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A Primer on Florida Alcoholic Beverage Licenses

July 18, 2022

Gary Kaleita

If you are buying or financing properties with businesses selling alcoholic beverages, Florida’s regulatory requirements may seem daunting. To successfully navigate the complexities of Florida alcoholic beverage licensing, a buyer or lender should work with an attorney experienced in this highly regulated area.

Applying for an AB License

The Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (DABT) of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) licenses and regulates the alcoholic beverage and tobacco industries in the state. It also collects and audits taxes and fees paid by such licensees. Accordingly, DABT accepts and processes all applications for alcoholic beverage licenses (AB license) and issues AB licenses as a privilege, not a right. A licensee's interest in an AB license is a general intangible over which the state has complete control.

AB licenses vary depending on the alcoholic beverage sale and consumption privileges that are being sought. For example, a 2COP AB license allows for the sale of both beer and wine for on- or off-premises consumption, while a 1APS AB license permits the sale of beer for off-premises consumption only.

Obtaining a new AB license or transferring an existing one takes approximately 90 days. You may obtain a temporary AB license in a significantly shorter timeframe upon the DABT’s receipt, review and approval of your completed application, provided the application does not on its face disclose any reason for denial.

To obtain a new AB license, you must complete the DBPR Form ABT 6001 application (Application for New Alcoholic Beverage License). To transfer an existing AB license, you must fill out the DBPR Form ABT 6002 application (Application for Transfer of Ownership of an Alcoholic Beverage License).

If you are applying for a new AB license at a location where an existing AB license is already issued and active, the current licensee must surrender that license to the DABT before a new AB license is issued utilizing a DBPR Form ABT 6007.

ABT 6002 and ABT 6001 applications are essentially the same in terms of the information required and disclosures needed. Both applications are fairly comprehensive and include the following sections:

  1. Transaction information,
  2. License category,
  3. License information,
  4. Personal information,
  5. Description of premises,
  6. Department of revenue clearance,
  7. Zoning verification (this is not required for a transfer application),
  8. Health department approval,
  9. Contracts or agreements,
  10. Felony convictions,
  11. Special license requirements,
  12. Disclosure of interested parties, and
  13. Affidavit of applicant.

Perfecting a Lien on an AB License

If you’re a creditor lending to a borrower with an interest in an AB license, you should confirm whether any other interests exist in the relevant AB license and then ensure your lien on such license is perfected. Before accepting an AB license as collateral, you can request a search of the relevant AB license for existing liens and equitable interests.

AB license searches are performed by the DABT following submittal of DBPR Form ABT 6023 (Request for Alcoholic Beverage License Lien Search). The DABT will provide copies of all recorded liens and security interests in the relevant license.

Once the lien search has been performed, a new lien can be filed against the AB license. The exclusive means of perfecting a lien on an AB license is by filing DBPR Form ABT 6022 (Application for Mortgagee's Interest in Spirituous Alcoholic Beverage License), which may be used to file a new lien, a lien assignment/assumption or a lien renewal/extension. A separate application must be completed for each license against which a lien is desired.

Filing ABT 6022 has been held by the Florida Supreme Court as sufficient to perfect a lien. No duplicate filing under the Florida Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) is necessary.

Under Florida law, DABT must receive the completed ABT 6022 and fee within 90 days of the date of the creation of the of the lien or security interest. Lenders should consider either (i) having borrowers execute separate liquor license security agreements, or (ii) having terms protecting their interests in a borrower’s AB license incorporated into their other loan documents.

If you are buying or providing financing for a business having an alcoholic beverage license, you should consult with an attorney experienced in this area in order to achieve your desired goals and protect your investment.

Gary M. Kaleita is a shareholder at Lowndes and has been certified by The Florida Bar as a specialist in real estate law since 1993. A member of the firm’s Banking & Finance Group and the Commercial Leasing Group, Gary can be reached at 407.418.6334 or Questions may be directed to him or any member of the firm’s Real Estate Department.

This article is informational only. You should consult an attorney before acting or failing to act. The law may change rapidly and no warranty is given. LOWNDES DISCLAIMS ALL IMPLIED WARRANTIES AND WITHOUT LIMITATION, ANY WARRANTY OF FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. ALL ARTICLES ARE PROVIDED AS IS AND WITH ALL FAULTS. Consult a Lowndes attorney if you wish to establish an attorney/client relationship.

With more than 30 years of experience in real estate law, including over 20 years as a Board-certified expert in the field, Gary Kaleita has acquired the ability to navigate the complexities of sophisticated real estate deals with relative ease.

Gary has a wide variety of experience in real estate development, finance and transactions, condominiums, property owners’ associations, commercial leasing, commercial lending, and title insurance.

Gary enjoys a reputation for anticipating and avoiding problems, rather than merely reacting to them. He has years of experience handling purchases, sales and financings of commercial and residential projects, including office, industrial, retail, multi-family, single-family, condominium, resort, hotel and golf course properties. Gary has prepared and negotiated contracts for sale and purchase, performed due diligence investigations, and handled all aspects of closings, including issuance of title insurance and legal opinions. He has also performed tax free exchanges (both forward and reverse) under Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code, and has handled closings for housing revenue bond financing transactions with the Florida Housing Finance Corporation and various local housing finance authorities.

In the area of real estate development, Gary has assisted developers in obtaining land use approvals, plat approvals and permits for various developments from a number of jurisdictions in Central Florida, including planned developments (PD’s) and Developments of Regional Impact (DRI’s). He has drafted and negotiated complex land use documents, including development agreements, cost-sharing agreements, declarations of covenants, conditions, restrictions and easements. He also has experience in mall and shopping center developments, including outparcels, and has assisted developers with the selection, formation and operation of business entities, including commercial and residential property owners associations. He has extensive experience with the formation and operation of both commercial and residential condominiums as well.

In addition, Gary has established somewhat of a boutique practice by acting as local counsel to help out-of-state lenders, investors and law firms navigate the complexities of Florida real estate law. He is frequently engaged by large national and international law firms needing assistance on a variety of issues for their clients doing business in Florida. Gary regularly provides advice on Florida law and custom pertaining to purchase and sale contracts as well as loan documents, addresses local due diligence issues, answers questions involving titles, surveys and title insurance, and provides Florida legal opinions.

Not just another real estate lawyer, before pursuing his career in law Gary served as a U.S. Naval officer on active duty for 4 years in the Mediterranean Sea, first with a patrol gunboat squadron in Italy and then at a communications station in Greece. During this period he traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. He believes his military experience is the source of the practical approach he has developed to problem solving.

Gary also took the initiative, after a homeowner in his own neighborhood was mauled by a Florida black bear in 2013, of researching what his homeowners’ association could do to limit the likelihood of future attacks. In the process, he became an expert in the subject of “bear-wise” communities and drafted a policy that his own homeowners’ association adopted, thereby becoming the first residential community to be officially recognized as bear-wise by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). He has since written and spoken extensively on this subject, serves on the FWC’s Central Bear Management Unit Stakeholder Group, and has become a resource for FWC to educate other communities on the importance of bear-wise practices in areas of Florida containing black bear habitat.

Gary focuses on finding pragmatic solutions to complex problems, recognizing that clients want sensible and realistic advice in a timely manner so they can go about their business.

Chambers USA (2015)* reports that Gary has substantial experience acting as lender’s counsel and is acclaimed by market sources as an “extremely responsive, very practical and reasonable” practitioner.

*We make no guarantees or promises that the reader will realize the same or similar results

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