2021.6.8

How to Get a Liquor License in Ontario

Written by Kit Jenkin

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How to Get a Liquor License in Ontario

Are you thinking about serving or selling alcohol in Ontario and wondering how to get a liquor license?  We take you through the steps you need to take to obtain a liquor license in Ontario, including how much it costs.

Obtain an Ontario Business License

First, you must register your business with the Ontario government and obtain your business license, since liquor licenses will not be issued for any business that has not already been registered with the government.

Next, you’ll need to contact your local health department.

Contact the Local Health Department

Before you submit your application for a liquor license, you’ll want to contact your local public health department.  This is because, in Ontario, a liquor sales license commits you to serve both food and alcohol, not just alcohol.

For this reason, you’ll need to be in touch with your local health department to determine what changes, if any, you’ll need to make to your business to safely handle food and beverages before you apply for a liquor license. 

Businesses with multiple locations may need to contact more than one health department.

If you decide you’re not prepared to also serve food, it might be a good idea to postpone your liquor license application.  If, however, you’re already serving food, or are excited about expanding your current business model to add food service, then your next step is to submit the license application.

Submit a Liquor License Application

Now that you’ve gotten your business license, you can apply for your liquor sales license with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO).

Your application will be reviewed with an eye toward public safety, including the location of the business.  If the AGCO feels that awarding a liquor license to your business would not be in the best interests of the public, your application can be denied.

It could take about 10-12 weeks for your application to be processed, and while it may be tempting to serve alcohol while you’re waiting, you can’t legally do so until you’ve received your liquor license.

Along with your application, you’ll need to pay the appropriate fees.

Liquor License Costs

Your license fee will depend on the type of application and whether you choose the two- or four-year term for the license.  Because there are multiple fees for each type of license, we’ve broken them down in the chart below.   

License Type

Two-Year Term

Four-Year Term

Liquor Sale (public notice)

$1,055

$1,355

Liquor Sale (no public notice)

$925

$1,225

Brewery

$3,150

$6,300

Distillery

$2,520

$5,040

Winery

$1,260

$2,520

Ferment on Premises

$1,000

$1,300

Liquor Delivery Services

$500

$700

Note that “by the glass” licensing fees will be different than those listed above, and are available on the AGCO website.  There are also separate fees for retail stores operating on winery, brewery, and distillery grounds.

There are many “specialty” licenses, as well, including:

  • Mini-bar licenses
  • Golf-course endorsements
  • Caterer endorsements
  • Special occasion permits

A complete list of specialized permits and licenses is available on the AGCO website.

After you’ve paid all the fees and submitted your application, you’ll need to put up a public notice that you intend to sell and/or serve alcohol at your place of business.

Post Notice of Application

Once you’ve submitted your application packet, you should receive a placard from AGCO to display on the premises where you wish to sell alcohol.  Your placard serves as public notice and must be displayed for a certain period where it’s easily visible to others.  This allows community members to object to your business selling alcohol in the area.

The length of time your placard must be posted varies depending on your business type and will be included in the documentation you receive from AGCO.

If there are any community objections, a liquor license will not be issued unless those objections can be resolved by you or by AGCO.

Even if there are no objections, you’ll still need to submit some additional paperwork to complete the application process.

Submit Additional Required Forms

While not required when you submit your application, there are two other forms you’ll need to obtain as part of the application process before a liquor license will be issued to you.

Municipal Information Form

You’ll need to submit a Municipal Information Form, which must be completed by a municipal clerk.  Failure to submit this form could delay the issuance of your liquor license.

Municipal officials may still object to your business selling alcohol up to 30 days after they’ve completed the Municipal Information Form on your behalf.

Agency Letter of Approval

All new applicants for a liquor license will also be required to submit the Agency Letter of Approval, which is completed by the local fire, building, and health departments stating that your business meets all current safety codes in each of these areas.  Your liquor license will not be issued until this form is submitted to AGCO.

You’ll also need to submit capacity limits and provide a copy of your business license.

Once you’ve sent in the additional required documentation, you’ll have a pre-license inspection.

Pre-License Inspection

After all of the required forms have been received by AGCO, your place of business will undergo a pre-licensing inspection by an AGCO compliance official. 

During the inspection, you also have the opportunity to ask the official any questions you have about the licensing process or your responsibilities regarding the sale of alcohol. 

If the compliance officer notices any issues or concerns, you’ll be allowed to correct them. It’s possible that your application for a liquor license could be denied if your business fails the inspection and you’re unable to correct the identified issues.

Once you’ve passed the inspection and receive your license, remember to post it in a conspicuous place on the premises.  Last, but not least, get your employees trained to keep your liquor sales license.

Certify Employees

The last step, and one that will ensure you get to keep your hard-earned liquor sales license, is getting all of your employees certified to serve/sell alcohol.  This training is mandatory and must be completed before a new employee’s first day of work. 

If you already have employees and are simply adding alcohol sales or service, then your employees will need to be certified before you start selling/serving alcohol.

It’s good practice for all employees to carry their certification cards on them while working.

Now that you’ve finally gotten your liquor sales license, there’s one last piece of the puzzle you need to think about—your point of sale system.

A Robust POS System

Most business owners rarely, if ever, put much thought into their point of sale system.  But, a bad payment experience can keep existing customers from coming back, and push new customers away if they have issues trying to use your payment processing system.

Epos Now can handle all forms of payment, including mobile point of sale using both Android and Apple phones and tablets.  Of course, it’s compatible with all major credit cards, and works with Google Pay and Apple Pay, too.

No matter what your business needs are—a nimble system, one that’s highly secure, or one that offers multiple options— Epos Now has you covered.

Epos Now Call us now