Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently asked questions about priority drawings.
Important Notice: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are for general information purposes only, the priority drawing procedures and license application requirements are governed by statute and regulations. Interested parties should review all applicable laws and regulations or contact an attorney.
What is a priority license?
Licenses to sell beer and wine are available year-round to qualified applicants. However, general licenses, which authorize the retail sale of beer, wine and distilled spirits are only available once per year during the designated priority application period. A priority license refers to a brand new (original) general license or a general license that is being transferred from one county to another county (intercounty transfer).
General license types that can be applied for as a priority license are types 21, 47, 48, 57, and 75.
How do I obtain a general license?
The number of general licenses that may exist in each county is determined based upon the population of the county. Applying the statutory ratio and maximum limit, the Department determines how many (if any) general licenses of each type are available in each county. Those interested in applying for a general license must first submit an application to participate in the priority draw process during the designated application period.
Where there are more applicants than licenses available, drawings are held and “priority” rankings are assigned to applicants based on a randomized system. Licenses applied for and issued via the priority drawing are subject to unique requirements and restrictions.
The only other way to obtain a general license is to purchase an existing license from someone who has the same license type you want within the same county in which you wish to establish your licensed premises.
What is a priority drawing?
It is the random selection of applicants by ABC that establishes priority rankings to apply for on-sale general licenses, off-sale general licenses, the intercounty transfer of on-sale general licenses, or the intercounty transfer of off-sale general licenses on a yearly basis pursuant to the California Business and Professions Code Section 23961. These drawings occur when there are more applicants than there are licenses available to be issued.
What is a priority drawing application?
The appropriate ABC-521 or ABC-522 forms must be submitted to the department to participate in a priority drawing. The priority drawing application forms can be found on ABC’s website. Only applicants who have submitted a complete priority drawing application and paid the required fees within the prescribed period will have an opportunity to participate in a priority drawing to be selected to thereafter apply for a priority license. (California Business and Professions Code Sections 23821 & 23961 and Title 4 California Code of Regulations section 69.2).
What is the priority drawing application period?
The priority drawing application period occurs in September every calendar year, commencing on the second Monday of September and lasts for no less than five (5) business days. Check the priority home page for the exact priority application filing dates for the current year.
What happens if I did not complete my application correctly?
Your application will be deemed disqualified, and you will not be able to participate in the requested priority drawing, pursuant to Title 4 California Code of Regulations section 69.2 (c).
Can I call and check the status of my application?
During the priority application period, all applications received remain under review, and ABC staff may or may not be able to inform you of your application status. It will depend on each district’s availability. It is the responsibility of each applicant to ensure that their application is complete and accurate.
When will I be notified if my application was disqualified?
ABC will notify you after the priority drawing application period is over. If your application is disqualified, your application and check will be mailed back to your mailing address listed on the application form at that time.
What do I do if I realize that I made a mistake on my application?
You should request a withdrawal of the incorrect application, and submit a new complete application. The new application must be submitted within the prescribed application period.
What is a priority winner?
All priority drawing participants are given a ranking number during the drawing. A priority winner is one whose rank is within the number of priority licenses available. For example, if the applicant’s priority ranking is 4 and there are 5 licenses available in the specified county, the applicant will be considered a priority winner. If a priority winner does not submit a formal application by the deadline or their application is withdrawn or denied, the applicant next in rank order will be offered an opportunity to submit a formal application and will then be considered a priority winner.
How soon must I submit my formal application package if I am a priority winner?
You must submit your formal application by the close of business on the 90th calendar day following the date notification is sent by the department to the applicant that the applicant is a priority winner. Title 4 California Code of Regulations section 69.4(b).
Submission of a formal application shall be either the date ABC receives the formal application or the postmark date if the formal application is sent via United States Postal Service.
If a priority winner fails to submit a valid formal application by the 90th calendar day, it is a withdrawal of their participation from the priority drawing and a replacement priority winner will be selected from the next in line from the same priority drawing.
Being a priority winner does not guarantee that the license will issue. Priority winners must still complete a formal license application, which is subject to all normal licensing investigation criteria.
What happens if I do not win a priority license?
Unsuccessful drawing participants will be automatically refunded their application fee (minus a $100 service charge) within 90-120 days of the drawing but will retain their ranking until the following year pursuant to Title 4 California Code of Regulations section 69.3 (c). Unsuccessful applicants will be notified if they become a replacement priority winner upon withdrawal or denial of application(s) of those in ranks above.
What is considered proof of residency?
Proof of residency may be established using a valid California identification, a utility bill for a California address in the name of the priority applicant, a filing with the California Secretary of State, or the filing for a California tax identification number. Title 4 California Code of Regulations section 69.3(e)(1).
For additional information,
contact your local ABC District Office.
4800 Stockdale Highway., Suite 213
Bakersfield, CA 93309
- (661) 395-2731
- (661) 322-5929
1800 Sutter St., Ste 450
Concord, CA 94520
- (925) 655-6314
- (925) 655-6310
1105 Sixth St., Suite C
Eureka, CA 95501
- (707) 445-7229
- (707) 445-6643
1330 B East Shaw Ave.
Fresno, CA 93710-7902
- (559) 225-6334
- (559) 225-8740
888 S Figueroa Street, Suite 320
Los Angeles, CA 90017
- (213) 833-6043
- (213) 833-6058
3950 Paramount Blvd., Suite 250
Lakewood, CA 90712
- (562) 982-1337
- (562) 275-4174
3021 Reynolds Ranch Parkway, Suite 150
Lodi, CA 95240
- (209) 371-6761
- (209) 371-6763
222 E. Huntington Dr., Suite 114
Monrovia, CA 91016
- (626) 256-3241
- (626) 263-9858
34-160 Gateway Dr., Suite 120
Palm Desert, CA 92211
- (760) 324-2027
- (760) 324-2632
1900 Churn Creek Rd., Suite 215
Redding, CA 96002
- (530) 224-4830
- (530) 224-9338
3737 Main Street, Suite 900
Riverside, CA 92501
- (951) 782-4400
- (951) 781-0531
2400 Del Paso Road, Suite 155
Sacramento, CA 95834
- (916) 419-1319
- (916) 419-3994
1137 Westridge Parkway
Salinas, CA 93907
- (831) 755-1990
- (831) 755-1997
8620 Spectrum Center Blvd., Suite 302
San Diego, CA 92123
- (858) 300-6855
- (858) 300-6874
33 New Montgomery St., Suite 1230
San Francisco, CA 94105
- (415) 356-6500
- (415) 356-6599
224 Airport Parkway, Suite 620
San Jose, CA 95110
- (408) 612-2490
San Luis Obispomap
3220 S. Higuera St., Suite 103A
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
- (805) 543-7183
- (805) 543-3814
570 Rancheros Drive, Suite 240
San Marcos, CA 92069
- (760) 471-4237
- (760) 471-6142
2 MacAurthur Place, Suite 200
Santa Ana, CA 92707
- (657) 205-3533
- (657) 205-3520
50 D Street, Room 130
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
- (707) 576-2165
6150 Van Nuys Blvd., Room 220
Van Nuys, CA 91401
- (818) 901-5017
- (818) 785-6731