Washington State Liquor License and Insurance Requirements

Do you know the liquor license and insurance requirements in Washington? Washington State requires businesses that sell, distribute, or manufacture liquor to apply for and attain a business license endorsement and to have and maintain a certain amount of commercial insurance. The process is managed by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board.

Types of Liquor Licenses in Washington

There are two general types of licenses available, including retail and non-retail.


A retail establishment would be a place that sells alcohol either by the whole bottle, glass, or drink. Retail establishments typically include restaurants, bars, taverns, nightclubs, and grocery stores.


Non-retail licenses are for businesses that manufacture or distribute alcohol. This can include wineries, breweries, importers, distributors and distilleries.

Who Needs a Liquor License

If you plan to sell, distribute, or manufacture liquor, you’ll need a liquor endorsement on your business license. Types of businesses that may need liquor endorsements include grocery stores, nightclubs, taverns, restaurants, distilleries, wineries and breweries. Additionally, distributors and importers will also need to have an endorsement.

How to Get a Liquor License

It’s important to understand that liquor licenses in Washington state are endorsements on your business license. These are managed by the Department of Revenue. It’s recommended that you apply for your liquor endorsement 90 days prior to your business opening date. While it may seem prudent to apply sooner than 90 days, it’s not recommended. Early applications may be withdrawn, resulting in the need to resubmit on a date that’s closer to your opening date.

In addition to applying for the business license and endorsement, you’ll also need to fill out an Alcohol Dealer Registration. The Alcohol Dealer Registration form will need to be mailed to the U.S. Department of the Treasury Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), or alternatively, you can fill out and submit the form online.

The Process of Getting a Liquor License in Washington State

Once you fill out and submit your application for a liquor license, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) will review it.

  1. The WSLCB receives your application around 90 days prior to your business’ opening date.
  2. A licensing specialist will be assigned to review your license and contact you about a week after your application is received.
  3. A telephone interview will be scheduled to discuss your business plans, location, partners, and licensing requirements.
  4. You will be asked to submit certain business documents, including the structure of your business, your financial plan, your startup costs, your lease or purchase agreements for your location, the floorplan of your business, a statement about your personal and criminal history, and a public posting notification. It’s important to note that you will be required to inform the local authorities that your business will be opening, and you’ll have to notify any nearby schools and churches.
  5. Once all of your documents have been submitted, they will be reviewed.
  6. A briefing and inspection of the location must be completed.
  7. You will receive a decision on your application for a liquor license.

Washington State Insurance Requirements for Businesses in the Alcohol Industry

Before you apply for your business and liquor licenses, don’t forget to get insurance. During the application process, you will need to prove that you have the minimum required amount of business and dram shop insurance.

  • You’ll need to purchase your insurance from an insurance carrier that is licensed and authorized to do business in Washington state.
  • The insurance carrier must hold a minimum rating of Class VII or A.
  • The insurance must be taken out in the name of the applicant entity, and it must be the physical location of the business.
  • When taking out the policy, the state, employees, agents, and any volunteers must also be named as insured on the policy.
  • The business must have a commercial general liability policy of no less than 1 million dollars.

Liquor Liability Insurance

In addition to a general liability policy, you should also have a liquor liability insurance policy. Liquor liability insurance financially protects you from damages caused by an inebriated patron while they’re in your business and after they leave. For example, if an inebriated patrol got into their car and crashed into a mailbox or another vehicle while they were on their way home, your liquor liability insurance would help protect you against any claims of damages for over-serving the patron. This policy goes above and beyond your general commercial liability policy.

Business and Dram Shop Insurance with Boyd Insurance Brokerage Inc.

If you’re a business that sells, distributes, or manufactures alcohol, we can help you find the right commercial policies in Washington. We offer commercial liability, liquor liability, commercial auto insurance, retail store insurance, and restaurant insurance.

To learn more about our commercial business insurance policies and to get a quote, give us a call at 509-340-2693.



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