Montana News

Sep 1, 2012 4:55 PM by Melissa Anderson (Helena)

Montana issuing 3 new all-beverage liquor licenses

Broadwater County, Liberty County, and Yellowstone County will each soon get one additional all-beverage liquor licenses from the state of Montana.

The licenses are based on population increases and are extremely hard to come by.

The resale of alcohol is big business in Montana; last year the state Department of Revenue sold and shipped out $120 million worth of liquor to 100 agency stores statewide. These retailers in turn sold to area taverns, casinos, and resellers of alcohol.

Before Prohibition decades ago, anyone could apply for a license to sell liquor, but Shauna Helfert, the Liquor Control Division administrator, explained, "In 1947, the Legislature put in a quota because Montanans didn't want a bar on every street corner."

Since then, the quota system allows each city to have a certain number of licenses based upon the population.

"The first 3,000 people you get five, the quota allows five licensed establishments, and for every 1,500 people above the 3,000 there's an additional license added. Now that's for all-beverage licenses," Helfert said.

All-beverage licenses include distilled liquor, beer, and wine, and typically also include the permitting of gambling. That's why these types of licenses have become more valuable when up for grabs.

"There have been some in the state of Montana that sell for a million dollars. And it really goes based upon what the market is. What the demand is," Helfert noted.

Often times these licenses are purchased from another establishment for a price. While the state doesn't receive any money from the transfers they do make sure the permits are conducted properly for a fee.

"We do do a background check on them as well as a financial review to ensure that whoever is operating the license is going to operate it in a safe environment," Helfert said.

There are about 2,200 total licenses statewide that can serve on premises.