Special event liquor permit

Online training videos are available for special event liquor applications.

Special event liquor permits allow for the sale by the drink only of malt, vinous and spirituous liquor, or fermented malt beverages, on premises that do not hold a liquor license or is to be sold by a qualifying organization or club or arts liquor-licensed premises.

Qualifying organizations include:

  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Social, fraternal, patriotic, political or athletic in nature (not organized for a monetary gain)
  • State agencies
  • The Colorado Wine Industry Development Board
  • An instrumentality of a municipality or country
  • Political candidate who has filed necessary reports and statements with the Colorado Secretary of State or the Denver Clerk and Recorder

When to apply for a special event liquor permit

Special event liquor permits should be applied for at least 30 days before the event. This will ensure Excise and Licenses has plenty of time to process the application and the applicant time to post notice about the event.

When special event liquor permit is required

By way of example, special event liquor permits are required when a qualifying organization or political candidate:

  • Has an event and wants to sell alcohol
  • Has an event that is open to the public and alcohol is available
  • Has an event where there is a cash bar
  • Has a public event where donations are requested
  • Has a public event where admission fees are required


  • Sandwiches or food snacks must always be available when alcohol is being sold.
  • A special event liquor permit cannot be issued to the same applicant for more than 15 days in a calendar year.

Hours of operation


(2) A special event permit authorizes sale of the beverage or the liquors specified only during the following hours:

(a) Between the hours of five a.m. of the day specified in a malt beverage permit and until twelve midnight on the same day;

(b) Between the hours of seven a.m. of the day specified in a malt, vinous, and spirituous liquor permit and until two a.m. of the day immediately following.



Apply online

Step 1.Before you apply 

Read the ordinance for this license under "Municipal Code" on the right side of the page to make sure this license is right for you.

Step 2.Zoning use permit may be required

A zone use permit might be required when submitting a special event liquor permit application to Excise and Licenses. 

  • A zone use permit is a document granting the applicant/owner of a lot, building, or structure permission for the requested use of the land. "Use" can be defined as any activity, occupation, business or operation in a building or on a lot/tract of land.

Zone use permit is not required for events held in public parks/buildings and on public streets or alleys

  • Zone use permits are not required for events in city parks and recreation centers as well as other Denver Parks and Recreation facilities, Denver International Airport, and Denver Arts and Venues facilities, events at a state-owned and operated facility, including state-owned universities and colleges and Denver Public School facilities, or for events in the public right-of-way (public streets/alleys).
  • Events that are scheduled in a public park or street should be coordinated through the Office of Special Events. OSE will work with the applicant and appropriate city agencies to ensure the event checklist is tailored to address the city’s licensing and permitting concerns.

Events inside a building already zoned for assembly

  • For events inside a building on private property, a zone use permit is required to ensure the building is appropriately zoned and permitted to host a public assembly event. Click here(PDF, 171KB) for a list of zoning uses where events for public assembly are allowed as part of the primary permitted use.
  • Applicants can request a copy of the most current zone use permit for the subject building or space by emailing zoning.review@denvergov.org. Be sure to include the property address. The most current zone use permit can be submitted for multiple events and does not need to be updated unless the zoning use has changed since the permit was issued.  

Events in a building or outdoors (including parking lots) not zoned for assembly

  • For events in a building or outdoors where the subject building or land is not currently permitted by zoning for public assembly events, applicants must apply for and receive a special event temporary zoning use permit.

Step 3.Fire permit may be required

Determine if you need a fire safety permit

The applicant might need to secure a fire safety permit. To determine if you need a fire safety permit, review the special event guidelines document(PDF, 219KB).

After reading the document and you decide yes, you need a fire safety permit based on the guidelines, follow these instructions:

After reviewing this document and you determine you need a fire safety permit, submit that application online to the Denver Fire Department. This document(PDF, 3MB) will guide you through that online application process. Once your fire safety permit has been approved, you will receive the permit via email. You will use that permit to apply for the special event liquor permit.

After reading the document and you decide no, you do not need a fire safety permit based on the guidelines, follow these instructions:

After reviewing the document and you determine you do not need a fire safety permit, email SpecialEventsDFD@denvergov.org at the Denver Fire Department. The email should state you are requesting an exception letter for the fire safety permit for your special event liquor permit. State why you are requesting the exception letter based on the guidelines you read in the guideline document(PDF, 219KB). State the date, time and location of the event. Give as much detail about the event as possible. The Denver Fire Department will determine if a permit is needed for the liquor special event. If no permit is required, it will send the applicant a letter indicating such. It can be submitted in lieu of the fire permit with the special event liquor permit application to Excise and Licenses. If the Denver Fire Department determines a permit is required, the applicant must submit it along with the special event liquor permit application to Excise and Licenses.

Step 4.Watch the online training videos 

Online training videos provide helpful and detailed overviews of the application process. They are on the Online Training Videos webpage. They show how to register for an account, how to complete licensed establishment and entity registration records, and how to apply for new business licenses or amendments.

Step 5.Register for a new account

Register for an account, if you haven't already, in Denver’s Permitting and Licensing Center. For help, navigate to the online training videos and watch the guide for how to register for a new account.

Step 6.Gather all required documents

Make sure you have everything from the "Required documents" section below. 

Important notes to keep in mind about your documents:
  • All materials must be digital files saved as a .pdf or .jpg. Do not include any other file types. The Department of Excise and Licenses cannot accept other file types.
  • Use numbers or letters but not characters such as symbols (/ ? < > \ : * | “ ^) or spaces that could cause complications.
    • For example:
      • Good filename: drivers-license-name-2022.pdf
      • Bad filename: last name/ id.pdf
  • In some cases, you might need to combine documents and upload them in a single .pdf. You can use a free, online tool to merge documents into a single file. 
  • Legal documents must be signed, dated and executed. All pages of large legal documents (such as a lease) must be included in the application.
  • All materials must be legible. 
  • Incomplete applications will be rejected.

Step 7.Apply in Denver's Online Permitting and Licensing Center 

In Denver’s Online Permitting and Licensing Center

  • Under Business/Occupational, Short-Term and Residential Rental Licensing, click "Apply New."
  • Select the type of license you want to obtain and click “Continue Application.”
    •  Application package contains the following licenses: Child care center, residential rental property, retail tobacco store, massage business, marijuana licenses, retail food, retail food-commissary based, wholesale food and wholesale food-commissary based.
  • Read the introduction page and click “Continue.”

This will begin the application process.  

You can save and resume within 30 days any time during the process. After 30 days, you must start again.  

Go to the Online Training Videos webpage to guide you.  

After the online application is complete, you will be prompted to submit fees in the online portal. These can be paid with a bank account or a Visa, Mastercard, or Discover card.

Step 8.Pay required fees

Application fee: $100

Licensing fee per day:

  •  Malt, Vinous, and Spirituous:  $25 per day
  •  Fermented Malt Beverage:  $10 per day

All credit cards are accepted except for American Express.

Step 9.City application review and next steps

  • The Department will determine if the premises is already licensed and, if so, whether any exclusions apply.

Excise and Licenses tries to conduct an initial review of a complete application within seven business days. The review process might take longer if it is incomplete or requires police review (if applicable).
  • All application related communications will be sent through email, from EXLNotifications@denvergov.org. Do not respond to these emails as this inbox is not monitored.
  • If the application is incomplete, the applicant will receive a "notice of deficiency" email. This allows 14 days for corrections. License endorsement requests and incidents on a background check need police review. 
  • All applications will be closed if they are not completed within 12 months.

Step 10.License issuance

Once approved, the applicant is emailed a copy of the business license. This allows the license holder to start operating.

The licensee should read "Once you have your license" below and follow the requirements.

Application forms and business entity documents are required for the applications process. Documents must be printed in black ink or typewritten. Photocopies are accepted. 

All documents are submitted through the online process to the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses. 

The permit must always be posted when the event is being held.

  • The special event liquor permit licensee must purchase liquor to be served and/or sold at the event only from a licensed wholesaler or a licensed retail liquor store.
  • A special event liquor permit is authorized only for the benefit of the nonprofit organization or political candidate who holds the permit. Proceeds from the event must benefit the nonprofit organization or the political candidate.
  • Holders of a special event liquor permit can employ event managers to handle the event for a fee that reasonably compensates their work. The fee cannot be the revenues from the event.
  • The director can require examination of the books and records of a special event to ensure compliance with permit obligations.