Alcohol Licensing & Regulation

The regulations for licensing the sale of alcoholic beverages are found in Chapter 10 of the Springfield City Code, as well as various sections of the Springfield Zoning Ordinance.  The License Division of the Finance Department is responsible for reviewing applications and issuing licenses for the sale of alcoholic beverages.

While much of the application process is the same for any location inside Springfield, the process has been modified, by ordinance, for the Downtown Springfield Community Improvement District and an area which primarily includes the Commercial Street National Register Historic District and the 500 block of West Commercial Street.  

The following information, while not all inclusive, provides helpful information regarding Springfield alcohol licensing and regulation.  If you have further questions regarding the City of Springfield’s alcohol licensing process, please contact us at (417) 864-1617 or licensing@springfieldmo.gov.
 
Alcohol License Location Regulations
When an application for liquor license is submitted for 1) a new location, 2) to expand the licensed area, or 3) upgrade the liquor license, Licensing must determine if there is a church, school, park, residential property, or an existing liquor license within a 200 foot radius.  

Distance requirements may differ for locations within the Commercial Street National Register Historic District and the 500 block of West Commercial Street and the Downtown Springfield Community Improvement Districts.  See applicable subheadings for more information.

Churches & Places of Religious Worship
 If a church, or other building regularly used as a place of religious worship, is within 200 feet of a proposed liquor location, City Council must approve the application, by resolution, at a City Council meeting.  The applicant must request a letter of non-protest from the majority of the managing board of the church or place of worship.  The letter of non-protest must be submitted to the License Division so that it may be included in the resolution presented to Council.  The License Division will mail notification letters to property owners within 200 feet of the proposed licensed location.  After a period of not less than 10 days, City Council will consider the resolution at a City Council meeting.  If City Council approves the application, the applicant may continue the application process. If City Council does not approve the application, the License Division cannot issue the liquor license.  

Schools
If a proposed liquor location is within 200 feet of school property, City Council must approve the application, by resolution, at a City Council meeting.  The applicant must request a letter of non-protest from the majority of the board of directors of the school.  The letter of non-protest must be submitted to the License Division so that it may be included in the resolution presented to Council.  The License Division will mail notification letters to property owners within 200 feet of the proposed licensed location.  After a period of not less than 10 days, City Council will consider the resolution at a City Council meeting.  If City Council approves the application, the applicant may continue the application process. If City Council does not approve the application, the License Division cannot issue the liquor license.  

Parks
If a proposed liquor location is within 200 feet of park property, the applicant must request a letter of non-protest from the majority of the park board of such park.  The letter of non-protest must be submitted to the License Division so that it may be included in the applicant’s file.  City Council approval is not required for such an application.

Residential Property
If a proposed liquor license is within 200 feet of residential property,** residential property owners must be extended the ability to protest the issuance of the license.  The ability to protest or offer consent may be extended to property in owners in one of two ways.  

Waiver of Protest
The liquor license applicant may choose to approach each residential property owner within a 200 foot radius of the proposed location and ask them to sign, and notarize, a Waiver of Protest.  Waiver of Protest forms are supplied by the License Division.  If the applicant submits signed and verified waivers from each residential property owner, the matter is considered resolved.  No further action is required with regard to the proximity of residential property.

Legal Notice & Posting
If the applicant does not wish to pursue the Waiver of Protest option, the property must posted in accord with Springfield Zoning Ordinance 5-1900.  The applicant must pay a posting fee of $207.  A legal notice will be published in a local newspaper stating that the business has applied for a liquor license at the proposed address.  The legal notice will be published for five consecutive days.  On the first day that the legal notice is published, the applicant is required to post 4 large signs, provided by the License Division, within the vicinity of both the proposed liquor license and the impacted residential property.  The signs must remain posted for 21 days.  During that 21 day time period, eligible residential property owners may protest the issuance of the liquor license by signing and submitting protest forms.  Forms are available at the License Division.  If 50% more of the eligible property owners protest, the matter is forwarded to City Council for approval.  If City Council approves the application, by means of a resolution at a City Council meeting, the matter is considered resolved and the applicant may continue the application process. If City Council does not approve the application, the License Division cannot issue the liquor license.  

**For purposes of this section, residential property includes property zoned “R-SF,” “R-TH,” “R-MHC,” or PD Districts designated for single-family or two-family residential use.

Existing Liquor Licenses
If a proposed liquor license is within 200 feet of an existing, non-provisional liquor license, the applicant may be required to meet specific operational prerequisites in order to receive a liquor license.  The applicant may be required to operate as 1) a restaurant grossing a minimum of $50,000 in annual food sales, not more than half of which may be food sales for consumption off the premises or 2) a general merchandise store, which is defined as a retail establishment whose liquor and beer sales constitute less than 30 percent of the gross annual sales, and which does not sell liquor or beer by the drink.  

Provisional licensees must annually certify that their restaurant or general merchandise store has complied with the gross receipt or sales requirement.  The certification must include a signed, notarized statement from a certified public accountant, public accountant, auditor, comptroller, or similarly licensed accountant.  Certification forms are provided by the License Division.  If the licensee fails to demonstrate compliance, a renewal of the liquor license will not be granted.

Commercial Street National Register Historic District & the 500 block of West Commercial Street
General Ordinance number 5644 established a specific set of requirements for the issuance of liquor licenses in the “area bounded by Washington Avenue to the east, the center line of the right-of-way of Pacific Street to the south the western edge of a line running north from the eastern right-of-way line of Main Street where said Street intersects Pacific Street and generally along what would be the western edge of the 500 block of West Commercial Street to where said line intersects the Burlington-Northern railroad right-of-way to the west, and said railroad right-of-way line to the north which area primarily includes the Commercial Street National Register Historic District and the 500 block of West Commercial Street.”

City Code Section 10-37(b) allows the Director of Finance to reduce the distance requirement between a proposed liquor license and a church, school, and park from 200 to 100 feet if it is determined that the issuance of the license shall have no adverse impacts on the National Historic District.  The determination is made after the review and evaluation of the criteria outlined in Section 10-37(b).  City Council may grant a reduction of the distance requirements by resolution to a distance down to and including zero feet, as outlined in the above church, school, and park headings.

City Code Section 10-37(b) requires the License Division review the following criteria before issuing a liquor license to a location in this geographic area:  

  1. Calls for Police service and enforcement actions to any establishment owned or operated by the applicant or other entities in which the applicant has an ownership interest have not been any more numerous than the average calls for a similar establishment in the past 12 months within the city; and
  2. Violations of any liquor law or ordinance by the applicant in any establishment operated or owned by the applicant or other entities in which the applicant has an ownership interest;
  3. Calls for service through the City's Public Information Office and enforcement actions related to any establishment owned or operated by the applicant or other entities in which the applicant has an ownership interest have not been any more numerous than the average calls for a similar establishment in the past twelve months within the city;
  4. Public infrastructure and services in the historic district and area within a ten block radius in any direction is sufficient to handle increased traffic, parking, sewerage, water, other utilities or other needs such as police and fire services of the establishment when considering the total occupancy allowed within the historic district for all businesses and uses;
  5. A feasible plan for providing parking and security for patrons is presented and approved by the Director of Public Works and Chief of Police for applications for establishments with an occupancy potential of more than 250; and
  6. The applicant agrees to be bound by the Hospitality Best Practices adopted by the Hospitality Resource Panel now in existence or another group or agency approved by council to develop such practices and as those practices are amended from time to time;
  7. The applicant is current in all state, county, city and community improvement or other special district taxes or assessment;
  8. The granting of the application will not result in more than a maximum of 5,000 occupants in establishments that sell liquor within the area described herein;
  9. The Director of Planning and Development, with input from the Urban Districts Alliance and Commercial Club, determines that the location of the establishment is consistent with the Commercial Street Historic District Strategy for Success on file in the Office of the City Clerk; and
  10. The applicant has not violated any city or state laws in the operation of any establishment with a liquor license.

Downtown Springfield Community Improvement District
General Ordinance number 6105 established a specific set of requirements for the issuance of liquor licenses within the Downtown Springfield Community Improvement District.  City Code Section 10-37 (c) allows the Director of Finance to reduce the distance requirement between a proposed liquor license and a church, school, and park from 200 to 100 feet if it is determined that the issuance of the license shall have no adverse impacts on the Downtown Springfield Community Improvement District.  The determination is made after the review and evaluation of the criteria outlined in Section 10-37(c).  City Council may grant a reduction of the distance requirements by resolution to a distance down to and including zero feet, as outlined in the above church, school, and park headings.

City Code Section 10-37(c) requires the License Division review the following criteria before issuing a liquor license to a location in this geographic area:

  1. Calls for Police service and enforcement actions to any establishment owned or operated by the applicant or other entities in which the applicant has an ownership interest have not been any more numerous than the average calls for a similar establishment in the past 12 months within the city; and

  2. Violations of any liquor law or ordinance by the applicant in any establishment operated or owned by the applicant or other entities in which the applicant has an ownership interest; and

  3. Calls for service through the City's Public Information Office and enforcement actions related to any establishment owned or operated by the applicant or other entities in which the applicant has an ownership interest have not been any more numerous than the average calls for a similar establishment in the past 12 months within the city; and

  4. A feasible plan for providing security for patrons is presented and approved by the Chief of Police for applications for establishments with an occupancy potential of more than two hundred fifty (250); and

  5. The applicant agrees to be bound by the Hospitality Best Practices adopted by the Hospitality Resource Panel now in existence or another group or agency approved by council to develop such practices and as those practices are amended from time to time; and

  6. The applicant is current in all state, county, city and community improvement or other special district taxes or assessment; and

  7. The applicant acknowledges the limitations placed upon occupancy as determined by the certificate of occupancy issued to the establishment; and

  8. The director of finance, with input from the Urban Districts Alliance, Downtown Springfield Community Improvement District Board, City departments, and other agencies with information about the compliance of the applicant and/or locations with the criteria in subsections (c)(1)— (7), determines that the application and/or location has successfully met the requirements for licensing and that the issuance of the license will not result in the operation of a business in violation of this Code or the Zoning Code; and

  9. The applicant has not violated any city or state laws in the operation of any establishment with a liquor license.  

Applicant Requirements for All City Alcohol Licenses
City Code Section 10-33 states that “no person shall be granted a license to sell intoxicating liquor unless such person is of good moral character.”   Additionally, the Code states that a liquor license shall not be granted to a person “whose license has been previously revoked or who has been convicted, since the ratification of the 21st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, of a violation of the provisions of any law applicable to the manufacture or sale of intoxicating liquor, or who employs in his business as such dealer any person whose license has been revoked or who has been convicted of violating such law since the date mentioned in this section.”

In order to ensure compliance with this section, applicants must successfully complete a criminal background check.  In the case of a partnership, limited liability company, or corporation, all members or officers should be prepared to complete the background check process.  The background investigation is conducted by the Springfield Police Department and is addition to any background check required by the State of Missouri.  Applicants must complete the background check application(s) at the License Division.

Alcohol Licenses and Minors
General Ordinance 5635, an initiative petition adopted by the vote of the people on November 7, 2006, prohibits anyone under 21 years of age from entering a business that has as its primary purpose the sale of alcohol consumption on the premises. The ordinance provides specific exemptions to the prohibition, as well as necessary definitions to assist citizens and business owners determine the ordinance’s applicability.

A business that has its primary purpose the sale of alcohol consumption is defined as “a bar, nightclub, establishment, event or facility where the sales from beverages which contain alcohol are sixty (60) percent or more of the annual gross receipts of the sales of the business. Gate receipts will be counted toward alcohol sales when connected to reduced alcohol prices.”

The prohibition shall not apply to: 
    1.    Any charitable, religious or other organization that has achieved 501C3 status
    2.    Any person under twenty one (21) years of age if accompanied by his or her parent or court appointed guardian
    3.    A restaurant that has more than forty (40) percent of its sales from food prepared on the premises.

Audits
The amount of sales of any person who has a license to sell alcohol shall be subject to audit by the Director of Finance or his or her designee under provisions of Chapter 70 of the City Code. Sales of a person who has a license to sell alcohol shall be verified by the licensee providing to the Director on an annual basis a notarized statement prepared by a certified public accountant, public accountant, auditor, comptroller, or similarly licensed accountant showing total gross receipts, gross receipts from the sale of alcohol, food sales, and other sales including gate admissions on a form established by the Director. The Director shall have authority to establish regulations for the keeping of records relating to gross receipts of the business which regulations shall be on file with the City Clerk.

Punishment
Any business subject to the provisions of this ordinance who permits a person under twenty one (21) years of age to be on the premises of the business in violation of subsection A of this ordinance shall be given written notice of the violation pursuant to section 10-40 of the City Code and an opportunity for an administrative hearing under section 10-41 of the City Code to determine if the violation occurred including the right to appeal any such decision in accordance with procedures set forth in section 10-41. If the violation occurred the hearing officer shall take the following action:  

  1. First offense: Suspend the license to sell alcohol for 48 consecutive hours.
  2. Second offense within a 12 month period: Suspend the license to sell alcohol for two consecutive weeks.
  3. Third offense and any subsequent offense within a 24 month period: Suspend the license to sell alcohol for one year. Any person under twenty one (21) years of age who violates this ordinance is subject to the penalties set forth in section 1-7 of the City Code.

Enforcement 
Failure or refusal of a business to provide the necessary form as required by this ordinance of allow an officer or investigator to perform such inspection of the premises at any time the business is open, or at any other reasonable time, shall be grounds for suspension of the liquor license pursuant to Section 10-33 and 10-40 through 10-43. 
 
 
 
References: Springfield City Code Chapter 10, RSMO 311, Springfield Zoning Ordinance