Obtaining a liquor or gambling license may be very important for your business, but it can be confusing to comply with Montana’s strict requirements. If you are looking to apply for new licenses—or renew or transfer existing licenses—review our list of frequently asked questions to learn more about the requirements and process.

And if you have specific questions, need help navigating the process, or received a violation notice, our experienced legal team can help. Call our office today to schedule a no-risk consultation.

Q: Should I own the liquor license in an entity?
A: Yes. Your liquor license should be owned by an LLC or a corporation.
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Q: Is there an application for the liquor license?
A: There are many different parts to the application process in order to obtain a liquor license. Form 5 is the most important form that you will need to complete. Here is some of the information that must be included:

  • Location of where liquor license will be placed
  • Whether you will have a gambling license with your liquor license
  • Whether you want a catering endorsement
  • The buy-sell agreement for the sale of the license
  • Who will be maintaining the financial business records
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Q: Do I need to be up to date with my taxes?  
A: Yes. The buyer, seller, and any other entities involved need to have filed and paid all of their Montana income taxes before the Montana Department of Revenue will allow for the liquor license to transfer to the Buyer.
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Q: Does the Department of Justice do background checks on applicants?
A: Yes. The new owners will need to provide a Personal/Criminal History Statements and two (2) sets of Fingerprint Cards, per individual. A Department of Justice Investigator will then perform an interview with the applicants.
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Q: What does the Department require for the layout of the premises?
A: The Department requires a detailed Floor Plan that includes the following:

  • Must be on 8 ½ x 11 paper with all required info
  • All exterior wall dimensions
  • Exterior decks and outside patios, with dimensions
  • Entrance and exit doors
  • Interior walls
  • Service bar from which alcoholic beverages are served (identified on floor plan with the description “Service Bar”, "Bar Preparation Area" and “Dining Area”)
  • Liquor, beer, and wine storage areas
  • Seating at booths, tables, and /or chairs (excluding bar stools) for no less than twelve (12) persons
  • Date Floor Plan(s) with the date the floor plan(s) were prepared
  • If a patio is present, label it and include the height of the wall around the patio
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Q: Does the Department of Revenue require additional proof of location?
A: Yes. The Department does require a Certified Survey Affidavit to determine whether the location qualifies for a city or a county license.
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Q: Is where I obtain the funds to start the business important?
A: Yes. The Department will examine all funds for your business. For example the Department will want to review six months of your personal bank statements and/or review lending documents to verify the purchasing funds.
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Q: Do I need a separate bank account?
A: Yes. You must have a separate bank account for the liquor license business. The Department will also want a copy of the signature cards to see who has authority to sign any bank-related documents on behalf of the licensee.
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Q: Do I need to own the real estate?
A: No. You are required to have possessory interest in the premises, which can be accomplished by either owning the real estate or leasing the space.
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Q: Do I have to run the business?
A: No. The Department does allow you to “concession” with another party to run the business. However, any violations will be against your license and not against the managing party.
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Q: My business is brand new, do I need to have tax returns?
A: The Department will ask for a Pro Forma Balance Sheet and Income Statement in the application if your business has not filed a tax return.
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Q: Does every liquor license have gambling privileges?
A: No. The only way to determine if a liquor license allows for gambling is to look at the license number.
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Q: If I want gambling but do not know what rules to follow, what should I do?
A: You have three options:

  • First, give us a call and one of our highly knowledgeable team members can explain the law to you. This is your best strategy to ensure you comply with Montana’s strict requirements.
  • Second, you can call the Montana Department of Justice, Gambling Control Division. Their investigators are ready and willing to educate all licensees regarding the gambling laws.
  • Third, you can use a Route Operator that will help you comply with the gambling laws and lease you your gaming machines.
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Q: Do I need a city license?  
A: This depends on your city. Most cities require a business license at the minimum, and other cities will also require a food purveyor license and a special alcohol license.
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Q: What inspections do I need to get done before I can receive final approval?
A: The building will have to pass building, health, and fire inspections prior to final approval. The applicant usually sets up the inspections once the building is ready.
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Q: Do I need a Location Manager?
A: Yes. This has been a hot topic for the Departments of Revenue and Justice. The location manager can be an owner or an employee. The location manager will have to be vetted according to the Department’s procedures.
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