Independent snapshot: liquor licenses bolster Scottsdale bottom line

Glasses like these are regularly filled with spirits from border to border in the city of Scottsdale. (Submitted photo)

Glasses like these are regularly filled with spirits from border to border in the city of Scottsdale. (Submitted photo)

Taking a stroll through downtown Scottsdale provides a variety of watering-hole options for everyone from casual diners to those looking to stay out until 2 a.m. sipping cocktails.

From grabbing a quick beer to seeking a sit-down, family-style Italian dinner, downtown Scottsdale is a mecca for dining and bars that has resulted in $64,000 to the city’s General Fund in liquor license application fees alone annually, records show.

While there are nearly 400 restaurants with liquor licenses throughout the city, downtown Scottsdale’s ZIP code of 85281 is home to 107 restaurants that offer beer and wine or a full bar, according to an Oct. 11 search for liquor licenses. In a search for bars specifically, there are 53 establishments in the same ZIP code, and a total of 101 bars throughout city limits.

Depending on the establishment type, an annual permit fee that the city receives ranges from $300 to $1,200.

The city of Scottsdale, home to 382 total restaurants holding a liquor license, collects a one time $500 application fee; a one time $100 permit issuance fee; and an annual permit fee of $1,200, according to the Arizona Department of Liquor website.

The annual permits from downtown restaurants funnels about $128,400 into the city’s General Fund. For the city in its entity, restaurant permits add up to about $458,400 per year.

The city reports it processes about 150 new liquor licenses per year.

“This varies depending on the month, year, but planning reports that we process an average of about 150 per year,” said Scottsdale Communications and Public Affairs Director Kelly Corsette in an e-mailed response to questions.

“Keep in mind that most of the licenses that come for recommendation through the city council are not new establishments, just transfers of existing licensees for changes of ownership, changes in corporate membership, etc.”

In addition to bars and restaurants, the state issues licenses for proprietors including wholesalers, government entities, hotels, wineries, breweries and private clubs.

Initially applications are submitted to the state, with the exception of permanent extension of premises, which is submitted to the city.

The state will send the liquor license application to the city for review and recommendation. The city’s role in reviewing the liquor license application is to make a recommendation to the state on whether or not the liquor license should be issued, according to the city of Scottsdale website.

When the city receives an application from the state, city staff will contact the applicant regarding the process timeline. The application then completes and submits a city liquor license questionnaire appropriate to the specific type of business.

Once submitted, the approximate processing time ranges from about 65 to 105 days.
While the city does not keep track of how many licenses don’t get accepted, Mr. Corsette says not many get rejected.

“It’s safe to say that the majority of requests that come through the city meet our requirements and are recommended for approval to the state.”

Being approved includes input from the public, a review of the location appropriateness including zoning, and a public safety review, said Mr. Corsette.

In Arizona, an establishment selling alcohol must be 300 feet from a school or church.

Northeast Valley News Services Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at or can be followed on Twitter at

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