Understand the Liquor License Review

If your business deals with the importation, manufacture, distribution or sale of alcohol in Washington, you need a liquor license from the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) www.liq.wa.gov/licensing/apply-liquor-license. The City plays a role in this process. Every liquor license application within the City limits is reviewed by a precinct liaison attorney and the multiple regulatory agencies for the City.

A liquor license is an endorsement on your business license issued by the Washington State Department of Revenue (DOR) Business Licensing Service bls.dor.wa.gov/. You must complete the liquor license application even if you already have a business license, along with a Liquor Control Board Addendum.

The City has the opportunity to comment in writing to WSLCB on new applications and license renewals. Pursuant to WAC 314-09-010 (020), the WSLCB will notify the City of all applications for renewal, new license, those that change a class of an existing annual license, those for a special occasion, and those that seek to change ownership of an existing license. The City has a minimum of 20 days to respond with a recommendation to approve or object to the applicant, location or both. In the case of an application within an Alcohol Impact Area, the comment period is extended to 60 days www.seattle.gov/neighborhoods/alcohol-impact-area-information-and-updates. Due to the volume of liquor license applications the City receives, applicants should anticipate that the City will use the full time period for review.

The City performs due diligence in reviewing all applications/renewals of liquor licenses to ensure compliance with state and local law and the public health, safety and welfare of the City. The basis for the City to object to a liquor license application with WSLCB is:

  • "Chronic illegal activity" associated with the applicant's operations of the premises proposed to be licensed; RCW 66.24.010(12)
  • "Chronic illegal activity" of the applicant's operation of any other licensed premises; RCW 6.24.010(12)
  • Conduct of the applicant's patrons inside or outside the licensed premises; RCW 66.24.010(12)
  • Certain amounts of prior criminal conduct by the applicant; WAC 314-07-040
  • Any administrative violation history record with the WSLCB; WAC 314-07-045

Besides City review, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) Community Police Teams and the community play an integral part in the review process of both liquor and marijuana licenses. Applications and renewals received from the WSLCB are distributed to the Community Police Team and the community by the precinct liaison attorney. The Community Police Team reviews the applications for public safety issues related to the business' location and applicant/licensee, while other City regulatory agencies check their data systems for code violations. The Community Police Team will notify the precinct liaison attorney if a potential basis for objection exists. To get on the notification list, please contact your precinct liaison attorney.