Alcohol & Liquor License in China: A Comprehensive Guide


The dynamic landscape of business regulations in China, particularly in Shanghai, has undergone significant changes with the integration of alcohol sales licensing into the broader food business operation permits. This shift, effective from July 10, 2023, has implications for foreign companies looking to engage in the sale of alcohol within the city. This comprehensive guide aims to provide a step-by-step approach for foreign companies to successfully register for China alcohol & Liquor License taking into account the new regulatory framework and the support role of the Global Wine & Spirits Business Association.

The New Regulatory Framework for China Alcohol license

This change streamlines the licensing process for foreign companies looking to engage in the alcohol trade within the city. This article will guide foreign companies through the necessary steps to register for alcohol business operations in Shanghai, considering the new regulations and the role of GWBMA in assisting foreign entrepreneurs.

Integration of China Alcohol & Liquor Licensing into Food Business Operation Permits

Starting from July 10, 2023, Shanghai has ceased to issue separate permits for the wholesale and retail of alcohol products. Instead, these activities are now included within the scope of food business operation permits. This means that any entity engaging in the sale of alcohol in Shanghai must apply for a food business operation permit that includes alcohol as a project.

Specific Designation of Alcohol Sales in Food Business Operation Permits

The new food business operation permits will specifically indicate the inclusion of alcohol sales within their scope. This is denoted as “Including Alcohol (Wholesale),” “Including Alcohol (Retail),” or “Including Ethanol Beverages” in the second-level directory of food business operations.

Duration and Issuance of Food Business Operation Permits

The Food Business Operation Permit, which includes alcohol as a project, is issued on the date the permit decision is made and is valid for five years.

China Alcohol license: As a Foreigner in China

Foreigners looking to establish a Trading Company in China and engage in the import and export of alcohol must follow certain guidelines to ensure compliance with local regulations.

Firstly, it is essential to have a physical office or storefront. This provides a legitimate base for your business operations and is often a requirement for obtaining necessary permits. Secondly, wholly foreign-owned enterprises (WFOEs) should focus on wholesale alcohol sales, such as wines and champagnes. This allows for the use of an office space and the potential for large-scale sales. If retail sales are the goal, a commercial storefront is necessary to apply for the relevant permits.

Under the Current Regulations: With the new regulations in place, it is crucial for entrepreneurs to have a clear understanding of their business objectives during the registration process. The integration of alcohol sales into food business operation permits may require additional considerations and planning.

Alcohol License in China

The Role of the Global Wine & Spirits Business Association

Expertise and Support for Foreign Companies

The GWBMA, with its extensive knowledge of the alcohol industry in China, can provide critical support to foreign companies navigating the registration process. This includes assistance with understanding the new regulations, preparing the necessary documentation, and ensuring compliance with all legal requirements.

Facilitating Business Operations

The GWBMA can help companies establish a clear business strategy, taking into account the new regulatory environment. This includes advising on the most suitable business model—whether wholesale or retail—and the type of alcohol products to focus on.

Networking and Market Access

As a platform for industry professionals, the GWBMA can facilitate networking opportunities and provide insights into the Chinese market. This can be invaluable for foreign companies looking to establish a strong presence in the competitive alcohol market in Shanghai.

China Alcohol license: Practical Considerations for Foreign Companies

Physical Presence: Office or Shopfront

Foreign companies must have a physical presence in the form of an office or shopfront to engage in alcohol sales. This is a prerequisite for obtaining the necessary permits and is crucial for establishing credibility with customers and regulatory authorities.

Business Model Selection: Wholesale vs. Retail

The choice between wholesale and retail sales should be based on the company’s resources, market strategy, and long-term goals. Wholesale operations typically require larger storage facilities and a robust distribution network, while retail sales necessitate a storefront and a focus on customer experience.

China Alcohol license: Compliance with Local Regulations

Foreign companies must ensure they comply with all local regulations, including those related to alcohol sales. This includes adhering to the new food business operation permits, which encompass alcohol sales, and maintaining high standards of food safety and hygiene.

The Registration Process of China Alcohol License

Application Preparation

The first step is to prepare the application for the food business operation permit. This involves gathering all necessary documents, including company registration certificates, business scope descriptions, and proof of the physical location.

Submission and Review

Once the application is complete, it must be submitted to the relevant authorities for review. The GWBMA can assist with this process, ensuring that all paperwork is in order and that the application meets the requirements of the Shanghai Municipal Food Safety Administration.

Inspection and Permit Issuance

After the application is reviewed, an inspection of the company’s premises may be conducted to verify compliance with food safety standards. Upon successful inspection, the food business operation permit, including alcohol sales, will be issued.

Ongoing Compliance and Renewal

Companies must maintain compliance with all regulations throughout the permit’s validity period. This includes regular inspections and updates to the permit as necessary. Renewal procedures should be initiated well in advance of the expiration date to avoid any disruption to business operations.


The integration of alcohol sales into the food business operation permits in Shanghai presents both challenges and opportunities for foreign companies. By leveraging the expertise of organizations like the GWBMA and adhering to the new regulatory framework, foreign entrepreneurs can successfully establish and grow their alcohol businesses in China. It is essential to stay informed about the latest regulatory changes and to seek professional advice to ensure compliance and success in this competitive market.

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