If you need a liquor license in California, Friday, September 19, 2014 is the last day to file an application for a full liquor (“general”) license. This is a chance to win a license in the State’s annual “Priority License Drawing.” (The only other way to get one is to buy one from a private party.) The filing period began September 8, 2014 and ends at 5:00 p.m. September 19, 2014.
The drawing gives restaurants and liquor stores the chance to win an “original” liquor license for the $13,800 (plus annual fees paid later).
Or, they can file for an “inter-county transfer” of a liquor license for $6,000. In the latter case, the applicant still has to pay the purchase price to the private seller of the license. The $6,000 is simply the State’s fee for your ticket to win the privilege of doing the inter-county transfer. Normally, during other times of the year, a person cannot transfer a liquor license between counties. If you need a liquor license in Orange County, for example, you have to find one from a buyer whose premises are located in Orange County.
If you win either an original license or inter-county transfer opportunity, you will have 90 days from the date you are notified of the win to file your formal application with the ABC.
This means, among other things, you must have a specific location in mind for your business, and must have filed your application for a conditional use permit with your local planning department (if one is required). For an inter-county formal application, you must have connected with a seller and opened escrow to purchase their license. The escrow must remain open until ABC approves the transfer.
Beer and wine licenses are a different story and are available all year long, if the applicant and the premises are approved by the ABC (and your local planning department).
Licenses for strictly a bar or nightclub operation are not available through the drawing.
The ABC only accepts a certified check, cashier’s check, or money order for the priority license application fee. Additional fees (i.e.; fingerprint, annual fees, etc.) are due at the time of filing the formal application. In other words, if you are successful in the drawing.
The initial application for the priority drawing is easy, just a one page document, Form ABC-521-1, which is on the ABC’s website. It must be notarized unless you sign it in front of an ABC employee at your local district office. You can file either in person by walking into a district office or by mailing it in. But the envelope with your application form and payment must be postmarked on or before Friday, September 19, 2014. The ABC also provides complete instructions and information on the process.
Applicants may file their ABC-521-1 application form at the local ABC office that has jurisdiction over where the establishment will be located, or at any local ABC office.
Getting the liquor license, of course, is just the start. A license is a privilege, not a right, and there are many responsibilities that go along with that privilege. If you get a license, it’s absolutely vital that you take the time to:
(a) Carefully assess the risks of your proposed operation (at start up and continually);
(b)Develop and implement written alcohol policies to give guidance to staff, ensure consistent service, and for many other reasons;
(c) Train all managers and employees in responsible beverage service to give them the skills and knowledge they need to do their jobs right; and
(d) Follow all laws, rules and regulations, including state laws and local ordinances
These steps will help your business run more smoothly and profitability. And they will help you meet the standard of care you will be held to if you are accused of wrongdoing by the ABC–or sued.