City of Madison


How do I apply for a liquor license?


What's the difference between Class A, Class B, and Class C licenses?

  • Class A:
    This type of license is for establishments that are intending to sell alcohol for carry-out. Typical examples of Class A licensed establishments are liquor stores, grocery stores, and convenience stores.
  • Class B:
    This type of license is for establishments that are selling alcohol for on-site consumption. If you are planning on selling liquor, you are required to have a Class B Combo License, which covers both liquor and beer. If you are planning on only selling beer, you are able to apply just for the Class B Beer license. You cannot hold both a Class A and Class B license at the same time.
  • Class C:
    This type of license is for on-site wine sale and consumption only. This license is not necessary if you already have or are applying for a Class B Combo license. If you intend to only sell beer and wine, you would apply for a Class B Beer and Class C Wine license.


Who needs a bartending (operator's) license? How do I apply for one?

  • State law requires that there is always one licensed bartender on duty at all times. The agent on the liquor license does not have to obtain a bartending license, if they have a bar manager on staff that oversees all liquor sales. In order to manage an establishment alone or work an alcohol retail store alone, a bartending license is required. You will be required to complete a beverage server training in order to obtain a license.
  • Operator Application (PDF)
  • If you do not fill the application out correctly, or if you have a history of alcohol-related misconduct, your application may be flagged and reviewed by the Alcohol License Review Committee (ALRC). The ALRC will make a determination as to whether or not you will be granted or denied a liquor license. Here is a list of items the ALRC considers; Guideline 6 gives suggestions of information that one can provide to the ALRC if your application is up for review:


When do I need an Entertainment License?

  • You will need to apply for an entertainment license if you plan on providing live, amplified entertainment and your establishment has a capacity of 50 or more people.
  • There are two different types of entertainment licenses; "18+" and "21+ Entertainment Licenses".
  • An "18+ Entertainment License" allows for those patrons who are not the legal drinking age, but are 18 or above to enter your establishment during the provided entertainment. This would only be necessary for those establishments that do not already have the ability to host underage patrons.
  • A "21+ Entertainment License" is for all other establishments that wish to provide any sort of live, amplified entertainment.


When do I have to turn in my applications?


What are some questions that the ALRC is likely to ask (for new applicants)?

  • Have you contacted your alderperson? What sort of feedback did you receive?
  • Have you contacted the Police Captain in your district? What feedback did you receive?
  • Have you contacted the local neighborhood association(s)? What was their response?
  • Have you contacted the Food and Alcohol Policy Director, Mark Woulf, to discuss your application?
  • What is the design, type, and nature of the proposed establishment?
  • How will this establishment add to the vitality of the area?
  • Do you have previous managerial experience and/or experience operating an establishment with a liquor license?
  • What percentage of food and alcohol will you serve and how did you determine those percentages?
  • What is your capacity and how was this determined (Building Inspection, architect, etc.)?
  • What plans will the establishment have in place to deal with security, noise, crowd control, parking, live entertainment, etc.?


The ALRC approved my license, does it automatically get issued?

  • No. The ALRC may approve your license, but the Common Council ultimately makes the final decision. In almost all cases, the Common Council will abide by the recommendation of the ALRC. However, your license is not official until the Common Council approves the license and you go to the City Clerk's office to have it issued. You must have your license issued by the City Clerk in order to begin legally selling alcohol. If you need to begin selling alcohol after the ALRC approval, and prior to the next scheduled Common Council meeting, you can obtain a provisional (temporary) liquor license from the City Clerk.


Can I deliver alcohol?

  • No. The law prohibits the delivery of alcohol without the original purchase occurring face-to-face within the licensed premises. If the sale is conducted in person at the establishment, a delivery can be set up. The person who purchased the alcohol at the time of sale must be present to sign to accept the delivery.


What are the closing procedures for daylight savings time?

  • Standard closing times: Monday-Friday: 2:00 am; Saturday and Sunday: 2:30 am
  • For "Fall Back" (Clocks are moved back an hour): The time change takes affect at 2:00 am local time (at that time going from 2:00 am back to 1:00 am); thus, does not affect regular operations.
  • For "Spring Forward" (Clocks are moved forward an hour): The official bar time for this day is 3:30 am local time. At 2:00 am, clocks are moved forward to 3:00 am, the bar would then close at 3:30 am. In effect, there is no change in the total hours of operation.


What are the rules for closing on New Year's Day?

  • All Class B and Class C establishments are not required to close on New Year's Day