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How are California ABC Laws Affected by Covid?

F. Michael Ayaz

How Are California ABC Laws Affected by COVID: A Guide for CA Business Owners

Worldwide, there have been almost 120 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus (also known as COVID-19 or simply as COVID). Of those cases, over 2.6 million people in the world have lost their lives to COVID. As of this date, the COVID-19 virus has infected over 29 million people in the United States of America. Unfortunately, it has led to a devastating number of deaths, over 530,000 to date. Specifically, California has seen over 3.53 million COVID cases, which is slightly over 12 percent of the cases in the entire United States. Over 55,000 people in California have died from COVID.
Cities and states have been rushing to implement regulations to best slow the spread of the COVID virus within their communities. Regulations necessitated by the COVID-19 virus have extended worldwide to include mask-wearing requirements, quarantine requirements, social distancing requirements, health code amendments, and liquor law amendments.

In light of the tremendous impact of COVID upon its citizens, including their physical safety, livelihood, and many other factors, California has enacted many health and safety rules and regulations for virtually all aspects relating to living and doing business in California.

As such, it is incredibly important for California business owners and patrons of said establishments to become knowledgeable and stay up to date on the regulatory requirements and changes surrounding the COVID-19 virus and the California ABC Laws.

How Are California ABC Laws Affected by COVID?

California business owners need to be aware of how the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has restructured its regulations in light of the COVID-19 virus. Learn more about California ABC laws and COVID with the experienced attorneys at Blake & Ayaz.

At Blake & Ayaz, we understand that many California business owners rely on an ABC license to maintain their business—and this has become more difficult in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We work hard to ensure your business continues to meet the requirements to obtain and maintain an ABC license.

Learn more about how California ABC laws have been affected by COVID.

What Is the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control?

An independent department within the California State Government Executive Branch, the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, or ABC, began in January of 1955 as a result of a constitutional amendment. The ABC’s main function is alcohol education and alcohol administration. The three key elements of the ABC are administration, licensing, and compliance as it relates to alcohol within the State of California.

The ABC monitors over 93,000 licensees, including but not limited to restaurants, bars, craft brewers, wineries, and large breweries. These businesses are responsible for employing hundreds of thousands of people. These businesses serve millions annually. Everyone even remotely related to one of these businesses has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, whether through travel restrictions, social distancing requirements, mask requirements, illnesses, or death. It is imperative that the Department of ABC adjusts to the ever-changing advice of medical professionals, legislators, and other governing bodies.

California COVID Alcohol Rules: What Is Regulatory Relief?

Regulatory Relief is temporary regulations written by the Department of ABC in order to provide certain avenues of relief to licensees to allow them to mitigate losses they are facing as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Due to the ever-changing information learned about the COVID-19 Pandemic as well questions arising by licensees, there have been seven (7) separate Notices of Regulatory Relief that have been provided. The timing of each notice is spread out, with some only released within days of each other. There are nineteen (19) separate provisions within the notices. Each notice and provision will be described in more detail below, followed by additional Frequently Asked Questions.

California COVID Alcohol Rules: First Notice of Regulatory Relief

The First Notice of Regulatory Relief was released on March 19, 2020. It provided relief in eight (8) major areas:

  1. Returns of Alcoholic Beverages. This regulatory relief allows but does not require manufacturers and wholesalers to accept returns from retailers. The exact return requirements are able to be defined by the wholesalers or manufacturers. However, they may NOT require a future promise from the retailers regarding specific quantities or products they must purchase in the future.
  2. Retail-to-Retail Transactions. Due to the fact that on-sale retailers may have an abundance of inventory that is unable to be sold timely because of the increased limitations on sales during the COVID-19 pandemic, off-sale retailers are permitted to purchase from on-sale retailers. This provision is done in addition to permitting returns of alcoholic beverages to avoid having inventories spoiled from lack of use.
  3. Extension of Credit. This provision changes the enforcement of certain sections under the Business and Professions Code, meaning these sections will temporarily not be enforced. Those sections include the prohibition of retailers having credit extended to them beyond thirty (30) days, the imposition of statutory penalties on delinquent accounts, and the necessity of having retailers with delinquent accounts being required to purchase everything on a “cash on delivery” basis.
  4. On-Sale Retailers Exercising Off-Sale Privileges. Retailers permitted to sell on-sale alcoholic beverages are temporarily permitted to sell alcoholic beverages for off-sale consumption. The main requirement is that the beverage being sold be the same type of beverage that was permitted for on-sale consumption (i.e., beer, wine, distilled, etc.). Also, the off-sale consumption beverages must be in the manufacturer’s prepackaged containers.
  5. Sales of Alcoholic Beverages To-Go. To-go beverages are temporarily permitted by licensees selling beer, wine, and pre-mixed drinks bought in conjunction with a pick-up or delivery meal. Any such alcoholic beverages sold to-go must be in a container with a secure lid or cap in order to not prevent the consumer from consuming the product without removing the secure lid or cap. Additionally, any licensee interested in to-go beverage service must also post a notice to all consumers.
  6. Off-Sale Transactions Through Pass-Out Windows. There is a temporary suspension of any prohibition on sales and deliveries of alcoholic beverages through a pass-out window to persons inside a motor vehicle or any person on the exterior of the premises.
  7. Hours of Operation for Retail Sales. Many licensees are required to close prior to the 2:00 a.m. mandatory closing time or open later than the mandatory 6:00 a.m. opening time. The only time restrictions, which will be enforced for off-sale privileges, will be the mandatory closing hours between 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m.
  8. Deliveries to Consumers. The Department will be suspending enforcement of the restrictions requiring alcoholic beverages to be paid for on-premises for off-sale consumption, meaning deliveries can be paid for at the place of delivery instead of the premise where it was purchased from.
California COVID Alcohol Rules: Second Notice of Regulatory Relief

The Second Notice of Regulatory Relief was released on April 1, 2020. It continued on the previous eight areas of relief and continued by adding the following four (4) relief measures to the list continuing the list with:

  1. Free Delivery. This allows licensees to deliver alcoholic beverages without charge to the consumer through either the licensee themselves, third-party delivery services, or by mail. It was only prohibited previously under Business and Professions Code Section 25600, which has been determined to include free delivery as a “free goods,” which are prohibited under the aforementioned section. While this relief allows for the free delivery, it is not required.
  2. Delivery Hours Extended to Midnight. Typically, delivery of alcoholic beverages was prohibited past 8:00 p.m. any day other than Sunday when the delivery is prohibited. Such prohibition is still in effect for Sundays and for conditions on retail licensees, which were put in place to protect nearby residents. Otherwise, the prohibition is extended from 8:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.
  3. Charitable Promotions and Sales. This was originally a relief of the prohibition against Business and Professions Code Section 25500 or 25502 relating to the provisions of things of value to retailers. Additionally, it reverses the prohibition against the provision of premiums, gifts, or free goods in relation to the marketing or sale of alcoholic beverages. There were three limitations on this relief including:
    • It involves a bona fide charitable organization related to COVID-19
    • It involves the sale of sealed containers and must not promote the consumption of alcoholic beverages
    • it does not identify, advertise, or otherwise involve or promote any retail licensee. This provision was later completely replaced by number 18, which is included in the Sixth Notice of Regulatory Relief and was signed on October 8, 2020 (discussed later in this article).
  4. Distilled Spirits Manufacturers Providing High-Proof Spirits for Disinfection Purposes. This provision allows Type 04 licensed distilled spirits manufacturers and Type 74 craft distillers to produce denatured high-proof spirits if the FDA guidelines are followed. These disinfectants can be provided for free to any person, which includes retail licensees as long as the spirits do not promote the manufacturer’s alcoholic beverage products and not provided as a quid pro quo for future agreements to purchase anything. Any taxation liability should be discussed with a qualified accountant.
California COVID Alcohol Rules: Third Notice of Regulatory Relief

The Third Notice of Regulatory Relief was released on April 21, 2020. It continued on the previous twelve (12) areas of relief and continued by adding the following single relief measure to the list continuing the list with:

  • Virtual Wine Tasting. This regulatory relief is specific to Type 02 Winegrower Licensees. It allows such licensees to deliver free samples of wine to patrons who are not on the premises so long as they are part of a transaction involving purchasing wine or other products. Wine tastings conducted by such licensees are not limited to the standard tasting size of one (1) ounce per taste. The Second Notice of Regulatory Relief previously permitted free delivery of alcohol which is specifically extended to virtual wine tastings. Any shipped wine MUST be shipped in a manufacturer-sealed container. Federal and state labeling laws must be followed the same way they are for regular wine bottles. There will also be tax consequences associated with virtual wine tasting containers that are shipped. These regulations are applicable to California virtual wine tastings only. Consult applicable state laws for every state where virtual wine tasting is proposed.
California COVID Alcohol Rules: Fourth Notice of Regulatory Relief

The Fourth Notice of Regulatory Relief was released on May 15, 2020. This regulatory relief was done in direct response to counties loosening COVID-19 stay-at-home restrictions and allowing for a level of inside dining and on-site alcohol consumption. This regulatory relief continued on the previously numbered sections to add two (2) additional measures:

  • Expansion of Licensed Footprint

This allows the on-sale consumption of alcoholic beverages on property adjacent to and under the same control as the licensee. A COVID-19 Temporary Catering Authorization is required prior to allowance of this on-sale consumption. The same restrictions apply on the licensees’ permanently licensed premises. The tied-house laws previously in effect remain in effect (limiting non-retail licensees and retail licensees business relationships), except that a non-retail licensee without an eating place may coordinate with a legitimate meal provider who is a retail licensee to provide said meals to the non-retail licensee. For this to be appropriate and legal, there must not be undue influence or a quid pro quo. A non-retail licensee cannot be a provider of meals to retail licensees because it is a prohibited thing of value to the retail licensee.

These adjacent areas that are under the licensees’ control include:

  • Parking facilities
  • Indoor and outdoor areas in control of multiple businesses, including the licensee, sidewalks, and other public areas that are closed down to public access during the hours of operation
  • Indoor and outdoor areas accessible from within licensees’ property that are not currently licensed
  • Other areas may be permitted within the discretion of the Department.

These COVID-19 Temporary Catering Authorization may be withdrawn by the Department if there is a determination that the operation is contrary to public health, safety, or welfare. In addition, more conditions may be added to the temporary authorization at any time at the discretion of the Department. If a violation of the ABC Department’s Temporary Catering Authorization or other provisions occurs, there may be a suspension or a revocation of the license as though the incident occurred on the actual licensed property. Regardless of whether a violation occurs in the temporarily authorized area or within the original licensed premises, the Temporary Catering Authorization may be canceled by the Department.

In order to apply for the COVID-19 Temporary Catering Authorization Application, you must submit:

  • A non-refundable $100 application fee
  • A delineation of the areas, including the original licensed property and the proposed temporary area
  • A description of how the licensee has the legal ability to control the adjacent temporary area
  • A description of the temporary and fixed barriers that will be provided by the applicant to control the temporary area
  • An indication of whether the temporary area is within the control of another party
  • Whether any other party will be providing alcoholic beverages within the proposed temporary area
  • A written statement indicating that the application was forwarded to the law enforcement agency appropriate for the premises
  • A statement by the applicant that the temporary authorization will be done consistent with the terms involved in the notices and by both state and local regulations.

As soon as the application and the fee are submitted to the Department, the licensee is then authorized to start offering retail privileges in the temporary area. The authorization does not expire, except that it may be canceled:

  • If the COVID-19 Temporary Catering Authorization program ends if there are any legal violations (including laws, the ABC Act, rules, ordinances, and any other directives)
  • If there is a determination that there is a disturbance of the quiet enjoyment of residents who live nearby
  • If the local police department lodges an objection
  • If the operation is against State and local public health directives
  • If there is a determination that the continuation of the authorization will negatively affect the public’s health, safety, or welfare.

The application for the COVID-19 Temporary Catering Authorization is available online, or call our firm for more details.

  1. Extension of Regulatory Relief for Club Licenses: Type, 50, 51 and 52:

This provision basically extends the delivery of alcoholic beverages permitted in the First Notice of Regulatory Relief. It allows delivery of manufacturer-sealed alcoholic beverages. It further permits deliveries of club-sealed alcoholic beverages only in connection to a bona fide meal. Furthermore, the alcohol must be transported in a safe way.

California COVID Alcohol Rules: Fifth Notice of Regulatory Relief

The Fifth Notice of Regulatory Relief was released on May 20, 2020. This regulatory relief was done in direct response to multiple inquiries into the Department’s First Notice of Regulatory Relief’s To-Go provision (Number 5 above) extension to on-sale licensees that do not have a kitchen facility. A provision was added for on-sale licensees without kitchen facilities.

It allows licensees without kitchen facilities to partner with meal providers to sell meals contemporaneously with alcoholic beverages. There are three basic requirements:

  • The meal provider is regularly engaged in the business of making and selling food to the general public
  • The ABC licensees shall take or coordinate all orders, and all payments from consumers shall be received by the ABC licensee
  • The meal and alcoholic beverage must be delivered at the same time as a single transaction by the ABC licensee or by a delivery service (the food must be received by the ABC licensee and then provided to the delivery person.
California COVID Alcohol Rules: Sixth Notice of Regulatory Relief

The Sixth Notice of Regulatory Relief was released on October 8, 2020. Two new provisions are addressing virtual meet the winemaker or brewer dinners and the replacement for the virtual Meet the Winemaker or Brewer Dinners.

Typically, the ABC Department only allows events under the Business and Professions Code sections 25503.4 and 25503.45 (“meet the winemaker” and “meet the brewer,” respectively) at the on-sale licensee’s premises. The Department will not enforce these requirements provided that the following provisions are followed:

  • The on-sale retailer must conduct and control the event as well as give permission to the winery or brewery for such an event. The winery or brewery cannot exceed the amount of participation they would otherwise offer at the retailer’s premises.
  • The on-sale retailer must sell all food and alcoholic beverages. They may not be sold by the individual winery or brewery.
  • Advertising limitations still apply to the participating winery or brewery in accordance with the statutory authority.
  • Both entities (the retailer and the winery/brewery) may jointly host online instructions for the event.
  • The winery/brewery shall not provide any wine, beer, or other alcoholic beverage to consumers, including samples of any wine or beer.
  • The on-sale retailer must pay for any and all costs related to the delivery of food or alcohol or hosting the online event.
  • Renewal of Relief for Charitable Promotions and Sales

The Department wants to encourage donations to bona fide charitable organizations, including charitable organizations established for the sole benefit of helping employees of licensed retailers who need support during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pursuant to this goal, the Department is suspending enforcement of Business and Professions Code Sections 25500, 25502, 25600, allowing things of value being given to retailers, as well as the provision of premiums, gifts, or free goods with alcoholic beverage purchases.

The following limitations exist to these suspended enforcements: (1) it must be a bona fide charitable organization giving COVID-19 pandemic relief, (2) it must involve sealed containers (not encouraging the imbibing of alcoholic beverages, (3) the advertisement by the participating licensee is done in conformity with the respective statutory authority, and (4) it does not involve any retail licensee.

California COVID Alcohol Rules: Seventh Notice of Regulatory Relief

The Seventh Notice of Regulatory Relief was provided on January 13, 2021. It only adds one extra provision to the list of regulatory relief initiatives regarding relief from the Type 75 requirement to produce 100 barrels of beer annually.

This is a very specific provision that suspends the minimum 100 barrel production required by section 23396.3 of the Business and Professions Code. The main reason is because of the restrictions and stay-at-home orders in place for much of the year.

Here are some of the most common questions we hear regarding California’s COVID regulations.

  • What Are the Limitations on the Relief Discussed Here?

The Department of the ABC has provided such relief on a temporary basis. Any such provision may be withdrawn by the Department without warning and at any time. Although a ten (10) day notice period is intended, it is not required if the needs of public safety dictate. If the Department decides there is a licensee abusing the relief provided, or if they decide the licensee’s actions are jeopardizing public health, safety, or welfare, the relief may be rescinded.

Nothing within the regulatory relief provided by the ABC Department shall exempt licensees from zoning restrictions, conditional use permits, local ordinances, or any other items that the Department does not have jurisdiction or control over.

  • What Is the COVID-19 Temporary Catering Authorization Expansion?

The California ABC Department has developed regulatory guidelines to help expand outdoor spaces for dining to allow licensees to serve wine, beer, and cocktails with food (a bona fide meal defined later) to its customers. This “temporary catering authorization” will authorize approved restaurants to serve alcoholic beverages in outdoor dining spaces in light of the coronavirus. This regulation will help licensees allow for greater customer capacity, allow for appropriate physical distancing and flexibility.

The expansion for temporary catering on the premises does not have to be adjoining the licensee’s regular licensed premises. However, it must be in close proximity to the licensed premises and be immediately accessible to the licensee. In addition, the temporary catering location must be under the control and security of the licensee. All of these factors are at the discretion of the Department of ABC.

A licensee must complete an application with the ABC as set forth later in this article. The licensee must comply with all state and local health and safety requirements. The licensee is limited to serving only those alcoholic beverages authorized by the licensee’s current license type. As stated in its name, the Temporary Catering Authorization will terminate if and when canceled by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, for violations of pertinent rules, ordinances, laws, or directives for business activities conducted in the expanded catering area or on the licensed premises, for having a negative impact on residents living in the area, for opposition by local police, or, finally, if continuing the temporary catering location impacts the public health, safety, or welfare in a negative manner.

The Temporary Catering Authorization Expansion can only be applied for in counties that have reopened.

  • California COVID Alcohol Rules: What Is a Bona Fide Meal?

For purposes of the California ABC Laws, a bona fide meal consists of a variety of foods as typically prepared in a kitchen at an establishment open to serve meals to patrons that can be ordered throughout the day that would constitute a genuine meal. Simply selling prepackaged food items, or sandwiches or salads, or heating up frozen or previously prepared meals does not meet the requirement for a bona fide meal.

  • Are Physical Barriers Required in Order to Expand?

According to the California ABC, physical barriers are not required, although the licensee is responsible to control the area of the expansion. However, the ABC does recommend that barriers be used to ensure control of the licensee’s expanded premises as delineated on the licensee’s application for the temporary catering authorization. The licensee must complete a COVID-19 Temporary Catering Authorization Application and must delineate their expansion area on that application.

Realistically, a licensee would want to use physical barriers to maintain control of its licensed premises and to avoid a possible violation of ABC regulatory guidelines.

  • Are the Same Age Restrictions Required in the Expanded Premises Under the COVID-19 Temporary Catering Authorization?

Any age requirements based on the license type remain in full force in any of the expanded areas.

  • Does the Application for COVID-19 Temporary Catering Authorization Need Notarization?

No, however, the ABC Department reserves the right to cancel any authorization after discovery of any false or fraudulent information in the application.

  • Is There an Expiration Date for the COVID-19 Temporary Catering Authorization Once Granted?

No. The program will either end all together, or individual authorization may be canceled at the discretion of the Department at any time.

  • How Many Areas of Expansion Are Permitted?

Multiple areas of expansion are permitted, but only under one COVID-19 Temporary Catering Authorization. Each area does not have to be adjacent to one another, but each must be in close proximity to the original licensed premises. If a licensee wishes to further expand after the initial authorization, a new application and fee needs to be submitted. Any new authorization will replace the original authorization. There is only one (1) authorization permitted per license.

  • Does There Need to be a Contract Between a Licensee and a Meal Provider?

Yes. The contract must be submitted for review to the Department of ABC, and it must provide details about how each requirement will be met, as well as establishing a working relationship between the two.

  • Has the Department of ABC Provided Any Monetary Relief?

A grace period of thirty (30) days has been extended for licensees paying annual renewal fees or penalties on any late fees.

  • Is the Department of ABC Enforcing the Closure of the Bars and Restaurants?

Voluntary compliance is the goal of the Department. However, if voluntary compliance is not achieved, the Department reserves the right to pursue disciplinary actions against any non-compliant licensees.

  • Who Has the Authority to Suspend the Enforcement of State Laws?

The state. Local law enforcement does not have jurisdiction over suspension of state laws. Local law enforcement may only suspend local rules or ordinances regarding business licenses.

  • What Should Licensees Do About Conflicts in State and Local Orders?

In order to be as safe as possible, follow the more restrictive requirement until such time as clarification is issued.

  • Is the Department of ABC Requiring Adherence to Conditions Placed in the License Regarding Gross Food Sales Exceeding Gross Alcoholic Beverage Sales?

Discretion will be used by the Department, and only conditions where there are major discrepancies or evidence of wrong-doing that harms the public health, safety, or welfare will enforcement be required.

  • Do Licensees Need to Surrender Their License to Comply With Rule 65 During Closure Related to COVID-19?

No. Additionally, when reopening after the COVID-19 closure, no notice needs to be provided to the Department. If, however, a license was surrendered prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic, it is imperative that you follow the normal process for reactivation.

  • Is the Notary Requirement Waived for Application Forms?

No. It must still be notarized. However, an out-of-state notary service may be used if an in-person service is unavailable so long as the other state uses a remote online notarization (RON).

  • Can a Bar Get Temporary Approval to Act as a Restaurant?

No, unless it has already obtained a permit from the local health department to prepare meals for the public.

  • Can a Portion of the Proceeds from the Sale of Alcohol be Given to a Charity?

Yes, temporarily. The containers must be sealed and cannot promote the consumption of alcoholic beverages. The promotion cannot involve any retail licensee. Finally, it must be a bona fide charitable organization.

  • Can Manufactured Sealed Containers Be Sold Without Food by Restaurants, Bars, and Manufacturers?

Yes. It has even been extended to distilled spirits for licensees that are permitted to sell distilled spirits previously.

  • How Does To-Go (Non-Manufacturer Sealed) Alcohol Have to be Served?

There must be a seal on the beverage, some type of lid with no holes for straws, etc.

  • How Does To-Go Alcohol Have to be Transported When It Is Not in Manufacturer-Sealed Containers?

It must be transported in the trunk of the vehicle.

  • What Happens When the Vehicle Has No Trunk?

It must be transported in some other area of the vehicle where the driver or passenger aren’t typically located.

  • Can Pure Spirits Be Sold in To-Go Containers?

Yes, as long as the licensee is permitted to sell distilled spirits under its license. The same rules apply.

  • How Do Breweries Have to Sell To-Go Alcohol?

Type 01 and Type 23 beer manufacturers may sell beer in sealed mason jars as if they are manufacturer sealed (without food). If the to-go beer is in an improvised to-go container, it must be sold with food.

Type 75 brewpub licensees may sell to-go in the same manner as other restaurants and bars. They must be sold in conjunction with a bona fide meal.

  • Can Liquor Be Sold To-Go from Bars That Do Not Sell Food?

Only in manufacturer sealed containers.

  • What Type of Alcohol Can Be Sold Thru Drive-Thru Sales?

Only manufacturer-sealed containers.

  • Can Wine Club Members Pick Up Wine at the Winery?

Yes. Every attempt should be made to adhere to social distancing.

  • Whose Responsibility Is It to Verify the Age Requirements When Delivering Alcohol?

It is the delivery person who bears the ultimate responsibility in checking the age of the customer purchasing said alcohol to make sure it is not sold to underage persons.

  • Can a Third-Party Be Used to Deliver Alcohol From On-Sale Locations?

Yes, however, the licensee is ultimately responsible for the delivery.

  • Can Growlers Be Sold To-Go?

Yes. On-sale retailers can either fill or refill growlers to sell to consumers to-go.

  • Are Growlers Required to Satisfy the Labeling Requirements?

No. Those requirements are not currently being enforced.

  • Can Distilleries Deliver to Consumers Directly?

It depends. Type 4 distilled spirits manufacturers are prohibited from selling to consumers. Type 74 (craft distilleries) are permitted to deliver. However, they must still limit the distilled spirits to 2.25 liters of spirits per person per day. The licensee is again responsible for maintaining compliance with age requirements.

  • Can Bar Owners Sell Untapped Kegs if They Are No Longer Able to Sell Tapped Beer?

Yes. They can either be sold to an ABC licensed retailer holding an off-sale license, or they can be sold directly to consumers curbside or delivered to their home.

  • What Are the Requirements for Selling To-Go Containers for Alcohol Sold in Conjunction With Food?

The alcohol must be in a container with a lid that prevents the consumer from drinking by sip or straw without first removing the lid.

  • What Hours Are Manufacturers and Wholesalers Permitted to Deliver Alcoholic Beverages to Retailers?

During the relief period, the hours for delivery can be between 12:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. each day of the week except for Sundays.

  • Does California Law Prohibit a Manufacturer From Accepting Returned Products From a Distributor?

No, however, federal law may place restrictions.

  • Are There Any Waivers to Renewal Fees?

The California Governor has signed legislation into effect that includes fee waivers for eligible licensees who have been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Licensees may qualify for a waiver if their license expires between March 1, 2021, and February 28, 2023.

  • Are There Limitations to Which Types of Licensees Are Eligible for a Waiver of the Renewal Fee?

Yes. The following types of licenses are eligible: 

  • 40 (on-sale beer)
  • 41 (on-sale beer and wine – eating place)
  • 42 (on-sale beer and wine – public premises)
  • 47 (on-sale general – eating place)
  • 48 (on-sale general – public premises)
  • 49 (on-sale general – seasonal)
  • 50 (on-sale general club)
  • 51 (club)
  • 52 (veteran’s club)
  • 57 (special on-sale general)
  • 58 (caterer’s permit)
  • 59 (on-sale beer and wine – seasonal)
  • 60 (on-sale beer – seasonal)
  • 61 (on-sale beer – public premises)
  • 64 (special on-sale general for nonprofit theater company)
  • 68 (portable bar license)
  • 69 (special on-sale beer and wine theater)
  • 71 (special on-sale general for a for-profit theater within the city and county of San Francisco)
  • 72 (special on-sale general for a for-profit theater within the county of Napa)
  • 75 (brewpub-restaurant)
  • 76 (on-sale general maritime museum association)
  • 77 (event permit)
  • 78 (on-sale general for wine, food, and art cultural museum, and educational center)
  • 83 (general on-sale license to caterer)
  • 86 (instructional tasting license)
  • 87 (special on-sale general license for specified census tracts in the city/county of San Francisco)
  • 99 (on-sale general for special use).
  • Why Have These Types of Licensees Been Selected to be Eligible for the Waivers?

These have been determined to be the most affected types of businesses that have been impacted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Are There Deadlines to Submit a Renewal Fee Waiver?

Yes. The following deadlines apply:

License Expiration Date Last Day to Request a Fee Waiver
March 31, 2021 May 3, 2021
April 30, 2021 June 1, 2021
May 31, 2021 July 1, 2021
June 30, 2021 July 30, 2021
  • Can Fee Waiver Requests be Submitted Prior to Receiving Renewal Notice From the Department?

No. It is recommended that the top portion of the license renewal be submitted with the request for a fee waiver.

  • Can Multiple Waivers Be Submitted per Year?

No. It is important to only submit one waiver per licensee. Only one method of submittal should be used (either postal mail or email, NOT both). A waiver application will be required for each year of the two years of relief. The second waiver would be required when the licensee receives the renewal notice for 2022.

  • Are Licensees Eligible for the Waiver if They Haven’t Paid Their January 2021 or February 2021 Renewal Yet?

No. The waiver program only applies to licensees with an expiration date AFTER March 1, 2021.

  • If the Due Payment Date for License Renewal is March 1, 2021, Does It Need Paid?

Yes. A due date of March 1, 2021, would be for licensees that expire on February 28, 2021. Those licenses aren’t eligible for fee waivers until next year.

  • Can Fees Be Refunded if They Are Paid, and the Licensee Later Discovers That They Would Have Been Eligible for a Waiver?

No. No refunds are permitted.

  • Are the Fees Waived Due at a Later Point in Time?


Some other questions are a bit more complicated. Some final concerns regarding California, ABC laws, and COVID include the following.

How Are California ABC Laws Affected by COVID?

California ABC laws have been affected by COVID in many ways. An alcohol beverage compliance attorney will help you navigate these unprecedented times with certainty using their knowledge and industry experience. California business owners rely on ABC licenses to operate—and this has become increasingly complicated as the coronavirus continues to impact business functions.

Do I Need an Alcoholic Beverage Compliance Attorney in California?

Every state, including California, maintains laws to ensure alcoholic beverages are sold under legal and controlled circumstances. These laws prevent minors from consuming alcohol; they also uphold public safety. If your business wishes to sell or serve alcohol, you must adhere to all California ABC criteria and maintain compliance with guidelines.

California ABC Laws continue to change as the COVID-19 virus continues to affect everyday life and business around the country and state. It is crucial for California business owners to stay knowledgeable and current on the state’s regulatory requirements.

An experienced lawyer in California will provide you with appropriate legal counsel and guide you through all issues, including the most complex that you face. Rest assured knowing that your business is preserved and that fines and other legal penalties are prevented.

Consider working with Blake & Ayaz to limit your business’s liability for civil claims and continue your business operations legally and legitimately.

What Should I Do If My Business Is Facing an ABC Violation?

California maintains strict liquor laws, and it can be a challenge for a business to maintain its liquor license after a violation. The COVID-19 pandemic has further complicated matters. Hundreds of California businesses are facing violations as they have been doing their best to follow the state’s guidelines during the pandemic.

The ABC investigates violations at premises licensed to sell alcohol in California. The ABC might have sent an undercover agent to the licensed premises or may have responded to a complaint. If the ABC’s investigation uncovered any liquor license violations, charges against the licensee are likely to follow.

The accused business will receive a document called an accusation. It will contain the charges asserted against them, as well as a statement of facts supporting the counts and any prior history against the licensee. An alcohol beverage compliance attorney in California can help you overcome the effects of a violation and maintain your license.

If you received an accusation, remember that you have options. An accusation does not mean you are guilty—it simply means you have been accused of a violation. An experienced California attorney will help you decide on a path forward, likely using one of the following options:

  • Accept the settlement offer from the ABC.
  • Negotiate a settlement with the ABC.
  • Proceed with the hearing on the accusation.

You also may be able to transfer ownership of the business to a new owner in a person-to-person ABC license transfer. This will allow the ABC license to move to the new owner. However, the ABC may issue new conditions attached to the ABC liquor license when these transfers occur, and these conditions may hinder business goals.

With an alcohol beverage compliance attorney in California, you can overcome new conditions to your ABC license if you complete a person-to-person transfer. It is not possible to appeal any conditions that already existed on an ABC license prior to the transfer, but you may file an appeal with the ABC Board of Decisions about new conditions on the ABC license.

Find Experienced California ABC Attorneys At Blake & Ayaz

Regardless of the issue you are facing, it is important to work with a trusted attorney who is experienced in all matters relating to the ABC during COVID. Blake & Ayaz have helped many clients understand and make the necessary changes to their businesses to accommodate state and federal regulations. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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