How Do I Get a TTB License and Permit?

So you’ve decided to start a commercial distilling business and you’re doing your research on what to do to be within the law. First off, congratulations! This is a big step and, like any permitting process, it can be a challenge - but thankfully there are some resources that can help you along the way.

The first thing you’ll need to do once your building and commercial distilling equipment are in place is register with the TTB and figure out which of the TTB permits online is best for your business. There are several options here and picking the right one will help make the process as streamlined as possible. Most of our readers will likely need a Distilled Spirits Permit (DSP) but some may desire a Fuel Alcohol Plant Permit. We’ll focus primarily on the DSP, but touch on the other as we go along.

Obtaining your TTB license is a vital step because you cannot legally begin production until your permit is approved. In order to get it approved, you will need to have your all your equipment, including your tanks, housed in a separate area in such a way that “the revenue will be jeopardized or the administration of TTB regulations will be hindered.” This means that you cannot have your equipment in a private home, on a boat, or anywhere that an inspector cannot easily access.

Copper commercial distilling equipment

The TTB advises that generally construction should be completed and the necessary equipment is in place before you begin the application process. This will allow inspectors to do their job more quickly and efficiently and help prevent return trips and further delays. Both types of permits have very similar requirements but fuel alcohol plants are not expressly forbidden from operating outside of a home but due to the various requirements in each state please cross reference with your local authorities and contact the TTB directly with questions.

Now that you know what you’ll need to get started, you’ll want to select the correct permit for your needs. Generally if you plan on producing ethanol for human consumption, you’ll need a DSP. If you’re using it as a fuel source or as an intermediary for a fuel source then you’ll need an Alcohol Fuel Plant Permit.

(Another type of permit called a Specially Denatured Spirits and Tax Free Alcohol Permit can be much more complicated and is beyond the scope of this article.)

If you have your commercial distillery equipment and operation set up (or at least almost set up) and you know what type of permit you’ll need, it’s time to gather the required paperwork to complete your application. This will involve a bond, corporate documents, a lease agreement or proof of ownership of the property, proof that the applicant has signing authority within the organization, a diagram of the facility itself, and a source of funds declaration. 

The corporate documents include the articles of incorporation for your corporation, LLC, or partnership. If you submit a lease agreement, it must show that the owner of the building knows that you plan on distilling alcohol on the premises. This even applies to owners leasing the building to their own business. The signing authority authorization can consist of any of the following: an excerpt from the Articles of Incorporation (Corporations); an excerpt from the Articles of Organization (LLCs); an excerpt from the Partnership Agreement (Partnerships); copies of a relevant resolution; official company meeting minutes; TTB Form 5100.1, Signing Authority for Corporate and LLC Officials; or TTB Form 5000.8, Power of Attorney, if someone other than an employee, such as a consultant, will act on behalf of the business entity.

The diagram of the premises has several requirements and must:

  • Indicate the dimensions of the premises in feet and inches;
  • Identify which areas are bonded;
  • Show where all doors are located; Indicate which direction is “north”;
  • If applicable, identify any areas used as general premises;
  • If applicable, show where cased goods will be stored on bonded premises;
  • If applicable, show where the tasting room and/or retail store will be located.

Finally, all partners must declare the source of funding; whether from loans, gifts, or personal accounts.

When your business is set up, you’ve got all your paperwork together, and you know what permit you’ll be applying for, the next step is to apply for one of the TTB permits online at the TTB website. In order to do that, you’ll need to create an account and walk through the New Applications Wizard. Any partners in the organization, officers, directors, trustees, or anyone holding at least 10% of the company will need to fill out a personal questionnaire on the site. An Application for Original Entity and Commodity Operators Application will need to be filled out as well.

If you’ve made it this far then congratulations! You’ll be given a tracking number, and you can relax a bit before the next steps. The TTB will process your application and one of two things will happen: either your application is approved or you will be asked to correct something on your application. The current average processing time for a DSP is over 80 days, so be sure to check back regularly to see if any correction requests come in.

Once you receive final approval, you’re fully licensed and ready to go. You can now legally distill alcohol and hopefully start having some fun!

>> Contact StillDragon today for help choosing your commercial distilling equipment.