How to Apply for a Liquor License

Colorado liquor and beer retail licenses are issued by dual licensing authorities. Your county local licensing authority must first approve all retail licenses before forwarding liquor and beer license and permit applications to the State Liquor Enforcement Division. Licenses can take several months to acquire; you must communicate with your local licensing authority well in advance of your opening date. ALL NEW AND TRANSFER APPLICATIONS MUST BE RECEIVED AT THE COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OFFICE AT LEAST 90 DAYS PRIOR TO CONSIDERATION.

If you are submitting a New Application or Transfer of ownership application, please call to schedule an appointment with the Licensing Coordinator at (970) 382-6252.

Types of Licenses and Permits:

Here is a list of state and local retail liquor licenses and permits:

Art Gallery Permit
Arts License
Beer and Wine
Bed and Breakfast Permit
Brew Pub
Club license
Fermented Malt Beverage (Off-Premise) License
Hotel and Restaurant License
Liquor licensed drugstore
Lodging and Entertainment
Mini Bar Permits
Optional Premises
Resort Complex
Retail Gaming Tavern
Retail liquor store
Special Events Permit
Tasting Permit
Tavern License
Vintner’s Restaurant

Descriptions of these licenses and permits can be found in the Colorado Liquor Code.

Who Can Apply?

Colorado liquor and beer licenses may be issued in the name of natural persons, corporations, partnerships and limited liability companies. Applicants and other persons involved with partnerships, corporations, or limited liability companies must be at least 21 years of age. Persons under 21 may be involved with an established trust as long as the trustee is at least 21, and the person under 21 cannot benefit from the trust until that person reaches the age of 21.

Licenses are issued to the individual or corporate entity applying for use at a specific location. You must prove, by deed or lease, that you have control of the premises to be licensed for a minimum of one year from the date the license is issued.

If you plan to incorporate the business, do so before you apply for a liquor license. If a husband and wife partnership secures a license and decides later to incorporate, the license must be transferred to the corporation. This involves going through the entire application process a second time – something most applicants fervently want to avoid.

All corporations and limited liability companies must be registered with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office and authorized to do business. Foreign corporations and foreign limited liability companies must also register with the Secretary of State and be authorized to do business in Colorado. Corporate arrangements, including application for a State Sales Tax number, must be in process when you apply. The State will not issue your license until a sales tax account has been established. This can take 3 weeks from receipt of your application.

Applications: (Regulation 47-310)

Application forms for all licenses and permits are available at the Colorado Dept. of Revenue web site.

By state statute, only complete applications will be accepted, i.e. forms completed, fees submitted, and all supporting documentation attached. When the application and fees  are ready, please make a copy for your records and submit the original package to the Licensing Coordinator. It is best to call for an appointment at (970) 382-6252 so that the application can be reviewed before submittal. Please make every attempt to fill out all forms completely and accurately. Failure to disclose any pertinent information is, in itself, a basis for denying the license.

After acceptance of the application package, a date will be set for the hearing before the Board of County Commissioners. The hearing date must be at least 30 days after the date your application is accepted. When the date is set, a notice sign will be given to you that must be posted, where it is clearly visible from the road, for at least 10 days prior to the hearing. A Sheriff's deputy will check each day to make sure it's displayed. You, or an agent representing you, must attend the hearing.

Once your application is submitted, the Licensing Coordinator will make arrangements to have an investigator from the building department and San Juan Basin Health (if necessary for your license) inspect your location and facility. A background check will be conducted by the Durango Police Department and the La Plata County Sheriff’s office. These reports will be included in your application packet for the Board of Commissioners.

Once the Board of County Commissioners has approved your license application, the Licensing Coordinator will submit your application and all supporting material to the Colorado Department of Revenue, Liquor Licensing Division. It can take up to six weeks for the Liquor Licensing Division to review your application and issue a license. Your license will be mailed to the local Licensing Coordinator who will mail it to you along with the license from La Plata County.  Both licenses should be prominently displayed in your place of business.

Concurrent Review:

A local licensing authority, or a license applicant with local authority approval, can request that the state licensing authority conduct a concurrent review of a new license application prior to the local licensing authority's final approval of the license application. This  is highly recommended as it can speed up the process for review of a new license application by having both authorities review the application simulataneously. The fee for concurrent review is $100.00.

Local licensing authorities who permit a concurrent review will continue to independently review the applicant's license application. The state licensing authority will advise the local licensing authority of any items that it finds that could result in the denial of the license application. Upon correction of the noted discrepancies, the state licensing authority will notify the local licensing authority of its conditional approval of the license application subject to the final approval by the local licensing authority. The state licensing authority will issue the applicant's state liquor license upon receiving evidence of final approval by the local licensing authority.

Land Use Permit:

La Plata County Code requires that the applicant obtain the appropriate land use permit from the Planning Department. Please do this before submitting your liquor license application. No liquor license application may be accepted until this permit is issued.

Individual History Record and Fingerprinting:

Anyone with a 10 % or greater ownership interest in a liquor license, including all general partners in a partnership, and limited partners owning at least 10% of the stock of a partnership; all officers and directors of a corporation, and stockholders of a corporation owning at least 10% of the stock of such corporation; all limited liability company managing members, and officers or other limited liability company members with at least 10% ownership interest in such a company must be fingerprinted and fill out an Individual History Record (DR8404-I). In addition, all managers of a Hotel and Restaurant or a Tavern License must fill out an Individual History Record and be fingerprinted. Fingerprints will be sent to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (C.B.I.).

Fingerprints are taken at the Sheriff’s Office by appointment. The charge for fingerprints is $20 for the first fingerprint card, and $10 for each additional card. You may contact them at (970) 382-7010 to make an appointment. The charge for fingerprints is $20 for the first card and $10 for each additional card.

Fill in all blanks on the fingerprint card and return completed cards to the Licensing Coordinator at the La Plata County Administration Building at 1101 E. 2nd Ave., along with a business check, cashier’s check or money order made payable to C.B.I. at $38.50 for each applicant. C.B.I. will not take cash or a personal check. You may have one check for each set, or one check for multiple fingerprints on the same application.

Neighborhood Compatibility and Petitions:

Before it can approve a new liquor license application, the local liquor license authority must consider the reasonable requirements of the neighborhood and the desires of the adult inhabitants. The burden of producing such information in support of the application is on you, the applicant. Although the law doesn't require that you make this showing by presenting petitions, this is the method most often chosen by applicants. If you choose to use the petitioning method for showing neighborhood needs and desires, you should follow the information provided in these guidelines, including the sample petition format provided.

The designated neighborhood, in most cases, should encompass an area within approximately one-half mile of the premises under consideration. The liquor licensing authority may, at its discretion, enlarge or reduce the area encompassed in the designated neighborhood. The neighborhood designation will be approved by the liquor licensing authority prior to the public hearing on the license. Petitions circulated by the applicant or its agents shall be on forms furnished by the Licensing Coordinator and shall be submitted no later than seven (7) days before the public hearing. Petitions submitted to establish the desires of the neighborhood shall only contain signatures of residents and/or owners or managers of businesses 21 years of age or older within the designated neighborhood. Petitions shall contain the signature, address and assertion of lawful age of each signatory. An indication of approval or denial of the application and a reason for the response is requested. You must demonstrate a reasonable effort to contact your neighbors by knocking on doors at least twice or sending certified letters. You need not contact every neighbor, but you must demonstrate that most neighbors are in favor of your license application.

Our GIS department can assist you with a map of your neighborhood, and sample petitions can be obtained from the Licensing Coordinator.

Diagram of Premises:

The Colorado Liquor Licensing Authority and La Plata County require that a diagram of the area to be licensed accompany your application. A “Licensed Premise” is defined as ”the premises specified in an application for a license which are owned or in possession of the licensee within which such licensee is authorized to sell, dispense, or serve alcohol beverages.” (Sec. 3-44-103(14), C.R.S.)

Plans and specifications shall be on paper 8 1/2 by 11 inches in size and may be hand drawn using a ruler. It does not have to be to scale, but should state the outside dimensions of the structure and show the floor plan and layout of the interior of the building where the license will be active, including walls, partitions, ingress, egress and kitchen areas.

If a hotel and restaurant license is applied for, plans and specifications shall, in addition, show the following:

(1) Total floor area where meals will be served;
(2) Location of all bar counters;
(3) Size and dimension of the kitchen and other food preparation areas; and
(4) Location and number of ranges, stoves or ovens, refrigerators, food lockers, dishwashers, sinks and restrooms;
(5) Clearly define any patios or other areas where alcoholic beverages may be served.

Highlight or clearly outline with black marker all actual premises where alcohol will be bought, served or carried. Provide a separate diagram for each level or floor to be licensed. If, however, the floors are essentially the same, such as might be the case in a hotel, then one diagram of the main floor accompanied with an additional diagram of a typical guest floor, stating that there are “X” number of similar floors is satisfactory.

The licensee must at all times have legal possession of the licensed premises through ownership, lease or other written arrangement which must only be in the name of the licensee. Additionally, a licensed premises must also qualify under other laws and regulations such as zoning, health and fire codes.

Changes or Alterations to a Licensed Premises:

Keep in mind that your liquor license is unique to the owner, premises and type of license. If you make any changes or alterations to any of these, you must receive prior written approval from both La Plata County  and the Colorado Department of Revenue by filing a Permit Application and Report of Changes DR8442.

To “alter” means:
any increase or decrease in the capacity of the establishment; moving, adding or increasing the size of the bar; or sealing off, creating, or relocating doors or passages. In other words, a licensee may not change or modify the premises in such a way that would affect the basic character or physical structure as it was previously approved, unless new approval is obtained.

Checklists for License Applications:

New Applicant Checklist
Transfer Applicant Checklist
Special Events Permit Checklist