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Serving alcohol (on-licence)

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Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO

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Does your hotel, café, catering service or restaurant serve or sell alcohol? You need an alcohol licence from your town council. Find out how this works.

If you run a hotel or catering establishment in the Netherlands and serve alcohol, you need an alcohol licence under the Alcohol Act (Drank- en horecavergunning) issued by your municipal authority.

When do you need a licence?

All commercial hospitality establishments that serve alcoholic beverages need an alcohol licence. If you have an association or foundation that serves alcohol on a semi-commercial basis, you also need this licence.

If you only serve non-alcoholic beverages, you will need a food and drink permit in some municipalities.

Serving alcohol to minors

You may not sell or serve alcohol to persons younger than 18 years. It is illegal for adults to buy alcoholic beverages and hand them over to underaged youths. If this happens in your establishment, you are held responsible and you may be fined.

Staff requirements for serving alcohol

If you serve beer, wine, port, sherry or strong drinks, your staff members must be 16 years or older. Bartenders younger than 18 years may sell alcohol, but they are not allowed to drink it.

There should always be a manager in your business of at least 21 years old. They must hold an SVH Declaration of Social Hygiene (SVH Verklaring Sociale hygiëne) or a Declaration of Professional Competence (Verklaring Vakbewaamheid). You can check this in SVH's Social Hygiene Register (in Dutch).

If your establishment has been set up as a general partnership (VOF), these requirements apply to each individual business partner. In addition, the municipal authority may ask for a completed Bibob form (background screening).

Reporting changes to your catering establishment

If there is a change in the management of your hotel or catering establishment, you must report this to the municipal authority. If there is a change in the legal structure, you must apply for a new alcohol licence under the Alcohol Act (previously known as the Licencing and Catering Act). If the structure of your premises changes in such a way that it no longer fits the description in your licence, you must report this change to the municipal authority within one month.

Dispensation from the Alcohol Act

If you have a catering establishment and you want to sell beer, wine, port or sherry at an event, you need dispensation from the municipal authority (tapontheffing). This dispensation is valid for a maximum continuous period of 12 days. You can get one dispensation for the same annual event. You may need an event licence as well.

Online application procedure via Message Box

You can also apply for a licence dispensation under the Alcohol Act online via Message Box. Message Box is a secure email system that enables you as an entrepreneur to exchange digital messages with Dutch government agencies.

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This information is provided by

Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO
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