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California Abc Hearings And Appeals Attorney

California Alcohol Beverage Compliance
California Abc Hearings And Appeals Attorney

California Abc Hearings And Appeals Lawyer

The liquor laws in California set forth by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages to prevent minors from buying alcohol, to maintain control over licensing and alcoholic beverage retail sale, and to dictate the kinds of alcohol products that are available for sale. The ABC is an independent department under the state’s executive branch of government. If a business wishes to sell or serve alcoholic beverages at the place of business, it must stay in compliance with the rules and guidelines established by the ABC.

For new business owners who wish to serve or sell alcohol at their establishment, the first step toward achieving that goal is obtaining a liquor license. If a business owner does not properly obtain a liquor license to serve alcoholic drinks and then, after receiving the license, operate their business in accordance with ABC laws and regulations, they can:

  • Be fined.
  • Have their privileges to serve alcohol suspended.
  • Lose their liquor license to sell alcohol at all (revocation).
  • Lose their business if they don’t take the necessary actions to comply.

The quickest route to getting a license to sell alcoholic beverages in California is by hiring a qualified ABC attorney to assist with this complicated process.

The legal team at Blake & Ayaz has more than 60 years of combined legal experience in representing and offering legal counsel to clients in California. No matter what your business’ legal needs are, we can accommodate them. Our knowledge and skill set is vast and encompasses a wide range of legal practice areas, including ABC hearings and appeals. We can help you save time and money while securing your liquor license with the ABC. That way, your business can optimize its profits from alcohol sales. Our approach is direct, and we provide results-driven legal services on behalf of all our clients.

Our attorneys have a combined 60 years of experience helping out businesses and individuals.

Blake & Ayaz services clients in Santa Ana, Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange County, and throughout California.

How To Apply For A Liquor License In California

The process of obtaining a liquor license in California is a long one. It has many complex steps and potential outcomes. If you don’t have an attorney to assist you in navigating these steps, consider the advantages of having someone who knows the system working with you to expedite your application. If an outside party files a protest against your application to obtain a liquor license, you’ll have a hearing, which can be optimized with a license defense attorney supporting your case. There are many routes you may take to get your license approved, depending on how much resistance your application is met with in terms of protests, zoning issues, and other opposing factors you may be faced with. The potential steps for applying for a California liquor license are below.

  • Pre-Application – To begin the process of applying for a liquor license, as the applicant, you must visit your closest ABC District Office. There, you will meet with a member of the ABC staff, who will interview you to determine what type of license you need to apply for. If zoning approval, escrow, or a certified copy of a Notice of Intended Transfer from the County Recorder is necessary, you will be notified at this time and given the proper form needed to submit your application for licensure. You will also learn about the fees you will be expected to pay.
  • File the Application at Your Local Office – Your application must be submitted in person. When you file your application, you will be shown a video that outlines the laws of the ABC, and fees will be collected. In some cases, a temporary permit may be issued.
  • Notification of Local Officials – A notice and application will be sent to the local police or sheriff’s department, the city council or board of supervisors, and the city planning department or the district attorney. If any of these governing bodies has a concern, they can impose or request restrictions or file a protest. Restrictions or protests may occur if there are concerns of public nuisance, crime, zoning, or too many licenses already in the area. The discerning body will notify the ABC of any disputes within 90 days. Otherwise, the ABC will grant or deny the license at its discretion.
  • Investigation – A thorough investigation will be held to ensure that:
    • All the information provided on the application is accurate.
    • The applicant is 21 years old.
    • They have no relevant police record.
    • They do not have a chronic alcohol use disorder.
    • They are the true owner of the premises.

An analysis of the premises will also be done regarding proximity to schools, hospitals, churches, youth facilities, playgrounds, and residences, as well as zoning and other factors that would prevent licensure.

Restrictive conditions may be added to a license that may cause protesters to withdraw their protest and allow the license to pass the system. Restrictions can include conditions as to the type of entertainment the business can offer, the hours that alcohol can be sold, and other limitations. Protests must be filed within 30 days.

  • Responsibilities of the Applicant – As the applicant for a liquor license, you must post a Public Notice of Application for 30 days on the premises where the license will be held. You must also provide information for the ABC investigation as needed.
  • Division Office Review – The Division Office will review your application if it is protested or recommended by the Division Office for denial.
  • Final Review – A final review will be conducted by headquarters and could be delayed if there are any missing documents, unpaid fees, escrow liens, or if the premises is still under construction.
  • Schedule a Hearing – In some cases, there may have been valid protests filed against a liquor license application and no agreement has been reached to resolve them. If so, or if an application has been denied by ABC, the applicant will need to request a hearing. This hearing will be scheduled within 60 days.
  • Administrative Hearing – An administrative law judge (ALJ) will preside over a public hearing. Both the applicant and the protestant may have an attorney represent them at the hearing. This is highly recommended, especially if the application is controversial.
  • ALJ Proposes a Decision – The ALJ must prepare a recommendation to the ABC Director within 30 days.
  • ABC Director Action – The director will accept or reject the proposed decision. Rejected applicants will be notified within 30 days.
  • Appeal to the ABC Appeals Board – The applicant or the protestant can appeal the decision to the three-member, governor-appointed ABC Appeals Board within 40 days.
  • ABC Appeals Board Decision – The Board will review all the information from the administrative hearing and read/hear any written or oral arguments. However, they will not accept any new evidence. The Board will then make a decision within 120 days.
  • Appeal to District Court of Appeal – The applicant or any protestant must appeal to the California District Court of Appeals (DCA) within 30 days of the decision from the Board.
  • District Court of Appeal’s Decision – The DCA reviews the case and makes a decision. The ABC is represented by the Attorney General before the Supreme Court, and there is no required timeframe for the Supreme Court to make its decision.
  • California Supreme Court Decision – The decision to deny the application or issue the license will be definitively made.

California Abc Hearings And Appeals Attorney

How Long Does It Take to Get a Liquor License?

The time that the full process can take depends on how many steps must be taken to get an application accepted. It can take anywhere from 55 days to 175 days or more. These times can potentially be shortened when you have an attorney represent you. They can help you achieve deadlines, complete forms, and gather the information required for your application in a timely manner. Below is a summary of the timeframe you can expect your application to take for the different types of hearings and appeals.

  • Non-Protested Application – 55-65 days (includes the 30-day public posting period)
  • Protested Application With Withdrawn Protests Following Negotiations – 95 days
  • Protested Application – Up to 175 days or indefinitely, contingent on the final review and time required to make a decision and close the case.

Transferring A Liquor License

If a business owner sells their business, the ABC license will transfer ownership to the new owner, along with the premises and business. The ABC may add new conditions to the license, though, when it transfers. If these conditions impede the business goals, business owners oftentimes wish to modify these person-to-person transfers. An experienced California ABC hearings and appeals attorney can assist in getting unwanted modifications amended or removed when a liquor license is transferred. Some changes that an attorney can help facilitate include the following:

  • Adding new inventory, such as specialty liquors, that your current license doesn’t permit
  • Extending hours of operation to stay open and serve alcohol for more hours each day
  • Adding entertainment to your offerings to attract more customers
  • Adding additional options to your menu for alcoholic beverages, such as larger sizes of containers

While these are all very difficult modifications to get approved in many cases, the potential for such modifications is greatly increased when you have a liquor license attorney representing your case. An attorney with experience in these matters knows how to progress through the system with positive results.

Maintaining A California Liquor License

Once an establishment secures a liquor license, the business owner must make sure to stay in compliance with all the regulatory standards set forth by the ABC. Failure to comply can result in dire consequences for a business. Surprise compliance inspections, undercover checks for serving minors, or other procedures and violations of licensure can be detrimental to a business. Making sure that a business meets all the rules, and upholds its responsibilities within the terms and conditions of its liquor license, will maintain an establishment’s privilege to rightfully serve and sell alcohol to the public.

What Should You Do If You Have Lost Your Liquor License?

It is not uncommon for California businesses to lose their liquor license, which can be damaging to a business and cause it to lose customers, who may take their business to other establishments where liquor is available. Some common reasons why a license to sell alcohol might be revoked are listed below.

  • Overserving a customer
  • Serving a minor
  • Serving alcohol between 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m.
  • Having intoxicated staff
  • Producing a rowdy crowd or unruly customers
  • Breaking any of the rules and laws established by the ABC to prevent the dangerous effects of alcohol.

If you’ve lost your right to sell alcohol in California, you have a few options, and each one can be optimized with the assistance of an ABC license defense attorney. A California ABC hearings and appeals attorney can help if you’ve lost your liquor license. Attorneys who focus on ABC hearings and appeals are familiar with ABC regulations and rules for operating a business that sells or serves alcohol.

An attorney can prove to be a useful asset to a business owner who has lost their liquor license to either revocation or suspension. One specific way they can do so is by working with a business to make a plan to amend the areas of violation. An attorney can also help them make the necessary changes to meet both state and federal requirements and regulations. By following their lawyer’s recommendations, a business can get its license back and keep it. Having an attorney to advise you can also prevent undue harassment from ABC investigators and local law enforcement officers. An attorney knows how to keep their attention away by raising your business’ standards to a level that surpasses the regulations but still brings in sales.

Penalties For Abc Violations

If a business is in violation of ABC guidelines, the department can apply a variety of proportional and progressive penalties. These may be influenced by several factors, which are listed below:

  • Prior warning letters or disciplinary actions
  • High crime rate resulting from the establishment’s inability to follow regulations
  • Licensee’s lack of cooperation with an investigation
  • Failure of the licensee to amend any actions that are in violation of ABC guidelines
  • Continuing to operate in violation of guidelines

Abc Violations Defense

An ABC attorney is a great resource for a business owner who has lost their liquor license and must attend a hearing, where they will attempt to retain their privileges to serve and sell alcohol. A good ABC hearings attorney can build a strong liquor license defense on their behalf. Some examples of defense strategies that liquor license attorneys frequently use are below.

  • Showing positive past actions to correct problems
  • Exhibiting long-term periods without violations
  • Showing documentation of licensee and employee participation in ABC guidelines training
  • Proving that the business is cooperating with investigations

Specific Violation Penalties

Although preliminary notices of ABC violations may be soft, like a simple warning letter, these should not be taken lightly or ignored. If instances of violations are not amended in a timely and serious manner, the next letter you receive could be a Letter of Revocation of License. Various infractions will warrant differing degrees of license suspension, ranging from 10 days’ suspension to revocation. Some of the most common violations, and their corresponding penalties, are listed below.

  • Serving or selling to minors or allowing minors to consume alcohol on the premises – 15-day suspension; 25-suspension (second violation in 36 months); revocation (third violation in 36 months)
  • Sales of alcohol after hours – 15-day suspension if it is to the public; 10-day suspension if to employees and friends only; 5-day suspension to employees only
  • Selling to an intoxicated person – 15-day suspension; 25-day suspension (second violation in three years); 45-day suspension to revocation (third violation in three years)
  • Allowing the purchase of alcohol with food stamps – 10-day suspension
  • Having a disorderly house, prostitution, or lewd conduct – 30-day suspension (occasional or isolated violations); revocation (recurring offenses)
  • Having nude entertainers – 30-day suspension to revocation

Abc Inspections

ABC agents, like police officers or sheriff’s deputies, are sworn law enforcement officers, but they do have the power to arrest. Also known as peace officers, they may be dressed in plain clothes or a uniform, and they have the legal right to show up and inspect licensed premises anytime during operating business hours. They do not need a search warrant. Under the terms and conditions of the license, they can search any of the following areas:

  • Bar, whether it is in use or closed
  • Storeroom
  • Meat locker
  • Kitchen
  • Loading dock
  • Office
  • Closed or locked cabinets
  • Combination or locked safes
  • Employee lockers
  • Bathrooms
  • Employee bathrooms
  • Break room
  • Basement
  • Attic
  • Any other portion of the licensed premises

Even areas that are off-limits to the public are searchable. License holders must not avoid, delay, resist, or obstruct a peace officer in any manner to impede such searches.

Seeking Counsel For Abc Hearings, Appeals, And Applications

If you are a new license applicant, or you are looking to get your liquor license transferred or reinstated, your efforts will be significantly augmented with the assistance of an ABC appeals attorney. Contact Blake & Ayaz and speak to one of our attorneys who is well-versed in California ABC laws and application requirements. We can assist you in meeting your goals of getting your business into the good graces of the ABC and staying there.


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