In California, extensive steps must be taken to receive a liquor license for an establishment. Before the application process can begin with the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC), each applicant must determine which liquor license most accurately pertains to their establishment.

What Are The Different Types Of Liquor LIcenses?

The five most popular liquor licenses are Type 20, 21, 41,47,48.

Type 20

Type 20 liquor licenses are for establishments that offer the “off-sale” of beer and wine only. “Off-Sale” means that the alcohol sold must be packed, closed, and not consumed on-site. Most convenience stores are grocery stores that hold this license since they only cost a hundred to a few hundred dollars to obtain.

Type 21

Type 21 liquor licenses are “off-sale” licenses that allow the sale of beer, wine, and liquor items. While this license is more expensive than type 20, the seller can sell a wider variety of alcohol. Most liquor stores use this license for their establishments.

Type 41

Type 41 liquor licenses allow only beer and wine to be served alongside food. This license is for full-service restaurants that serve beer, wine, spirits, and at least 50 percent of their profits come from food.

Type 47

Type 47 liquor licenses are one of the most expensive options as it is an “on-sale” general full liquor license. This means that the establishment can fully sell beer, wine, spirits, and liquor items alongside food. To maintain this license, each establishment must prove that 50 percent of their total sales come from the food items they offer. Establishments can demonstrate evidence through gross receipts from food sales.

Type 48

Type 48 liquor licenses are the most expensive. These licenses are obtained mainly by bars and nightclubs as they can legally serve to sell beer, wine, and liquor to patrons 21 years of age or older without the requirement of food. This license requires that no person under the age of 21 be allowed in the establishment.

Liquor License Application Requirements

Before an establishment can apply for a liquor license with the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), there are prefacing steps that they must take to qualify for an application. These requirements include:

  • Obtaining a Sales Tax Permit
  • Applying with the Board of Equalization to register in Alcoholic Beverage Tax Programs. The alcoholic beverage tax is a per-gallon excise tax collected on California’s sale, distribution, or importation of alcoholic beverages.
  • Applying with the United States Treasury Department, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau for a basic Federal permit or a special Occupational Tax Stamp if required
  • Contacting local or city officials to determine a local business license is required.

If the applicant cannot complete these requirements, it will be difficult for ABC to approve a license. Therefore, it is crucial for the applicant to truthfully and adequately meet these requirements before contacting ABC.

Application Process

After obtaining all of the prefacing requirements, the owner applying for a license can contact the nearest Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) office. This application process entails five different steps that establishments must complete to obtain the license.

These steps are:

  • Initial filing— These are the preliminary steps that establishments must complete before applying to ABC, as mentioned above.
  • Notifications—The ABC requires each establishment applying for a license to post the Public Notice of Application at the premises for 30 days and give information to ABC as needed for the investigation. Additionally, The ABC may require the establishment to publish a notice in the newspaper and mail a notice to all persons living within a 500-foot radius of the premises or obtain proof from the local planning department that the zoning permits an ABC license.
  • Investigation— The ABC conducts a thorough investigation, as required by law, to see if the applicant and the premises qualify for a license. This step is to confirm that the applicant is qualified and the premise of the establishment is suitable for the license.
    • Examples of an applicant not being qualified include: if they falsify their application, have a criminal past, record of chronic insobriety, is not the valid owner of an establishment, or are under the age of 21
    • Examples of an unsuitable establishment include: residing close to a church or school, residing in a high-crime area, the license would create a public nuisance, or zoning is improper for alcohol sales
  • Final Review- The ABC will issue a final review that checks paperwork, receives proper fees, and makes sure everything is for the license to be approved.
  • Issuance of License— After everything has been thoroughly looked through and all appropriate steps have been taken, the ABC will issue a license for the establishment.

How Long Does It Take To Receive a Liquor License?

Applying and maintaining a liquor license can be both time-consuming and expensive. The ABC laws require the establishment to mail a copy of each application to certain local officials (Section 23987) and require a 30-day posting period (Section 23985). Additionally, most investigations take up to 45 days. The overall timeline of receiving a license can span from 70-90 days. This time will also depend on the accuracy of application information and the liquor license being applied for.

How Much Do Liquor Licenses Cost?

The price of liquor licenses depends on the county the establishment resides in, the type of license, and the current market value. Beer and wine licenses can range from $3,000 to $5,000, while full-liquor licenses range from $12,000 to $400,000.

How Do I Renew My Liquor License?

Permit holders must renew liquor licenses annually. Additionally, permit holders must make all renewal payments on or before the last day of the month posted on the license; no license will be transferred until the renewal fee is paid. If the renewal payment is received on time, the new permit will be received 4-6 weeks after the current license’s expiration date.

Contact Pride Legal

If you or a loved one has more questions on California ABC laws, we invite you to contact us at Pride Legal for legal counseling or any further inquiries. To protect your rights, hire someone who understands them.