Caterer's Permit

Information on obtaining a caterer’s permit, including who is eligible to apply, how to apply, and legal requirements.

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Use the forms below to apply for a COVID-19 Temporary Catering Authorization.

Who May Obtain a Caterer’s Permit (Type 58)

Any licensee holding an on-sale beer and wine (Type 41 or 42), on-sale general (Type 47, 48, or 57), club (Type 50 or 51), veterans’ club (Type 52), on-sale general wine, food and art culture museum (Type 78), general caterer’s (Type 83), or designated special use (Type 71, 72, 73, 87, 88, or 99) license may apply for a caterer’s permit. Seasonal licensees, on-sale general for boat, and on-sale general for vessel of more than 1,000 tons burden are not eligible.

A caterer’s permit carries with it an annual fee and authorizes the licensee to apply for catering authorizations. A catering authorization is what permits the licensee to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption upon premises approved by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC). Further information relative to catering authorizations is located below.

How to Apply

Submit a completed Correction/Application Request Form ABC-239 to your nearest ABC office. Each licensee may apply for only one caterer’s permit. The annual fee for a caterer’s permit can vary both by license type and the population size of the city in which the license is located. Annual fees for catering permits are located in Section 23320 of the Business and Professions Code. You may also visit our website or contact your local ABC office for fee information and assistance with completing Form ABC-239. If the investigation of your application for a catering permit results in approval, you may expect issuance of the permit from ABC Headquarters in Sacramento.

Catering Authorization

To use your caterer’s permit, you must obtain authorization from ABC for each catered event. You can submit and pay for your catering authorization application online or submit a Catering Authorization Application (Form ABC-218) and payment to your local district office.

You can submit and pay for your application online with an Online Services account with a License Administrator role, or as a License Administrator Designee with the Manage License permission. License Administrators must enter a validation code when they add licenses. All licensees with an active caterer’s permit will receive validation code letters in the mail. If you have already created your License Administrator account, you do not need to create a new one.

Apply for a catering authorization application online at least five days before the event, but not more than 60 days before the event. You can submit and pay for events for up to three consecutive days if each day has the same number of attendees and hours during which alcohol is served. If the dates are not consecutive, or if the number of attendees or hours are not the same, each day must be submitted as a separate event.

Once you have created your License Administrator account and added your license numbers, you can select Manage and click Applications. Select your license number from the Catering Authorization dropdown menu.

After selecting your license number, click New Application. Complete all required fields. To submit your application, click Pay Now. You can pay online by eCheck or credit card. A 2.99% non-refundable convenience fee will be added to all credit card payments.

Your application is not automatically approved when you submit and pay for it. If additional approvals or documents are required, you will be able to upload them to your online application or email them to ABC.

ABC must authorize all catering events. Your event may require Property Owner or Law Enforcement Agency approval. You may also be required to submit a Supplemental Diagram (Form ABC-253) which clearly identifies where the event is being held. ABC staff will work with you to determine which approvals are required when they review your application. If ABC does not receive all required approvals, the application will be denied.

If your event is within five days, you cannot apply online. You must submit a Form ABC-218 to your local district office at least three days before the event. Applications that are submitted outside of this timeframe may not be processed. Payment must be included with your Form ABC-218.

The fee for a catering authorization is separate from the annual caterer’s permit fee and is dependent on the estimated attendance size of the catered event. This fee is collected for each day of the event that alcohol is being sold. The fee schedule for catering authorizations can be found on the ABC website. To determine fee(s) due, visit the License Fees page.

Refunds will not be issued for events canceled on or after the date of the event.

Location of Catered Events

The location of a catered event must be preapproved by ABC. Proximity to schools, churches, State and Federal institutions, and other facilities may be a factor in ABC’s decision. Zoning may also be a factor. Additionally, a catering authorization shall not be issued for premises which have previously been denied a license by reason of proximity to consideration points or conflict with a valid zoning ordinance unless a written waiver, signed by the person in charge of the consideration point or, in the case of a zoning conflict, the legal representative of the community involved. (Rule 60.5(2) CCR)

With ABC’s approval, Type 41, 42, 47, 48, 57, 71, 72, 73, 78, 83, 87, 88, or 99 licensees may cater alcoholic beverages anywhere in the state. However, there is a limit of 36 catered events per year at any given location. (An exception may be made if the licensee can clearly establish that additional events are in the best interest of the State and necessary to satisfy substantial public demand.)

Type 50, 51, and 52 licensees may only cater upon the licensed club premises and the events shall not be open to the general public. An exception may be made for events open to the general public and the licensee can exceed the 36 events per year, if the licensee can clearly establish to the Department that public attendance at the event is in the best interest of the State and there is a substantial public demand for additional events.

The site of a catered event may be an unlicensed building or grounds, a licensed building, a separate room within a licensed building, or upon a boat or vessel. If the site is licensed, that license must be surrendered to ABC during the period when the catered event is being held. The licensee must use a License Action Request (Form ABC-231) to surrender a license. Please note that although the license is surrendered, any restrictions that normally apply to the license remain. For example, if the site of a catered event is on the premises of a Type 48 license, minors (persons under the age of 21) are not able to attend the event.

A catered event may be held upon private school grounds; however, such authorization will be conditioned so that no sale or service of alcoholic beverages is permitted during hours in which any class is in session.

Other Legal Requirements

At all approved events, you may exercise only those privileges authorized by your license. You must comply with all provisions of the ABC Act. Any violation may be grounds for the suspension or revocation of your license or permit, or both, as though the violation occurred on your licensed premises.

A catering authorization authorizes you to cater alcoholic beverages. Service of food is not required at a catered event unless the site is within a specified distance of a state correctional facility, university, state college, veteran’s home, or other institution operated by the state or federal government. (Rule 60.5(3) CCR)

Persons under 21 years of age may be allowed on the premises of a catered event unless the location of the event is normally prohibited from allowing minors. However, they may not possess, purchase, or consume alcoholic beverages.

Wholesalers may deliver alcoholic beverages to the catered event site. You may not store distilled spirits at the event site. The distilled spirits must be returned to the licensed premises after the event.

Approval from the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the catering event location may be required.

Reference

Reference: Sections 23320 and 23399 of the Business and Professions Code, and Rule 60.5 of the California Code of Regulations.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the fee for a catering authorization?

The fee for a catering authorization is separate from the annual caterer’s permit fee and is dependent on the estimated attendance size of the catered event. This fee is collected for each day of the event that alcohol is being sold. The fee schedule for catering authorizations can be found on the ABC website. To determine fee(s) due, visit the License Fees page.

How many events can I cater in a year?

There is a limit of 36 catered events per year at any given location. This limit applies to all Caterer’s Permits (Type 58), including those held by club licenses (Type 50, 51, and 52). An exception may be made to exceed 36 catered events if the licensee can clearly establish that additional events are in the best interest of the State and necessary to satisfy substantial public demand. Contact your local district office to request an exception.

What approvals do I need for my catering event?

ABC must authorize all catering events. Your event may require operating conditions, Property Owner approval, Law Enforcement Agency approval, or a Supplemental Diagram (Form ABC-253) which clearly identifies where the event is being held. ABC staff will contact you if you have not provided all of the required documents. If ABC does not receive all required approvals, the application may be denied.

If additional approvals or documents are required, you will be able to upload them to your online application or email them to ABC.

How do I know if my event was approved?

Your application is not automatically approved when you submit and pay for it. The person who submitted the application and the contact person will receive an email when the event is approved or denied. If the event is approved, the person who submitted the application and the contact person will receive an approval document. This document must be printed and available at your event, along with any signed conditions.