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Bar Licenses and Permits Needed in Texas

When you’re opening a cafe or bar business, you’re going to need to get your licenses and permits in order before opening.

A business license, a food facility health permit, a certificate of occupancy — they all have varying (and sometimes overlapping) requirements, so it’s important to know exactly what you need to get to legally open a restaurant in your particular city or county in Texas. 

As soon as you’ve secured funding with your thorough business plan, one of the next steps to get going on is your licenses and permits. Many of them can take weeks, if not months (or even longer), so getting started as early as possible can help prevent bumps in the road to opening your doors. 

We’ll get into some of the most common licenses and permits needed in Texas, what they are and why you need them, how to get them, and how much they cost.

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How to Open a Bar Business in Texas

To ensure that the process of opening your bar is an efficient as possible we recommend you follow this sequence of steps.

  1. Create your bar business plan
  2. Find your bar location
  3. Determine your bar menu
  4. Order your bar equipment
  5. Determine your suppliers, cost structure and pricing
  6. Obtain all necessary licenses and permits to operate your bar, in local compliance
  7. Select your restaurant technology options, point of sale in particular

For the last step, every bar license and permit is unique and has its own application process. And each one takes varying amounts of time to secure, so in the process of opening your bar you’ll want to leave plenty of time to get the proper licenses and permits in place. 

To simplify the licensing process we have created this guide to cover all the bar licenses and permits you’ll need in Texas.

Licenses and Permits Required to Open a Bar in Texas

  1. Business License 
  2. Certificate of Occupancy 
  3. Food Handler’s License, also known as Food Service License 
  4. Seller’s Permit 
  5. Liquor License Permit

1. Business License in Texas

What is it and why do you need it?

A business license is one of the first licenses you’ll need as you start laying the groundwork of your business. Also known as a business tax certificate, it helps your business stay compliant at tax season.

How to get a business license in Texas

In Texas, business licenses are controlled by the city or county you live in. If you operate a restaurant with multiple locations across cities and counties, it’s important to get a business license for each business in different jurisdictions. To get a business license in Texas, you’ll need:

  1. An EIN
  2. To choose what classification of business you’ll be (LLC? Sole proprietorship? Partnership?)
  3. A business name
  4. An address and phone number,
  5. A thorough restaurant business plan
  6. A COI for your business insurance policy

How much does a business license cost in Texas?

Texas business license costs vary depending the county, type and scope of the business. Business licenses in Texas need to be renewed and paid for regularly, so check with your jurisdiction about how often yours will need to be renewed.

License Name

Cost

Link

Business License

Varies depending on county

Texas Business Licenses & Permits Guide

2. Certificate of Occupancy in Texas

What is it and why do you need it?

A certificate of occupancy is a document that shows your space is zoned for your type of business, as well as up to code, safe to use, and up to date on its checks and inspections. Not every county will require them for new businesses, and even then, only certain situations require them, including if you’re doing major building work or changing the use of a space from residential to business.

Always get in touch with your local jurisdiction to determine if your project warrants a CoO.

How to get a certificate of occupancy license?

The forms are online, but in order to get the certificate, your business location will need to go through fire inspections, plumbing inspections, electrical inspections, and building inspections. Check your local city or county’s building and safety department.

How much does a certificate of occupancy cost?

Different counties will charge different amounts, and they will also vary by type of business. Fee will vary depending on county.


License Name

Cost

Link

Certificate of Occupancy

Fees will vary depending on county

Check your local city or county’s small business department

3. Food Handler’s License in Texas

What is it and why do you need it?

A food service license, also known as an employee health permit, allows restaurants, vendors, or any other type of food business to safely sell and serve food onsite. These licenses ensure that every employee knows how to do their part to keep your diners safe from foodborne illness. They’re often referred to as ServSafe, after the company that administers most food handler’s tests, or as a Texas Food Handler Card.

How to get a food handler’s license in Texas

Every employee who prepares or serves food in Texas must get their Food Handler’s license within 30 days of being hired — chefs, cooks, servers, baristas, and bartenders, to name a few. Bussers and general managers may not be required to do so. 

And if managers have already gotten their Food Protection Manager Certification, they’re also exempt from getting a Texas Food Handler card. Some jurisdictions have their own food safety training programs and standards, so they’re exempt from requiring employees to get a Texas Food Handler card.

To get their food handler’s card, employees must pass a test about food safety and preparation with a grade of at least 70% (or higher in some jurisdictions).

How much does a food service license cost in Texas?

Texas state law requires that the test and license not cost more than $15, in order to make sure anyone working in a restaurant can afford to get certified.


License Name

Cost

Link

Food Handler's License

Up to $15 per employee

Texas Food Handler's Training

4. Food Seller’s Permit in Texas

What is it and why do you need it?

Any business that plans to sell tangible goods that are subject to sales tax needs a seller’s permit. This permit allows them to charge sales tax.

How to get a seller’s permit?

You can register for a permit online through the SBA License and Permits portal.

How much does a food seller’s license cost?

There’s no fee to apply for a seller’s permit, but you may be asked to pay a security deposit to cover unpaid taxes if the business eventually closes.


License Name

Cost

Link

Seller's Permit

$0 (but a security deposit may be requested

SBA Licenses and Permits

5. Liquor License in Texas

What is it and why do you need it?

This license is required for any type of business to sell and serve alcohol to its patrons. Since alcohol has an incredibly high markup and a long shelf life, it’s often beneficial from a profit standpoint to sell alcohol.

How to get a liquor license in Texas

In Texas, liquor licenses are issued by the state. You must have a seller’s permit already to be able to apply for a liquor license. 

After you’ve applied for a liquor license, you must post a public notice of application on your business’s premises for 30 days. Some cases require the applicant to notify their neighbors or post a notice in the newspaper. They will also need to show that their business is correctly zoned for an alcohol-selling business. 

The department does an investigation into the future business and the applicant to see if they qualify. It takes between 30 and 90 days to process a liquor license application, depending on what kind of application it is, so be sure to build this time frame into your countdown to opening. Licenses are renewed on a yearly basis, so you must pay the renewal fee on time or your license will expire until the fee is paid. 

How much does a liquor license cost in Texas?

A liquor license in Texas can cost from $500 - $2000. See the full fees associated with different types of liquor licenses in Texas here.


License Name

Cost

Link

Liquor License

$500 - $2000

TABC

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Timeline for Opening a Bar: Next Steps

Opening a bar requires dozens of steps, overlapping requirements, and plenty of paperwork. Writing up a solid bar business plan and securing funding for your bar are some of the first things you’ll need to do so that you can afford all the building blocks of your business, including your licenses and permits. 

Getting your licenses and permits in order as early as possible — at least three months before you plan to open, ideally starting the process six months before you open, can help you avoid any bumps in the road. 

While you’re waiting on licenses and permits to come through, you can continue going through the process of setting up your bar for success. Plan your staffing needs and, near the end of your permitting process, start reaching out to your community and interviewing candidates. 

Work on your renovations (once your certificate of occupancy has come through), and bring your interior design and decor dreams to life. Test your menu over and over again until it’s perfect, and work on your inventory and pricing strategies. 

As you approach opening day, you can also start to peruse your restaurant technology options and find what combination of products and systems make sense to help you set your operation up for success from day one. A modern point of sale platform with online ordering, team management, and inventory capabilities can help save you time and money as you grow your business.  

Download your free bar shop business plan template today. With a solid business plan, the necessary permits and licenses, and the right amount of liquor, you’ll be ready to seize the day and get your dream bar ready to go. 

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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.

Jim McCormick