Whiskey on the Rocks

Types of Liquor Licenses Explained

Anyone who wants to sell or supply alcohol is required to have a liquor license. This is true for organisations, businesses, and individuals alike. These licenses are mandatory, and they need to be kept in good standing for those who want to continue serving and selling alcohol.

What Is a Liquor License?

Just as you need a license to drive a motor vehicle, you need to have a license if you want to supply alcohol to a business or an individual. All manner of businesses involved in the sale of alcohol will need to have a license. This includes individual agents, restaurants, liquor stores, bars, breweries, etc. The type of license that you will need will differ, though. Let’s look at what types of liquor licenses exist today and learn a bit more about each of them.

What Types of Liquor Licenses Exist?

Below are six types of liquor licenses, and each applies to different situations.


An agent license is used by those who are going to be promoting and marketing liquor products that are produced by manufacturers outside of Canada. Interestingly, you will need to have two types of licenses if you want to be an authorized agent. These include the Agent License from the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, as well as an Import Agent License from the Liquor Distribution Branch.

The agent’s license will let you promote, market, and take wholesale orders for products. You can request and receive orders only from certain licensees. These include those who have a liquor primary license, a food primary license, licensee retail stores, and rural licensee stores, wine stores, and government liquor stores.

You are not allowed to sell directly to the public, and you can only import liquor products through the Liquor Distribution Branch.

Food Primary/Class A

Types of Liquor Licenses: Food Primeary/Class A. Image: Wine being poured at dinner on a restaurant

This license is for businesses that have food as their primary source of business. There are a couple of types of licenses that fall under this category—those that allow minors into the establishment, such as a family restaurant that also sells alcohol, and those where liquor is the main source of business and food is secondary.

For a minors-allowed license, the food service must be available during all hours of liquor service. For the minors-prohibited license, the food service must be a minimum of snack food, such as nuts. Food service is not required after 11 p.m. There are also options for a manufacturer’s taproom license and a manufacturer’s lounge license.

Liquor Primary/Class B

Class B licenses are for the sale and consumption of alcohol in areas where people have to pay to enter. This would include things such as a stadium, a tourist location, or a convention center, for example. It can also be used by businesses that provide goods and services to the public where selling alcohol or food is not the primary purpose of their business.

Liquor Manufacturing/Class E

Types of Liquor Licenses: Liquor Manufacturing/Class E. Image: Beer bottles on a factory's production belt

This is a license used for manufacturing. The Class E license can be used by a vintner, brewer, or distiller, for example. These are areas where the alcohol is manufactured and packaged. To qualify for the license, you will need to have a permanent facility. What types of liquor licenses exist beyond just for the manufacturer? You will find these can include estate manufacturers, as well as blending and packaging companies.

Liquor Retail Store/Class D

The Class D license is needed by any store that sells alcohol that is meant to be consumed off the premises. Retail liquor stores are the primary types of businesses that would need this license. The same is true of grocery stores. This could also include a facility that makes and sells alcohol to the public or special event liquor licensees. Delivery service companies, commercial caterers, and even church supply businesses that sell sacramental wine will need this type of license.

Tied House

A tied house liquor license is becoming more popular because there are more and more wineries, distilleries, and breweries that are offering places on-site where people can buy and sample the company’s wares. With a tied house license, the holder is not required to sell a variety of brands. They can simply sell and serve what they make.

As you can see, there are many types of liquor licenses. Which one of these applies to your business?

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What Is a BC Electronic Identification and Why It’s Needed For a Licensing Application?

When you wish to apply for any liquor or cannabis-related license, you are required to obtain and use a BCeID (BC Electronic Identification). Applicants log in through the BCeID. All of their personal and business information is accessible within a dashboard that allows them to apply in a few short steps easily. 

What is a BCeID, and why do you need to obtain one to apply? The service is relatively new, and many people are unfamiliar with this service and what residents can accomplish through the signup process. 

Applying for liquor and cannabis licensing isn’t the only industry that requires this digital ID. Honestly, using this service can be beneficial, providing services that make specific processes run smoother and finalize quicker. 

If you haven’t signed up for the BCeID and need more information, we can fill you in. Keep reading for specific information on the BC Electronic Identification and why it’s needed for certain license applications. 

What is a BCeID (BC Electronic Identification)?

Business woman BCeID

The BCeID is an online portal that allows you to signup by inputting relevant information saved to fulfill requirements for certain online documents. There are three different types of BCeIDs. 

Basic BCeID (BC Electronic Identification) 

A Basic BCeID is used to access services in an individual capacity. You can access certain government and community services through a basic version of this ID if they don’t require identity verification. 

Personal BCeID

The Personal BCeID is essentially the same as the basic version, except for one notable difference. The personal version of this service verifies your identity for more sensitive documents that need to be submitted. 

Business BCeID

A Business BCeID is used for all types of business matters. This is the license you would sign up for when you apply for any liquor or cannabis-related licensing

What Can I Do With a BCeID (BC Electronic Identification)?

businessman checking on his BCeID

These are some of the services that are provided when you sign up for a BCeID. Remember, all of these can be accessed through the online dashboard once you sign up. 

  • Change of address
  • Information regarding adoption and child services
  • Child care benefits
  • Angling, hunting, and trapping licensing
  • Autism service providers
  • Business-related cannabis and liquor licensing
  • Medical and personal cannabis cards and renewals
  • Fishing license
  • E-payments
  • Forestry management
  • Vehicle emissions
  • Educational work
  • Transportation services

The services listed are only a portion of the conveniences provided on the BCeID dashboard. You can handle any government, personal, or business service from one location. This critical electronic service integrates nearly every vital platform for an individual to renew, establish or signup for any service or license. 

How Does it Work?

how does BC Electronic Identification work

The BCeID system works by interlinking individuals onto a platform accessed by government organizations and organizations in the community. Educational, financial platforms, social services, assistance programs, agricultural and business sectors are all registered. 

The connection between BC citizens and these services allows for the streamlining of paperwork and registration information. Once you sign up, everything is automated. 

After signing up for the BCeID, you fill out important information regarding personal information like address, phone number, and other vital statistics. You’ll also fill out pertinent information relevant to each section in the directory. This information is saved after you fill it out and stored to upload for other services when you need them quickly. 

This unique streamlined process saves users valuable time. Organizing all the information in one location allows you to keep track of important services you have updated and ones that need attention in the future. 

Why is this service so important for the cannabis and liquor industry?

Benefits of BCeID for Cannabis and Liquor Industry 

Open for business BC Electronic Identification

There are several benefits in using the BCeID service to submit applications for the cannabis and liquor industries. 

  • It’s convenient only to have to fill out your personal and business information one time—everything auto-fills when you come to subsequent areas you need to fill out. 
  • You’re connected directly to the agencies that need the application information.
  • If you don’t finish everything at once, you can save it and come back later. 
  • It’s easier to keep track of what you’ve filled out and when things need to be reapplied for. The dashboard lets you know when licensing expires. 
  • Easy identification makes it unnecessary to show up in person with a copy of your physical ID. 
  • There’s no need for appointments to fill out this information in person when you can do it from a central dashboard 

The use of the BCeID could revolutionize the way other countries and regions do business online. An all-inclusive platform like this could benefit nearly every government agency and sector of business. So it’s not surprising to find out that other areas are beginning to implement this same type of technology as we progress further into the future.

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The Fast Way to Get Your Liquor License in BC

Recently, it seems all but impossible to buy a liquor store license in Vancouver, BC. In addition, moratoriums or prohibitions have been placed on nearly every significant type of liquor license in the area. To make these processes more manageable, here are the Top Guidelines When Buying Liquor License.

These restrictions have left prospective business owners trying to serve alcohol with a limited number of options legally.

Currently, the only licenses business owners can apply for are Liquor Primary and UBrew/UVin. Unfortunately, these restrictions limit the potential new business options to bars and nightclubs or homebrew enthusiast stores.

However, careful attention to detail highlights these licenses as options for new establishments.

There are a few expensive loopholes for would-be business owners in the region, and we’ll go into detail about those options. But, first, let’s examine the specific restrictions that have been placed on new retail establishments.

Limited Liquor License Options: Vancouver, BC Prohibitions 

Liquor store, owner choosing wine for business

Prohibitions are in place for new LRS (licensee retail stores) until July 1, 2022. So if your goal were to open a private liquor store that sells multiple types of alcohol (wine, spirits, beer, etc.), you’d have to wait until the above date.

However, the following businesses have an indefinite moratorium period, meaning currently, there’s no end in sight for the restrictions.

1. A Wine Store

Independent wine retailers, Vintners Quality Alliance, and tourism wine stores fall under wine stores. The only option available for merchants who want to open a wine store is to transition to an LRS license and wait until July to submit their application.

2. Specialty Wine Stores

Specialty wine stores have extensive wine selections like their regular wine store counterparts. The main difference is that specialty wine stores can also sell ciders, mead, and sake. These specialty wine stores are only located within grocery stores.

An indefinite moratorium exists for this type of license as well. Even in periods without restrictions, the rules placed on potential applicants rule out nearly all would-be merchants.

In addition, the store has to be 10,000 square feet, eliminating almost every type of grocer except big-box retailers.

Alternative Liquor License Options: Vancouver, BC Prohibitions

Business owner thinking of alternative liquor license options in Vancouver, BC

As we mentioned earlier on the first part of these top guidelines when buying a liquor license, it could be an expensive loophole to the prohibitions set forth by the Canadian government. So technically, these can be considered loopholes, but we’re not sure if we would consider them realistic loopholes.

Dormant SWS licenses are available to retailers through auctions hosted by the BC government. Unfortunately, we’re not entirely clear on what the term dormant license means. Regardless, you would think these auctions offered hope for BC retailers who otherwise had the door shut on their business options.

However, a starting bid of $125,000 hardly constitutes a glimmer of hope. It’s starting to seem like obtaining a liquor license in Vancouver, BC, is more challenging than winning the lottery.

These expensive auctions that give merchants the option to purchase an existing liquor license offer no real hope. Prohibitions are shutting the door even further on potential business owners.

However, this is only a part of the uphill battle retailers have to climb to open a new business and receive their license. So let’s forget about the prohibitions and license auctions for a moment.

When the restrictions for submitting applications were not in place, the process looked like for wannabe merchants to open a new establishment that served alcohol.


First, you would need the approval of your local government even to attempt to navigate this complicated process. Once the government gives you the thumbs-up, you can move on to the following approval process.

Government approval for liquor licence in VCB


The second step is petitioning the neighbours (surrounding businesses and residents) in an approval process that includes more feesBelieve it or not, you have to pay for the privilege to ask your neighbours to accept the idea of your potential business in the area.

Community support on liquor store


Once your neighbours have given you their blessing, you must return to the government for final approval. First, they will review where your last address is for the business. During this step, they can decline your application if the company is too close to social or recreational establishments or too many companies in the area serve alcohol.

final government approval for liquor licence in VCB

It isn’t far-fetched to say that opening a new retail liquor establishment and obtaining your license is an impossible mission. But, unfortunately, the prohibitions make it impossible to run the application process’s gauntlet, and purchasing an existing license is not financially possible for most smaller merchants.

The only plausible option that exists for prospective business owners would be to buy an already established location. Purchasing a business gives you ownership of the traffic that frequents the area.

A license is already attached to that business. At least, choosing this option ensures you have established customers, and your money goes towards ownership and not a government auction.

Were these Top Guidelines When Buying Liquor License helpful? Let us know; we want to help you make your business come true.

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Ultimate Guide On How To Get Your Liquor License In BC

Getting your liquor license in BC is a comprehensive process. The licensing process for any liquor establishment requires outlining precise details that describe your intent as a merchant. 

Applicants must choose between an expansive list of different establishment categories and fulfill background check requirements. There is also an approval process that requires permission from the local government and a petition from residents around the intended business location. 

It sounds like a very time-consuming process to obtain a simple license. Without the proper preparation and guidance, it isn’t hard to let the process get away from you and become discouraging. However, with a few simple steps to prepare yourself, the process is easily simplified

If you’ve been thinking about obtaining a liquor license, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got tips on the fast way to get your liquor license in BC.

Deciding What Type of License

Deciding what type of license

Before beginning the process, you need to have a clear picture of your business’s details. Deciding what type of license you want is crucial before going further into the process—knowing what license is critical to finding a fast way to get your liquor license in BC. 

  • A food-primary license is for restaurants and other businesses that serve food and have alcohol on the menu 
  • A liquor-primary license is a license for establishments like bars & nightclubs where an individual does not need to order food to purchase a drink. 
  • A manufacturer is any establishment that produces and bottles alcoholic beverages
  • An agent license is for a marketing representative who sells alcohol produced outside of BC
  • A catering license is for businesses that primarily serve food but without a central location.
    • They are primarily mobile and serve a variety of wine and cocktail drinks
  • Businesses that specialize in fans of homebrewing will need a UBrew/UVin license
  • Wine store licenses are reserved for establishments that specialize in a massive wine list. These locations will offer wine products exclusively
  • Specialty wine locations require a license that allows them to sell wine, sake, mead, and champagne inside of a retail grocery store space

Choosing the type of license you need and becoming familiar with the specified timeframe the license granting takes will prepare you for starting the process.

Have Everything Filled Out for a Fast Way to Get Your Liquor License In BC

This step sounds simple, but having everything organized is easier said than done. The different sets of paperwork combined with the steps involved can quickly become confusing 

Different paperwork is designated for each step, and it takes organization to ensure an efficient process. Of course, you can accomplish this organization on your own, but some services can assist in making the process smoother

Templates are available that outline every step of the application process. These templates outline everything in order and organize all the pertinent paperwork required for each step. Obtaining a template through the appropriate source is similar to having a certified assistant available to help keep you organized and on track. 

Prepare Beforehand

Supporting the community

Preparing before you get to specific steps can assist in the speed of the application process. For example, one of the steps includes petitioning residents and businesses in the area to allow you to become a merchant

In the months leading up to this step, familiarize yourself with the locals close to your desired business location. Inform them you plan on opening a business in the area and fill them in on the specifics. Let them know you’ll be petitioning for their approval on the business, and you’d like their support.

Assure the locals that by supporting you, they’ll receive your support in return. Make your presence known in local businesses in the months before starting the petition. This will show them you’re willing to support the community, and you’ll have a solid base of support when the time arrives to complete this step. 

For a Fast Way to Get Your Liquor License In BC, Consider Buying a Business

Considering buying a business

There is currently a moratorium on all new liquor license applications. The only exception to this is the liquor-primary license; this means your options are extremely limited. 

You can adjust to these restrictions by purchasing an already existing liquor license. The easiest way to accomplish this is by buying an already established business. This accomplishes several important tasks at once. 

When you purchase an already established business, you have a turn-key operation with a customer base. You’ll also eliminate the waiting process that comes with applying. 

Both of these steps involve a lot of time, and industry time is of the essence in the service. Therefore, if you’ve been considering opening any establishment that requires a liquor license, you should consider obtaining the license by purchasing an existing business. 

The existence of these restrictions makes it nearly impossible to open for business traditionally, and you have to leave your options open. Choosing this route may cost more, but the investment is paid back tenfold. The customer base you receive with an established business and the waiting that is eliminated by obtaining an approved license are both priceless. 

Looking to get a BC Liquor Licence? Schedule a free consultation with us.

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