Liquor Licenses

In order to sell alcoholic beverages at an eating or drinking establishment or at a special occasion within the City of Bellingham, a State liquor license is required.  The Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) issues the license only after receiving input from the City, and each application is investigated individually. To apply for a license, see the Applicant FAQ’s on the WSLCB website.  The process typically requires 45 days from date of application (up to 60 days if applying in an Alcohol Impact Area).

Following is a general outline of the process followed once a Liquor License application is received at the City of Bellingham:

  1. Review by Bellingham Police, Building Services, Finance and Fire Departments.  Review includes checking business license and registration, background check, permitting, fire safety and occupancy.
  2. Review by Whatcom County Health Department
  3. Approval by the Mayor’s Office following all other reviews and approvals.
  4. Application is returned to the WSLCB for issuance of license. 

If a department needs additional time to accomplish their investigation, the City is able to request a “commitment term” from the WSCLB that requires the applicant to fulfill outstanding obligations to the City of Bellingham before they are able to obtain approval for their liquor license. All investigations within the City happen concurrently with the WSCLB’s license review process.  See Applicant FAQ’s for more information on that process.

Special Occasion Liquor License

The most common type of liquor license received in the Mayor’s Office is a Special Occasion Liquor License, where a bona fide nonprofit organization sells liquor at a specific time, date and place. Examples of events include fundraising dinners, gala events, auctions, and wine tastings.  These require the same investigation process as any other liquor license application, therefore 45 days for approval. 

A private function may apply for a Banquet Permit through the Washington State Liquor Control Board by calling 360-664-1600. 

Contact Tracy Lewis in the Mayor’s Office at or 360-778-8100 for more information.