License Application Requirements

Before you begin the process of applying for a new license with the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, be sure you understand all of the requirements you must meet.

Any person wishing to obtain an alcoholic beverage license should apply at the nearest district office of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. All parties concerned, applicants for new licenses or transferors (present licensees), and transferees (applicants) should be present. It is desirable for an employee of the Department to advise all applicants in person of pertinent laws, rules, and regulations. Also, in the case of a transfer, the transferee may desire information regarding a temporary retail permit.

Average Time to Process an Application

Section 23987 of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act requires the Department to mail a copy of each application to certain local officials. Section 23985 of the Act requires a 30-day posting period. Most investigations take approximately 45 to 50 days. The license can average about 75 days for a Person-to-Person transfer, and 90 days for an Original. Circumstances often result in a longer waiting period; therefore, before final approval and issuance of a license, caution should be used regarding extensive financial commitments, plans for grand openings, etc. If new construction or considerable remodeling is necessary, prior approval under Section 24044 should be sought before beginning any actual work.

License Renewal Period

All licenses are renewed on a 12 month basis. Renewals must be paid 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 your renewal was paid on time, you will receive your renewal license approximately 4 to 6 weeks after the expiration date on your current license.

Our License Lookup page is updated soon after your expiration date. If your renewal was paid timely, the expiration date will update to show that your license does not expire until the following year. It is recommended that you direct your distributors and those requiring proof of your license status to our query system. Many distributors and wholesalers already utilize this system regularly.

Sales Tax Permit

Each alcoholic beverage licensee must possess a seller’s permit from the State Board of Equalization. Learn more by visiting the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration’s Taxpayer Online Services Portal. It is a misdemeanor to sell in this State without such a permit.

Alcoholic Beverage Tax Program(s) – Board of Equalization

The alcoholic beverage tax is a per-gallon excise tax collected on the sale, distribution, or importation of alcoholic beverages in California.

In general, non-retail alcoholic beverage licensees must also register with the Board of Equalization (BOE). To register, visit the BOE website. BOE representatives are available to assist with eReg questions Monday through Friday (except State holidays) from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. PST.

Federal Requirements

Before opening an alcoholic beverage business, the applicant should contact the nearest office of the United States Treasury Department, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. If a Federal basic permit or a special Occupational Tax Stamp is required, it should be applied for by and issued to the same persons applying for a license with this department and at the same address.

Local Requirements

Before engaging in business, appropriate county or city officials should be contacted to determine if a local business license is required. If this is a new location or one not previously used for this type of business, it is advisable to check with local officials concerning local zoning regulations and the need for a Conditional Use Permit. Go to our census tract report for data pursuant to undue concentration outlined in Business and Professions Code section 23958.4

Escrow Requirements

If there is any purchase price or consideration in connection with the transfer of a business operated under a retail license, an escrow must be established with some person, corporation, or association not a party to the transfer, before the filing of such transfer with the Department (See Sections 24071.1, 24073, 24074, 24074.1, 24074.3, and 24075 of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act).

The full amount of the purchase price or consideration must be placed in escrow. Escrow agreements must provide for payment only after the transfer of the license is approved by this Department. Section 24074.3 requires that the applicant, within 30 days of application, furnish the Department a statement, under penalty of perjury, that the purchase price or consideration has been deposited with the escrow holder. The applicant shall also submit a copy to the transferor and a copy to the escrow holder. In this connection, a misrepresentation may be grounds for denial of the license or subsequent revocation of the license if issued.

Consideration includes cash, checks, promissory notes, or other items of value which have been agreed to be paid to the transferor for the license, inventory, fixtures, leasehold interest, realty, good will, covenant not to compete, or other property connected with the licensed business.

Recorded Notice of Intention

At the time of filing, an applicant for the transfer of either an off-sale general license, on-sale general license, off-sale beer and wine license, on-sale beer and wine license, on-sale beer license, or on-sale general license for seasonal business, shall present a copy of the Notice of Intention to Transfer (see ABC-227 or ABC-227-A) to the County Recorder, which shall be certified by the County Recorder in the county where the licensed premises are located.

Exceptions for Notice and Escrow

Sections 24073 and 24074 are not applicable when any transfer of a license is made by an executor, administrator, or other person mentioned in Section 24075 of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act


Additional information may be obtained by contacting your local ABC District Office.