Brian Donesley – Attorney at Law

Idaho Liquor LawIdaho Licenses


Brian Donesley, Attorney at Law,  has been involved closely with all substantive, Idaho beer license, wine license and liquor license issues before the Idaho Legislature since 1979. He has served as Idaho State Police State Liquor Chief, Idaho State Police Chief Legal Counsel, and as State Senator from Boise on the germane Idaho State Senate State Affairs Committee.

Brian Donesley has been a private attorney active  drafting rules and statutes, lobbying, testifying before committees,  and in negotiations with industry and government entities including the office of the Governor of the State of Idaho , the Idaho State Police ABC, BATF and city and county agencies across Idaho.

To understand Idaho liquor law and Idaho liquor licenses one must consider the history of this state. Idaho achieved became a state in 1890  during the era of “progressive” politics, as with Idaho’s sister state neighbors Washington and Montana. Consistent with the political, cultural and social climate of the times and consistent with the conservative nature of prevailing Idaho policies, the Idaho State Constitution requires that:

The first concern of all good government is the virtue and sobriety of the people, and the purity of the home. This legislature should further  all wise and well directed efforts for the promotion of temperance and morality. Art. III, ss24.

Idaho statutes and case law establish that a liquor license is a “ privilege,” that citizens have no fundamental right to engage in the sale of alcoholic beverages and that a license may not be sufficiently substantial an interest to require due process of law other than notice and hearing under the Idaho Administrative Procedures Act. While the law is not precisely clear on these matters, Idaho State Police ABC, through the Governor’s appointee the Director of Idaho State Police, is given substantial discretion by the Idaho courts.

The Constitution of the United States grants each state power to regulate alcoholic beverages within its boundaries. This grant of “plenary power” means that each state has a different licensing, regulatory and enforcement scheme. Idaho enforces strictly its “three tier system,” separating manufacturing, wholesale and retail segments of the Idaho alcoholic beverage industry, Idaho liquor licenses and permitting for each tier and type of alcoholic beverage and  the interrelationships between them. Trade areas are protected for wholesalers/distributors, and there is a price-posting scheme enforced by state law and a prohibition against cash sales from wholesalers to retailers.

Meanwhile, retail liquor licenses are restricted to within city limits and to one retail liquor by the drink license for each 1500 population or portion thereof within a city under the state statutory quota system. So called “specialty licenses” are available for qualifying waterfront resorts, conventions centers, ski resorts, equestrian facilities, golf courses, fraternal clubs and so forth. The details of each such specialty license are often difficult to fathom.

It is important that you know your rights before investing in the business of selling alcoholic beverages in Idaho, whether as a manufacturer, dealer, broker, wholesaler/distributor or at retail. If you are already doing business in Idaho, familiarity with the Idaho liquor laws pertaining to Idaho beer licenses, Idaho wine licenses, Idaho beer licenses and state and local enforcement policies, is essential, so you may protect your investments.

Much care must be taken to negotiate the ins and outs of the state and local regulatory authorities to get your business done effectively, whether to obtain a new Idaho liquor license under the state’s license quotas, locate and purchase an existing Idaho liquor license, seek issuance of a specialty Idaho liquor license authorized by statute outside the state quota, lobby for an exception to the Idaho beer license, Idaho wine license or Idaho liquor license law before the legislature, transfer or obtain an Idaho liquor license by lease or sale, defend administrative revocations or suspensions of your license and to do what is necessary to establish and to protect your Idaho alcoholic beverage licenses and your business.

Brian Donesley also has valuable experience in the states of Montana, Utah and Washington. Brian Donesley is licensed to practice law in Idaho and Washington and before federal courts.

Brian Donesley is a sustaining member of the National Association of Alcoholic Beverage Licensing Attorneys Attorneys (NAABLA).

Brian Donesley’s clients have included:

Lonestar Steakhouse, Chili’s, Applebees, On the Border, Macaroni Grill, Flatbread Community Oven, Tucano’s, Carino’s Italian Restaurants, Texas Roadhouse, La Tapatia Mexican Restaurant, Chapala Mexican Restaurant, Famous Dave’s BBQ, Cucina Gemelli, Cheerleaders Sports Bar & Grill, Red Robin International, The Refuge, Flying Pie Pizzaria, Smoky Mountain Pizzaria Grill, Fork, Goodwood Barbecue Company, Wingers, Buffalo Wild Wings, Carrabba’s, E&J Gallo Winery, The Wine Institute, New Belgium Brewing Company, Stein Distributing, Hayden Distributing, Brewers’ Haven, Idaho Winegrowers Assn., the Idaho Beverage Coalition, Aramark, Interstate Hotels, Kahala Corporation, Spearmint Rhino, CJ’s Nightclub, Cowgirls Saloon,The Idaho Licensed Beverage Association, the Idaho Beverage Coalition…and others….

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Brian Donesley
Office Location:
802 W Bannock
Suite LP106
Boise, ID 83702
Mailing address:
P.O. Box 419
Boise, ID 83701
Phone: 208-343-3851
Fax: 208-343-4188