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Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division

Licensing requirements


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Background Investigations

Local authorities (cities and counties) and the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division conduct background investigations to determine if applicants and their proposed premises meet licensing requirements. Although time-consuming, these background investigations play an important role in the issuance of licenses. Background investigations protect both the licensee and the public.

Applicant Requirements

To be eligible to hold a liquor, wine, or beer license, the license applicant is required to meet the standards of ‘good moral character’. Under Iowa law, applicants are considered to be of ‘good moral character’ if the licensee fulfills the following criteria:

  • Is a U.S. citizen and an Iowa resident, incorporated to do business in the state. The corporation must be registered and in good standing with the Iowa Secretary of State's office.
  • Has not been convicted of a felony during the past five years. If an applicant has a felony conviction, the applicant is not eligible to hold an Iowa alcoholic beverages license unless the felony conviction is more than five years old and the applicant's rights of citizenship have been restored.
  • Has not had any financial interest in an Iowa liquor, wine or beer license, that was revoked during the past two years.
  • Has ‘financial standing’ and ‘good reputation’ to indicate that the applicant will comply with all laws and rules governing the license.

Note: In evaluating the applicant's 'financial standing,' the local authority and the Division may consider verified sources of financial support and adequate operating capital for the licensee's business, record of prompt payment of state and local taxes, fees and charges for municipal utilities and municipal services, etc. In evaluating the applicant's 'good reputation,' the local authority and the Division may consider pattern and practice of disregard for the law including convictions for sales to intoxicated persons, operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, etc.

All requirements apply to all officers, directors and shareholders of a corporation, all general partners in a partnership, and to the applicant's spouse (with exception of citizen and resident requirements) if the business is operated under a sole proprietorship.

Premises Requirements

To meet licensing requirements, the proposed licensed premises must conform to all applicable state laws, local ordinances, and health and fire regulations. Licensed premises must meet the following criteria:

  • Premised must be owned or under the control of the applicant.
  • Within the jurisdiction of one approving local authority.
  • Kept clean, free of litter, and in good repair.
  • Have toilet facilities for men and women.
  • Equipped with running water from a source approved by the local health department.
  • Have tables and chairs sufficient to seat a minimum of 25 people at one time. (On-premises establishments only.)

Iowa Code sections 123.3(26), 123.30, 123.128, 123.129 and 123.176, and 185-4.4 Iowa Administrative Code