Liquor License FAQ

FAQ1. Who is required to get a liquor license?
Any person who sells liquor in Arizona must apply for a liquor license at the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control (the “Dept. of Liquor”). A liquor license application must be filed for any new liquor establishment (a “new license”) or for any change in ownership or location of an existing license (a “person transfer” or “location transfer”).
2. Who governs the issuance of a liquor license?
Liquor licenses are governed by Arizona state law. Thus, the Dept.of Liquor and the State Liquor Board have the ultimate authority over the issuance of liquor licenses in Arizona. The seven-member State Liquor Board is appointed by the governor. The liquor board usually does not get involved in the issuance of “uncontested” liquor licenses. However, the State Liquor Board will conduct a hearing on a license application if the El Mirage City Council objects to approval of the license.

3. How can I speak for or against a liquor license?
Any person who resides or who owns or leases property within one mile of the applicant’s premises may submit written comments to the city stating whether they are for or against the application within the 20-day posting period. Written comments should be mailed or faxed to the City of El Mirage, City Clerk’s Office, 12145 NW Grand Ave, El Mirage, AZ 85335. The fax number is (623) 876-4603.

In addition, any person – no matter where he/she lives – who wishes to speak before the El Mirage City Council concerning a liquor license application may do so at a public hearing. The City Council holds a public hearing on each application immediately prior to voting on whether to recommend approval or denial of the application to the State Liquor Board.
4. Qualifications for Regular Liquor Licenses
Under Arizona law, the grounds for the State Liquor Board to deny a regular liquor license application are as follows:

Personal: An applicant must show that he/she has the “capability, qualifications and reliability” to hold a license. Also, an applicant cannot apply for a new liquor license if he/she had an existing liquor license revoked within the past year. In addition, an applicant cannot apply for a liquor license if he/she has been convicted of a felony within the past five years.

The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that if a transferable liquor license has already been issued for a business in which a person-to-person transfer is being sought (e.g., a new owner of an existing bar or liquor store), location issues are not grounds for denying the transfer. In other cases except for private club licenses), an applicant must show that the “public convenience requires and that the best interest of the community will be substantially served by the issuance of the license.” Particular location restrictions include the following:

  • With certain exceptions, no retailer’s license can be issued for any premises that are, at the time of application, within 300 feet of a church or of a public or private school building (grades K-12), or within 300 feet of a fenced recreational area adjacent to such school. The 300-foot restriction does not apply to temporary licenses, restaurant licenses, hotel/motel licenses, government licenses, fenced golf course areas, and grandfathered licenses.
  • If an application for a new location has been previously rejected by the Dept. of Liquor, no new application for the same location can be filed for at least one year after such rejection. This rule applies only if the State Liquor Board denies a license, not if an application is withdrawn by the applicant before a formal denial.

Type of Business:
A liquor license cannot be issued if it would be “inappropriate” for the type of business. An inappropriate business is one that cannot clearly demonstrate that the sale of liquor is “directly connected to its primary purpose” and that such sale is not “merely incidental to its primary purpose.”

5. Qualifications for Temporary Special Event and Wine Festival Liquor Licenses
A special event liquor license may only be issued to a political party or campaign committee, a civic, charitable or religious organization, or a fraternal organization that has been in existence for at least five years. A wine festival license may only be issued to a domestic farm winery.

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