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License to Pour Do you need a license to sell alcohol in Hong Kong

License to Pour: Do you need a license to sell alcohol in Hong Kong?

If you’re thinking of setting up a bar or other shop selling alcohol in Hong Kong, you’re probably familiar with the energy of our city at night. HK comes alive and gets a powerful thirst after dark, which makes places like bars fairly appealing (and lucrative!). 

But of course, you can’t just rent the first open spot you find, slap a bar sign on it, and open for business. Papers, requirements – ah, and a license! What exactly do you need to be part of our city’s liquor-serving nighttime establishments? That’s what I’ll show you here.

Do you need a license to sell alcohol in Hong Kong?

You need a licence to sell alcohol in Hong Kong regardless of whether you are a restaurant, bar, or club owner. You can get the license from the Liquor Licensing Board (LLB), which oversees the issuance of liquor licenses and the conduct of alcohol sales.

Applying for this specific license is a crucial part of the company registration process in Hong Kong, especially for investors looking to enter the entertainment or food and beverage industry.

Getting a Liquor License in Hong Kong: What You Need to Know

Selling alcohol without a proper license in Hong Kong is a grave offense, and the consequences are severe: a substantial fine of 1 million HKD and a potential two-year jail term. 

Plus, if anyone associated with your establishment is caught, your entire liquor license application could be at risk.

But before we delve into the application process, let’s unravel the intricacies of the types of licenses available. Understanding the distinctions is key to ensuring you choose the right one for your business.

Types of Liquor Licenses in Hong Kong

  1. Liquor License

Let’s start with the basics. If your plan involves selling alcohol directly to customers for consumption on your premises, be it a restaurant, bar, or similar establishment, you’ll need a standard liquor license. 

This license covers the majority of businesses in the hospitality sector and is essential for legal alcohol sales.

  1. Club Liquor License

Now, here’s where it gets a tad more complex. If your establishment operates as a club and you intend to serve alcohol exclusively to club members within the club’s premises, you must obtain a club liquor license. 

This specific license is tailored for clubs and is crucial if you want to maintain a private, member-exclusive atmosphere while serving alcohol.

How to obtain a liquor license in Hong Kong?

To obtain a liquor license in Hong Kong, you need to submit your application along with the required documents to the Liquor License Board either personally or electronically. 

Here are the steps to secure your liquor license in Hong Kong:

STEP 1: Complete the application form

First things first, you’ll need to fill out the appropriate application form. 

STEP 2: Prepare the required documents

Gather the necessary documents for your application. For a standard liquor license, this includes:

  • recent photographs
  • a copy of your HKID card
  • business registration certificates
  • layout plans of your premises
  • a copy of the Certificate of Incorporation (if the owner of the establishment under application is a corporation)

The requirements are even more specific for club liquor licenses, depending on whether your club operates as a society or a limited company. Make sure you have all the paperwork in order.

STEP 3: Submit your application

Now that you’ve got your application form and all the documents ready, it’s time to submit them. 

You have two options: either deliver the documents in person to any Liquor Licensing Office or use the convenient Online Licence Services for electronic submissions. This step is crucial, so double-check everything before you send it off.

STEP 4: Attend an interview

After you submit your application, be prepared for a possible interview. The Liquor Licensing Board might request an interview to verify the information in your application and discuss other application-related matters. 

STEP 5: Place an advertisement about your application

Public opinion matters! You’ll need to place an advertisement about your liquor license application in three newspapers (excluding classified ads). This step allows the public to voice any objections. 

The Liquor Licensing Board will also post your notice on its website, signaling your green light to place the ads. Remember, copies of the published advertisements must be submitted promptly to the Liquor Licensing Office to keep the process moving.

STEP 6: Receive your liquor license

If there are no objections and everything checks out, congratulations! You’ll be granted your liquor license or club liquor license. 

However, remember that holding a liquor license comes with responsibilities. Ensure you comply with the statutory conditions and any additional licensing requirements set by the Liquor Licensing Board.

Renewal Procedures for Liquor License in Hong Kong

To make sure your liquor license stays valid in Hong Kong, make sure to renew it on time. 

Start the process 3 to 4 months before it expires, or 2 months in advance for 3-month licenses. Your establishment needs to maintain a good track record with no complaints or public objections for two consecutive years.

Here are the steps for liquor license renewal:

  • Place a notice in a local newspaper as part of the renewal process. Once done, submit the original newspaper page containing the ad to the licensing office.
  • Finally, send the completed renewal application and required documents to the Liquor Licensing Office. They’ll take care of the rest of the process for you.

Here are the steps for club liquor license renewal:

  • Follow the same newspaper ad guidelines as the liquor license renewal. Be sure to send all your documents to the licensing office promptly.
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