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Applying for a public house licence

In certain cases, you require a licence for the operation of a public house business.

Anybody who carries out the following commercially is operating a public house business:

  • selling drinks for consumption on the premises (public house)
  • selling prepared food for consumption on the premises (eating house)

if the premises are accessible to anybody or to certain groups of persons.

Furthermore, anybody selling drinks or prepared food for consumption on the premises in itinerant trade from stationary business premises for the duration of the event as a self-employed tradesman is also operating a public house business if the premises are accessible to anybody or to certain groups of persons.

If these requirements are present, you must, as a rule, apply for a licence. However, a licence is not required if you merely sell

  • non-alcoholic drinks,
  • give free-of-charge samples,
  • prepared food or
  • drinks and prepared food to house guests in connection with tourist accommodation.

Should you operate a public house in itinerant trade in such cases, you do, however, require an itinerant trade card.

In respect of a public house or eating house in which drinks are also usually served, you only require a licence if this concerns alcoholic drinks.

You can obtain the public house licence as:

  • a new licence,
  • a licence following building alterations or
  • a licence for the operation of a public house by a deputy.

Responsible department

the municipal administration or city council (Gemeinde-/Stadtverwaltung) or the rural district office of the future premises



The requirements for the issuing of a licence are as follows:

  • No circumstances are present which suggest that you are not sufficiently reliable for running the business, for example
    • you are an alcoholic
    • it is feared that you will exploit inexperienced, irresponsible or weak-minded persons,
    • you will abet alcohol abuse, illegal gambling, receiving stolen goods or immorality or
    • you will not comply with the regulations under health or foodstuffs laws, occupational safety or the protection of youth.
  • The rooms for the operation of the business or for presence of the employees must be suitable in terms of location, quality, facilities or division.
    Above all, they must comply with the necessary requirements for the protection of customers and employees against dangers to life, health or morality, as well as the other requirements for the maintenance of public safety or order.
  • The guest rooms must be accessible to disabled persons.
    This applies to rooms in the following buildings:
    • Buildings which were issued with planning permission after 1 November 2002 for
      • the first construction,
      • significant conversion or
      • significant extension or
    • should no planning permission be required: buildings constructed, significantly converted or extended after 1 May 2002

An exception will only apply if the rooms cannot be designed in a way as to be accessible to disabled people or if this can only be attained at unreasonable expense. 

  • The business operation does not infringe the public interest in respect of its location or use of the rooms.
    Above all, no fear of a damaging impact on the environment as defined in the German Federal Pollution Control Act (Bundesimmissionsschutzgesetz) or other significant detriments, dangers or impairments to the public may be present.
  • Proof (by means of a certification of the chamber of industry and commerce which is responsible for you) that you or your representative (§ 9 of the German Restaurant Code - Gaststättengesetz) have been instructed concerning the basic knowledge of foodstuffs which is necessary for the business and you are considered to be knowledgeable of this.


The public house licence must be applied for in writing or electronic form at the competent body. Your application must be signed by hand or contain a qualified electronic signature. You must give the necessary details and provide the documents which are necessary for the assessment of your application.



Required documents

  • completed application form
  • copy of the identity card or comparable identity documents
  • for proof of the corporate legal form
    • In case of the business being located in Germany:
      • In case of a business entered in a register an excerpt of the Commercial Register (Handelsregisterauszug)
      • otherwise a copy of the articles of association (for example in case of a partnership under the German Civil Code - GbR).
    • In case of the business being located abroad: Documents from the relevant country which prove the legal form.
  • for proof of personal reliability
  • proof of instruction from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IHK certificate concerning participation in a course concerning foodstuff and hygiene provisions) or IHK certificate concerning the passing of a final examination of a state-recognised apprenticeship, which makes the course unnecessary.
  • in addition, if the representative is to manage the public house:
    • Application for issuing of a representation licence
    • Personal documents of the representative
  • Building plans, floor plans, site plans

In order to check personal reliability, the competent body can request further documents.

In case of legal persons (GmbH, company, AG, registered co-operative), you must merely fill in the application form for the legal person itself. You must submit all personal documents for all natural persons who are authorised to run the business (for example personal papers). In addition, you also require an extract from the central business register for the legal person.

Business partnerships (GbR, KG, OHG, PartG, GmbH & Co. KG) are not capable of being issued a licence as such. Therefore, each managing partner requires a licence. You must submit a complete application and all personal documents for each of these persons.


The amount of the fees is in accordance with the applicable fee statute of the local authority or city or in line with the fee ordinance of the rural district office.

Processing time

The authorities must reach a decision concerning your application within a deadline of three months (beginning on receipt of the complete documents). Following expiry of this deadline, the applied for licence shall be considered as being issued if your application is sufficiently precise.

Note: The authorities can however extend the deadline by a reasonable period once if this is justified by the difficulty of the matter. Such a deadline extension must be justified by the authorities and notified to you in good time.

Release note

The German original version of this text was drafted in close cooperation with the relevant departments. The Wirtschaftsministerium and the Innenministerium released it on 05.07.2018. Only the German text is legally binding. The Federal State does not assume any liability for the translated texts.
In cases of doubt or if you have any questions or problems, please contact the relevant authorities directly.


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