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( October 6, 2009 )

Selling Alcohol Without A Liquor License: Flying Under The Radar

First Successful Flight of the Wright Flyer by the Wright Brothers (17 December 1903). Source:  Library of Congress.

First Successful Flight of the Wright Flyer by the Wright Brothers (17 December 1903). Source: Library of Congress.

If you’re selling alcohol without a liquor license, you’re on a collision course. You’re putting your personal and business assets at risk. Selling alcohol without a license in California is a misdemeanor, punishable by a $1,000 fine and/or up to six months in county jail. And if you ever plan to get a liquor license in the future, the California Alcoholic Beverage Control may deny it.

Here’s a perfect example . . .

A Federal judge last week upheld New Mexico’s denial of a liquor license to U.S. Airways.


Well…  in 2007, the airline didn’t possess a state liquor license, yet it was serving alcohol onboard. And one passenger had too much to drink on a flight to Albuquerque. Later that day, he was involved in a crash, killing 5 people (his BAC was four times the legal limit). After the incident, U.S. Airways applied for a liquor license, but the state denied it.

U.S. Airways appealed, but U.S. District Judge M. Christina Armijo found that “neither the Airline Deregulation Act nor the Federal Aviation Act can pre-empt state liquor control laws,” according to the Associated Press.

In California, U.S. Airways sells alcohol legally. It pays a substantial fee for the privilege of a Type 55, airplane liquor license. The license permits the airline to serve beer, wine and distilled spirits to passengers, or employees not on duty, age 21 and older while grounded in California and over the state’s airspace on each of its 40 scheduled flights.

There is no record of any liquor license fines or suspensions against the airline in California. Of course, that doesn’t mean passengers have never been over-served or that minors haven’t obtained alcohol. 

The California Alcoholic Beverage Control prioritizes its investigations. An egregious case involving personal injury or death is always a priority.

People who sell alcohol without a liquor license are flying under the radar. This includes scenarios like:

  • Businesses that have a liquor license application pending—and just can’t wait for the license to issue, so they sell alcohol anyway
  • Liquor licensees who cater alcohol at special events off site without an alcohol caterer’s permit
  • Social hosts who have parties open to the public where admission is charged and alcohol is included
  • Businesses operating a members-only club without a private club license

Problem is, people who sell alcohol without a liquor license, and their business location, may not be qualified to hold a license. As a result, the business doesn’t receive the compliance checks, legal updates or training to keep it safe and legal.

Just like air traffic controllers help keep planes from colliding, the California Alcoholic Beverage Control helps protect businesses and public safety through its licensing, compliance and prevention programs.

So, if you need a liquor license and don’t have one… as the song says, straighten up and fly right is really good advice.

252 Responses to “Selling Alcohol Without A Liquor License: Flying Under The Radar”

Pages: [26] 25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 … 1 » Show All

  1. 252
    liquorlicenseadvisor Says:

    No license or permit is needed to manufacture wine for personal or family use (and not for sale), by a person who is at least 21 years old. For one person, the limit is 100 gallons per calendar year. If there are two people in the house, then only up to 200 gallons may be manufactured in that household–per calendar year. However, wine produced at home cannot be given or donated to any non-profit organization for any fundraising purposes. That would be illegal. Thank you for your post.

  2. 251
    Al Says:

    I make homemade wine and would like to donate it to a non-profit youth soccer club. The bottled wine would be used to generate fundraising dollars. The fundraiser would likely be organized by selling a “coupon” redeemable for one bottle of wine. The sale of the wine would not occur at an organized function but rather as the coupons sell. The wine would not be consumed on the clubs premises. Would a liquor license and or insurance be required in this situation? Also, are there laws against minors selling coupons redeemable for alcohol? Any advice or guidance would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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