Restaurant license and beverage outlet

Verified 01 January 2023 - Directorate of Legal and Administrative Information (Prime Minister), Ministry of the Interior

A beverage outlet is an establishment that sells alcoholic beverages. If it's a cafe, pub or bar, it's their main activity. If it's a restaurant or a nightclub, it's an ancillary activity. Drinks can be consumed on site or taken away. In all cases, the establishment must be licensed. Temporary beverage outlets (fairs, public celebrations, etc.) are not subject to license, they must make a declaration.

Any person intending to open an establishment that sells alcoholic beverages, whether as a principal or accessory, must have a license.

This may be either a sales establishment:

  • on-site (cafe, bar, pub, disco, restaurant, hotel-restaurant, bar-restaurant, bed and breakfast)
  • or take-away (supermarket, grocery store, winery, distance or internet sales).

For a bar, the sale of alcohol is a main activity, whereas for a hotel-restaurant it is an ancillary activity.

Temporary beverage outlets (during a fair, for example) are not required to have a license. A permit from the mayor's office is enough.


The dispensing of alcoholic beverages by a vending machine is prohibited. The distribution of non-alcoholic beverages by an automatic device is authorized and considered as a sale to be consumed on the spot.

Types of licenses depending on the nature of the beverages

There are 3 different types of drinks corresponding to 3 authorizations:

  • Non-alcoholic beverages: over-the-counter. There is no need for a license (formerly License I or Small License).
  • Drinks below 18° of alcohol (wine, beer, currant cream, etc.): License III (License 3)
  • Drinks of more than 18° of alcohol (distilled alcohols such as liqueur, rum, whisky, etc.): License IV (License 4)
Tableau - The different types of licenses depending on the nature of the beverages

Type of beverage

Beverage delivery

for consumption on site

Beverage delivery

take away


Group 1: soft drinks




Group 3: non-distilled fermented beverages (wine, beer, cider, perry, mead) and natural sweet wines, blackcurrant cream, fruit or vegetable juices containing up to 3° of alcohol, liqueur wine, wine-based aperitif, strawberry liqueurs, raspberries, blackcurrants or cherries containing less than 18° of alcohol

License III, known as restricted license

Small take-away license

Small restaurant license

Groups 4 and 5: rums, tafias, distilled alcohols and all other alcoholic beverages (gin, vodka, whisky, etc.)

License IV, known as large license or full-service license

Take-away license

Restaurant license


the sale of soft drinks is free in all establishments on site or to take away. There is no need for a license or an operating permit.

The licenses for Groups 2 and 3 have merged. Valid licenses II become licenses III.

Street vendors can only sell drinks below 18° alcohol (wine, beer and soft drinks).

The credit sale of alcoholic beverages at retail is prohibited.

Restaurant licenses

On the spot

When alcoholic beverages accompany meals, the restaurant owner must be in possession of a restaurant license (for all alcohols) or small restaurant license (for wines, cider and beer only).

If the sale of alcohol also takes place outside meals (bar-restaurant), he must hold a III or IV license. The restaurant license or the small restaurant license are then not necessary.


The cottages and bed and breakfasts that wish to offer a restaurant in the evening with alcohol must have one of these 2 licenses: restaurant license or small restaurant license. This does not apply to those who only serve breakfast.


The establishment has a restaurant license or a license III or IV, may sell to take away the beverages authorized by its license.

If the establishment sells only take-out beverages (groceries, online sales), it must own:

  • or of the small take-away license, cider, wine and beer,
  • or of the take-away license, for alcohols of more than 18°.

Street food vendors such as food trucks shall not be entitled to sell alcohol of more than 18°.


for the take-away sale of alcohol between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., you must hold an operating license.

Please note

on the purchase order or invoice for a distance sale of alcohol, the seller must write the mention "product subject to excise duty" (in addition to the description of the products, its contact details and those of the buyer).


There is no nationality requirement to obtain a liquor outlet (restaurant or bar) license.

However, the foreigners entrepreneur in France must respect certain rules.

Age and court records

To obtain a Beverage Debit License, the following 3 conditions must be met:

  • Be of age or emancipated minor
  • Not be guardianship
  • Not having been sentenced to certain penalties: ordinary crimes and procuring definitely prohibit possession of a license. In contrast, for offenses such as theft, fraud, breach of trust, the license ban is removed after 5 years after the sentence (no repeat offense).


a municipality issues only a limited number of licenses. A III license may not be issued in a municipality where the total number of establishments holding an IV license exceeds the proportion of a flow rate per 450 inhabitants, i.e. 2 establishments with an IV license per 900 inhabitants.

To obtain a liquor or restaurant outlet license, you must hold both an operating license, issued after specific training, and make a prior declaration.

Operating Permit

The operating license is a certificate that proves that the future operator has followed a compulsory specific training.

It shall be issued by the recognized organization conducting the training.

This training is essential to establish the right to operate an alcoholic beverage outlet (licenses III and IV).

The training covers the prevention and control of alcoholism, the protection of minors, the repression of public drunkenness and the fight against noise. It also trains the future operator in drug law and the principles of civil and criminal liability.

The list of recognized organizations differs according to whether the sale is made on-site or take away at night.

This training lasts approximately 20 hours (2.5 days).

It must be done in person.

This permit is valid for 10 years. It is renewable by performing a new 6-hour training.

The license shall be completed by the training organization and issued to the future operator of a beverage outlet, if he completes the training.

License to operate a beverage outlet or restaurant

Please note

a reduced training of 7 hours is given to bed and breakfast rentals for whom the sale of alcohol is an ancillary activity.

Prior declaration in the town hall

The administrative declaration must be made for restaurants and establishments selling alcohol (on-site or to take away), at least 15 days before the event:

  • Opening of a new establishment
  • Transfer (change of owner or manager),
  • Translation (moving the license from one premises to another in the same municipality).

In the case of a transfer following a death, the reporting period is 1 month.

Declaration of a restaurant or a bar of drinks to be consumed on the spot or to take away

General case
Who shall I contact
In Alsace-Moselle
Who shall I contact

Upon prior notification, the operator receives a receipt to prove possession of the license. This receipt does not give the right to operate a beverage outlet, nor does it prove the validity of the title of owner or manager.

Receipt of declaration of the opening, transfer, translation of a restaurant or of a beverage outlet to be consumed on the spot or to take away

Registration with the RNE

In order to give legal existence to the establishment, the operator must declare its opening and register it at the national company register (RNE) via the companies Formalities Window.


Since 1er january 2023, it is no longer possible to carry out your procedures in a company Formalities Center (CFE). You must make them on the website of the company formalities office.

Company Formalities Window

You must create personal account. Then you need to click on the column “ Company ” and then click on “File a company”. One interactive online form 8 pages is offered; you must fill it out step by step. A user manual is available on this Single Window website.

The transfer of the license corresponds to the relocation of the establishment to another premises outside the commune where it is located. He can move within a department, to a neighboring department or elsewhere under certain conditions.

In the same department

A beverage outlet may move within the department where it is located.

In the event of a move out of the municipality where it was established, the operator must ask the prefect of the department where he wishes to set up shop for authorization for the transfer.

The prefect must consult the mayor of the municipality of origin and the mayor of the municipality where the beverage outlet will be settled. The final decision rests with the prefect.

The mayor is the final decision-maker in only one case: when transferring license IV to a commune where there is only one establishment of this category.

In another department

A beverage outlet may be transferred to a neighboring department under the same authorization conditions as a transfer to the same department.

A period of 8 years is imposed between 2 transfers to neighboring departments.

Transfers are exceptionally allowed beyond the department for certain tourist establishments such as classified hotels or campgrounds.

Authorization or refusal of transfer

In the event of a refusal, this decision shall take the form of an order which shall state the reasons for the refusal, the time limits and the means of appeal.

If no response is received within 2 months, the transfer is considered accepted.

A beverage outlet that has ceased to exist for more than 5 years shall be considered to be deleted. He can no longer be transferred from place to place.

However, this period shall be suspended in the event of winding up by a court or of temporary closure ordered by the judicial or administrative authority.

When a court decision has ordered the definitive closure of a beverage outlet, the establishment's license is canceled.