beverages you want to sell (license III or license IV). If you want to sell your drinks to take away only, you will need a small license to take away for group 3 drinks (cider, wine, beer...), and a license to take away for alcoholic beverages over 18°.

The license application

Now that you know which license to ask for, you can proceed with the steps! Remember that the liquor license is mandatory to sell wine and all other alcoholic beverages in your establishment.

Two steps are necessary to apply for your license: obtaining a business permit, and the prior declaration.

The operating permit is issued following a mandatory 20-hour face-to-face training (6 hours for an operating permit renewal). This training must be provided by an approved organization and aims to inform you about the prevention and fight against alcoholism, the protection of minors and the reduction of public drunkenness, the protection of the environment and the protection of the environment.This course is designed to inform you about the prevention and control of alcoholism, the protection of minors and the control of public drunkenness, the sale of tobacco, the control of noise, the legislation on drugs and the general principles of civil and criminal liability.

Once you have obtained your operating permit, it is valid for 10 years.

You will also have to make a prior declaration at the town hall with the cerfa n°11542 04. A little tip: get there in advance! You must have made the request at least two weeks before the opening of the establishment.

Following this declaration, you will receive a receipt of declaration of license.

This receipt will be attached to your business creation file when you register with the Centre de formalité des entreprises (5CFE) and when you register with the Registre du Commerce et des Sociétés (RCS). It is this very last step that allows you to give a legal existence to your bar or restaurant.

Now that you know everything, all you have to do is start. The hardest part will be choosing the type of drinks you will sell in your establishment. Good luck!

Need some help?

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Marie Lecrosnier-Wittkowsky for Les Grappes

Restaurants, Bars, Hotels: simply supply yourself with wine!

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