File a Complaint or Protest
Anyone can file a complaint or protest against a licensee, business premise, department employee or otherwise. All complaints are reviewed by the appropriate departments before any action is taken.
If you have witnessed improper or illegal behavior by a business that holds an alcoholic beverage license, you may file a complaint with the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
Through our commitment to serving the people of California and one another, we will become the recognized leader in effective and efficient licensing and law enforcement, and a model of excellence in government.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does the disciplinary process begin?
The disciplinary process begins when ABC is informed of an alleged violation involving a licensee or a licensed premises. The information can come from a citizen complaint, police report, local legislative body, or ABC's own investigators who are sworn peace officers. A police report is usually sufficient in itself to warrant an accusation. With citizen complaints, an independent investigation by ABC is usually required. Citizens can assist the law enforcement effort by documenting violations. Neighbors are encouraged to keep logs of disruptive or illegal activities they see or hear at or around the premises. This can include incidents that disrupt the neighborhood, including noise, intoxicated patrons, fights, and the like.
What happens after the investigation?
After the investigation, the District Office evaluates the case and takes one of six different actions, depending on the evidence and facts of the case.
- No Further Action. This means there was insufficient evidence of a violation and ABC is dropping the case with no further action.
- Warning Letter or Admonishment. A warning letter may be sent to a licensee or a licensee may be called into the District Office for an interview when the circumstances surrounding a violation show that a warning letter or interview will achieve the desired effect of compliance and the filing of an accusation is not in the best interests of justice. With warnings, there must be sufficient evidence to indicate that a violation did occur. Anything less is an admonishment.
- Notice of Public Nuisance. This notice describes nuisance conditions observed at the premises and reminds the licensee of his duty to control his premises. ABC then monitors the licensed premises. If, after being notified by ABC, the licensee fails to correct public nuisance conditions at the licensed premises within a reasonable period of time, ABC may file an accusation.
- Incident File. A police report, including any call for service to the premises by law enforcement, which does not by itself warrant an accusation, is placed in the licensee's file and accumulated. If a sufficient number of these reports or calls for service accumulate, ABC may file an accusation alleging "permitting a disorderly house" and/or "creating a law enforcement problem" at a future date.
- Accusation. If sufficient evidence exists that a violation occurred, the District Office prepares an accusation. The accusation alleges specific violations of law, rule or regulation.
How are investigations conducted, and by whom?
Investigations to detect violations may be conducted by ABC investigators and/or other law enforcement agencies. Investigations may include any of the following strategies: (a) undercover operations to target specific incidents of unlawful activity (e.g., drunks, narcotics, drink solicitation activity, condition violations, minors, etc.); (b) surveillances to check for loitering, drinking in public, graffiti, litter, excessive signage, excessive noise, etc.; (c) premises inspections (the law authorizes peace officers to inspect licensed premises for violations of the ABC Act during the times when the license privileges are being exercised); and/or (d) contacting nearby residents and business owners (an accusation to revoke a license of a disorderly premises may be based solely on the testimony and/or other evidence from citizens who live or work near the licensed premises). After completing the investigation, the investigator submits a completed assignment sheet and/or case report.
Who may make an accusation against a licensee?
Any person. Accusations must be verified unless filed by a public officer acting within official capacity. An accusation must state facts constituting legal grounds to suspend or revoke a license. (Sections 24201-24207)