Frequently Asked Questions
What is an alcoholic beverage license?
A license issued under the Act is a permit to do that which would otherwise be unlawful. A license is not a right, but is a privilege, which can be suspended or revoked by administrative action because of violation of the Act or departmental rule. (Sections 23300 and 23355)
What are the types of retail licenses?
- On-Sale General-authorizes the sale of all types of alcoholic beverages: namely, beer, wine and distilled spirits, for consumption on the premises, and the sale of beer and wine for consumption off the premises.
- Off-Sale General-authorizes the sale of all types of alcoholic beverages for consumption off the premises in original, sealed containers.
- On-Sale Beer and Wine-authorizes the sale of all types of wine and malt beverages (e.g., beer, porter, ale, stout and malt liquor) for consumption on and off the premises.
- Off-Sale Beer and Wine-authorizes the sale of all types of wine and malt beverages for consumption off the premises in original, sealed containers.
- On-Sale Beer-authorizes the sale of malt beverages for consumption on and off the premises (Sections 23393, 23394, 23396 and 23399).
What is a “bona fide public eating place”?
Licensed premises that are maintained in good faith and used for the regular service of meals to patrons. The premises must have suitable kitchen facilities and supply an assortment of foods commonly ordered at various hours of the day. (Sections 23038 and 23787)
May a person who holds a license for a bona fide public eating place lease out the food concession?
Yes. Upon notification to ABC, such a licensee may sublet the sale and service of meals. The licensee shall continue to be responsible for any violations caused or permitted by the food lessee on the licensed premises. The licensee shall not sublet to a person who does not have the qualifications of a 1icensee. (Section 23787 and Rules 57.7 and 57.8)
What is meant by “public premises”?
No person under 21 years of age is allowed on public premises.
There are two classes of public premises:
As to on-sale general and on-sale beer and wine licenses, this means premises maintained and operated for the sale and service of alcoholic beverages to the public for consumption on the premises, and in which food is not sold or served to the public as in a bona fide eating place, although food products may be sold or served incidentally to the sale or service of alcoholic beverages.
As to on-sale beer licenses, this means premises maintained and operated for sale or service of beer to the public for consumption on the premises, and in which no food is sold or served. An on-sale beer licensed premises on which food (sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, tacos, salads or similar short orders) is prepared and sold for consumption on the premises is not an on-sale beer public premises. (Section 23029 and Rule 67.
What beverages may the holder of an on-sale license sell for consumption off the licensed premises in original, sealed containers?
Unless restricted by special license conditions, on-sale general and on-sale beer and wine licensees may sell all types of wine and malt beverages.
Unless restricted by special license conditions, on-sale beer licensees may sell malt beverages. The privilege of selling distilled spirits to-go comes only with an off-sale general license (Section 23401).
Can any person obtain an alcoholic beverage license?
ABC may refuse to issue a license to any person who has violated the ACT, has a disqualifying criminal record, or is otherwise disqualified.
When is a duplicate license required?
An on-sale general licensee who maintains on his/her licensed premises more than one room in which a fixed counter or service bar is regularly maintained and at which distilled spirits are served to the public must apply for a duplicate license and pay a full annual fee for each such license. A duplicate license is not transferable by itself. (Sections 24042 and 24042.5)
May ABC deny the renewal of an existing license?
Yes, if the licensee has not paid an annual license fee. Otherwise, every license now in effect (other than temporary retail permits and special daily licenses) is renewable unless such license has been revoked after hearing on an accusation. (Section 24048)
When must licenses be renewed?
It is the responsibility of the licensee to renew his license whether or not he has received a renewal notice from ABC.
All licenses may be renewed by paying the required renewal fee before the license expires.
Following the expiration of a license, the licensee may legally operate for an additional 60 days during which time the license may be renewed by paying the renewal fee and a 50% penalty. If the renewal fee and penalty fee has not been paid within 60 days of the expiration of a license, the license is canceled and the licensee may not exercise any privileges of the license. The licensee does have and additional 30 days in which to reactivate the license by paying the renewal fee and a 100% penalty. If the penalty and renewal fee are not paid by the end of the 30th day following cancellation, the license is revoked. (Section 24048)
How soon does the license have to be put in use?
Any license must be in use within 30 days of the date of issuance, unless approval is received from ABC for premises under construction. (Section 24040)
Where may alcoholic beverages be stored when there is no room for them on the licensed premises?
Tax-paid beer and wine may be stored anywhere. Distilled spirits may be stored in a licensed public warehouse, or petition may be made to ABC for approval of a private warehouse. this private warehouse must be located in the same county as the licensed premises. ABC’s approval is necessary before placing the distilled spirits in storage in a private warehouse. (Section 23106 and Rule 76)
How many feet must licensed premises be from a church, a school, or residences?
The law says ABC may deny any retail license located (a) within the immediate vicinity of churches and hospitals, or (b) within at least 600 feet of schools, public playgrounds and nonprofit youth facilities. Generally, ABC will deny a license in the above situations when there is evidence that normal operation of the licensed premises will be contrary to public welfare and morals. Mere proximity by itself is not sufficient to deny the license.
ABC will not license a new retail location within 100 feet of a residence unless the applicant can establish that the operation of the proposed premises will not interfere with the quiet enjoyment of the property by residents. (Section 23789 and Rule 61.4)
What is meant by license “Limitation” ?
Since 1939 the number of certain retail licenses has been limited. At present, the ratio is one on-sale general license for each 2,000 persons in the county in which the premises are situated and one off-sale general license for each 2,500 persons.
Is there a limit on the number of off-sale beer and wine licenses that may be issued in cities or counties?
The number of off-sale beer and wine licenses is limited to one for each 2,500 people in a city or county, and the number of beer and wine licenses that can be issued in a city or county in combination with off-sale general licenses in limited to one for each 1,250 people. (Section 23817.5)
What organizations are eligible for a club license?
Types of clubs such as golf, swimming, tennis, press, yachting, rod and gun, riding, bar associations, airlines club, medical associations, social and others may be eligible for a club license providing such club meets the standards established by law as to membership, premises ownership, time of origin and services available. (Sections 23425-23435, 23320.1, 23399.2, 23825, 24072.5 and 24078)
Are such clubs restricted to on-sale privileges?
Yes, Club licenses and veterans’ club licenses may not make sales for consumption off the premises. (Sections 23431, 23453 and 23437)
For additional information,
contact your local ABC District Office.
4800 Stockdale Highway., Suite 213
Bakersfield CA, 93309
- (661) 395-2731
- (661) 322-5929
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) 982-1396
222 E. Huntington Dr., Suite 114
Monrovia CA, 91016
- (626) 256-3241
- (626) 357-4173
1515 Clay Street, Ste 2208
Oakland CA , 94612
- (510) 622-4970
- (510) 622-4990
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
1350 Front St., Room 5056
San Diego CA, 92101
- (619) 525- 4064
- (619) 231-1171
33 New Montgomery St., Suite 1230
San Francisco CA, 94105
- (415) 356-6500
- (415) 356-6599
100 Paseo de San Antonio, Room 119
San Jose CA, 95113
- (408) 277-1200
- (408) 971-9421
San Luis Obispomap
3220 S. Higuera St., Suite 233
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
31 E. Channel St., Room 168
Stockton CA, 95202
- (209) 948-7739
- (209) 546-7853
6150 Van Nuys Blvd., Room 220
Van Nuys CA, 91401
- (818) 901-5017
- (818) 785-3761
Can a license be transferred from one person to another person without making an application to ABC?
No. An application signed by both the present licensee and the transferee must be filed with ABC. ABC then proceeds as it would on a new application and may deny the transfer if the transferee-applicant is not qualified for a license. If such transfer also involves a change of the premises, ABC’s approval of the new premises is required. (Sections 24070 and 24073)
Does the filing of the application for transfer accomplish the transfer of the license?
No. Neither the transferor nor the transferee should assume that the license will be transferred on a particular date, or at all, merely because the application has been filed. ABC may deny the application, or protests or accusations may be filed which may result in delay or denial of the transfer.
ABC is not required to investigate the personal qualifications or premises of a currently licensed person when a license is being transferred between partners and no new partner is being licensed. (Sections 23958, 23958.2, 24013 and 24070)
How long does it normally take for the issuance or transfer of a license?
Most investigations take approximately 55-65 days, and by law the license cannot be issued for a minimum of 30 days. Circumstances often result in a longer waiting period; therefore, before final approval and issuance of a license, applicants are cautioned regarding extensive financial commitments, plans for grand openings, etc.
If new construction or considerable remodeling is necessary, the applicant should seek prior approval under Section 24044 before beginning any actual work.
Pending transfer of the license, may the intended transferee operate the licensed business?
The transferee may operate the licensed premises during the transfer period if a 120-day permit has been obtained. To qualify for this temporary permit, the premises must be currently licensed and have been operating within the past 30 days prior to application.
When the lease on the licensed premises is terminated and the premises must be vacated, what is required of the licensee?
A licensee must surrender his/her license to ABC within 15 days. During the maximum one year surrender period the licensee may transfer the license to other locations or transfer the license to other persons. All renewal fees must be paid during the surrender period. (Sections 23053.5, 23320, 24072, 24072.1, Rules 60 and 65)
What steps are required for the issuance or transfer of an alcoholic beverage license?
A person who wants to apply for an ABC license must start with the nearest ABC District Office. An ABC staff member will ask the applicant questions about the proposed operation and determine the type of license needed. The staff member will then advise the applicant what forms and fees are needed to file the application. Some applicants, before filing an application with ABC, must first obtain approval from zoning officials, open an escrow, or go to the office of the County Recorder for a certified copy of a Notice of Intended Transfer.
Generally, all parties must appear at the District Office. This is not generally a “mail-in” process because ABC requires personal information such as personal history affidavits. Fees are paid at this time. The applicant also views a video about ABC laws. A temporary permit may be issued under certain conditions.
Does ABC notify local officials of the license application?
Yes. ABC mails a copy of the application to local officials as required by law. If the premises is in the city, a copy goes to the police department, city council and city planning department. If the premises is in the county, a copy goes to the sheriff’s department, board of supervisors and district attorney. If local officials have concerns about the issuance of a license, they may request or impose restrictions on the business operation, or they may file a protest. (Section 23987)
Common concerns are that the license:
- Would create a public nuisance
- Would cause or add to crime in the area
- Would be contrary to a zoning law
- Is in a high-crime area or an area that has too many licenses and would not serve public convenience or necessity
In the case of number 4, the City Council or Board of Supervisors has 90 days to determine this and notify ABC. If the City Council or Board of Supervisors does not decide within 90 days, ABC may issue the license if the applicant shows ABC that issuance would serve public convenience or necessity.
Does ABC conduct an investigation of license applications?
Yes. ABC conducts a thorough investigation, as required by law, to see if the applicant and the premises qualify for a license. (Section 23958)
What are the responsibilities of a license applicant?
It is the applicant’s responsibility to:
- Post the Public Notice of Application at the premises for 30 days, and
- Give information to ABC as needed for the investigation
In some cases, ABC may also require the applicant to:
- Publish a notice in the newspaper
- Mail a notice to all persons living within a 500′ radius of the premises, and/or
- Obtain proof from the local planning department that the zoning permits an ABC license.
(Sections 23985, 23958, 23986, 23985.5 and 23790)
In case of death or incompetency to act as a sole licensee, who may exercise the privileges of the license?
The privileges of the license may be exercised by any person acting on behalf of the deceased or incompetent licensee or the estate for a specified period or until an administrator, executor, etc., is appointed. (Section 23102)
Does the law prohibit pledging the transfer of a license as security for a loan or as security for the fulfillment of any agreement?
Yes. The law prohibits a licensee from pledging the license as security for a loan or as security for the fulfillment of any agreement. In their transfer application both transferor and transferee must state under oath that the transfer is not being made (a) to satisfy the payment of a loan or to fulfill an agreement entered into more than 90 days before the transfer application is filed, (b) to gain or establish a preference to or for any creditor of the transferor, except as permitted by Section 24074, (c) to defraud or injure any creditor of the transferor. (Section 24076)
How long can the licensed premises be closed before the licensee must surrender possession of the license?
When licensed premises are closed, or the exercise of the privileges of the license is discontinued for any reason for a period of 15 consecutive days, the license must be surrendered to ABC. The license may be reactivated upon request of the licensee made at least 10 days in advance. (Rule 65)
May an applicant have some assurance of the issuance of a license before construction of the premises to be licensed is begun or completed?
ABC may approve an application for premises under construction. A retail license may be transferred or issued by ABC to premises which are under construction and the transferor has closed his business or surrendered his license. No alcoholic beverages shall be sold until the premises are completed. Actual delivery of the license is withheld until ABC is satisfied that all conditions set forth in the law and rules are met. (Section 24044 and Rule 64)
Micro-Enterprise Home Kitchen (AB 626)
Download a printable copy of Micro-Enterprise Home Kitchens (AB 626) FAQ by clicking the PDF download button.
AB 626 established “micro-enterprise home kitchens” (MEHKs) as a new category of retail food facilities. The Department has received a number of inquiries about whether MEHKs are eligible for licensure under the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act (“ABC Act”) and what activities pertaining to alcohol are permitted in MEHKs. There are a number of factors that are considered when licensing any business for the sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages, and there are various restrictions on what licensed and unlicensed businesses are permitted to do. This FAQ endeavors to address several of the key issues, but this is not a comprehensive review or analysis of the law and any person seeking to sell or provide alcoholic beverages, or to allow the consumption of alcoholic beverages on the premises, should obtain independent legal advice.
Do I need a license from ABC?
The laws concerning the regulation of alcoholic beverages may be found in the ABC Act (starting with Section 23000 of the Business and Professions Code). The circumstances under which a license is required to be obtained from ABC are very broad, and encompass all situations in which alcoholic beverages are sold. This includes the common circumstances whereby alcoholic beverages are sold for consideration (typically money), but also includes where the price of a meal (for example) includes alcoholic beverages or when a business allows customers to bring their own alcohol for consumption.
If I don’t get a license from ABC can I let people bring their own alcohol?
No. As indicated above, if a business, such as a MEHK, provides a place for people to bring their own alcoholic beverages to consume in conjunction with a meal sold under the MEHK permit, a license is required from ABC.
What type of license do I need?
California law provides two types of licenses allowing for the consumption of alcoholic beverages on the licensed premises in connection with the operation of a restaurant. One license allows for the sale or consumption of beer and wine; the other allows for distilled spirits in addition to beer and wine.
Is a MHK eligible for an ABC license?
Whenever an application for an ABC license is made, the Department conducts an investigation to determine if both the person and the location meet the necessary licensing requirements. There are a number of factors involved, so it is not possible to determine whether any particular person or location may be eligible to hold a license prior to the completion of the investigation or, often, an administrative hearing. However, in addition to other things, a business operating a restaurant, such as in the case of a MEHK, must minimally meet the requirements of operating a “bona fide eating place.” The general requirements for this may be found in Business and Professions Code Section 23038. Some of the requirements are that the business be “kept open for the serving of meals to guests” in a regular and bona fide manner. In addition, the premises must have “suitable kitchen facilities” and “conveniences for cooking an assortment of foods which may be required for ordinary meals.” Given the statutory requirements for the operation of a MEHK, it is possible that such businesses may be eligible to hold a license issued by ABC. This does not mean, however, that every such business will be approved for such a license. As indicated, the Department will evaluate each application on a case-by-case basis.
If I obtain an ABC license, will there be any restrictions?
The ABC Act requires licensees and licensed locations to comply with many statutory provisions. In addition, if a MEHK is approved for an ABC license, the Department may include conditions that could restrict the operation of the business beyond those statutory requirements. If you do choose to obtain an ABC license, you need to understand that the premises is licensed all the time, 24/7/365. This means that you are required to comply with the laws applicable to licensed businesses at all times, in the same manner as other licensees and licensed locations (such as “regular” bars or restaurants). Even though MEHKs are operated in peoples’ homes, if an ABC license is obtained, they must comply with the laws applicable to the license issued. For example, if the MEHK is licensed to sell beer and wine, no distilled spirits are permitted on the premises (except for brandy, rum, or liqueurs used solely for cooking purposes) at any time. Similarly, no alcoholic beverages may be consumed on the licensed premises between the hours of 2 AM and 6 AM, or as otherwise limited by a condition on the license.
If I am not actually operating the business, do I still need to comply with the rules on my ABC license?
Yes. As indicated above, once licensed, the premises is subject to the laws governing the licensed business and location at all times, even if meals are not being offered or sold under the MEHK. As a consequence, if you license part of your residence so you can offer alcoholic beverages in conjunction with the meals sold and served under your MEHK permit, that licensed area will be subject to the license restrictions even when you return it to regular use as a residence.
What would happen if I don’t get a license but include alcohol or allow people to bring their own alcohol?
Either situation is a violation of several different laws, including, for example exercising privileges for which a license is required without holding a license (Business and Professions Code Sections 23300 and 23355), operation of a “bottle club” (Business and Professions Code Section 25604), or creating a public or private nuisance under the Unlawful Liquor Sale Abatement Law (Penal Code Sections 11200 to 11207). Such violations could subject you to criminal prosecution, a civil action for damages, or loss of your permit to operate an MEHK.