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How Much is an ABC License in California?

F. Michael Ayaz

To have alcoholic beverages available for purchase or consumption at your business/organization in California, you will first need to acquire an Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) license. These licenses are distributed by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

However, the process of receiving your licensing isn’t free, and the total cost can vary, depending on several key variables. Generally, the fees you pay to receive or possess your ABC license can be classified under two categories: annual fees and application fees.

The Cost of Application Fees

Whenever an application is submitted by a new licensee, the party will be faced with certain fees. Those who are applying to change or transfer their existing ABC license will also be required to pay these fees. Application fees are charged to cover the typical cost of processing a new or modified ABC license. In part, this includes a thorough investigation of the business’s premises, as well as the applicant’s background.

For general applicants, the standard application fees are $15,835 for priority and $905 for non-priority applications.

Aside from these general costs, initial fees are sorted into the following categories:

  • On-Sale General Eating Place on Public Property ($6,000)
  • On-Sale General Dockside ($2,000)
  • Special On-Sale General Theater ($1,000)
  • On-Sale General Restrictive Service ($6,000)
  • Wine, Food, and Art Museum ($12,000)

Non-general applicants (not including types 06, 26, 28, and 82) will need to pay $905 when they first submit an application. Alternatively, the remaining non-general applicants are charged $100.

For more information on which subsection your business would fall into, applicants can refer to resources provided by the California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control. It’s also a good idea to contact a CA alcoholic beverage compliance lawyer for guidance, but a qualified licensing ABC attorney can help.

License types are separated into a total of 75 possible categories, each with its own numerical identifier between the numbers 1 and 99.

Application Fees for Transferring an ABC License

If you opt to transfer or change an existing license, you’ll face fees that are usually lower than they are for new applicants. These fees also vary depending upon the type of changes you’d like to make. Fees for transferring an existing ABC license are as follows:

Person to Person/Ownership Changes
  • Person to Person ($1,250 for general; $335 for non-general)
  • Membership to Stock ($800 for general; $335 for non-general)
  • Membership to Stock – Multiple Premises ($100 for general/non-general)
  • Corporate Update ($300 for general/non-general)
  • Drop Partner ($115 for general/non-general)
  • Fiduciary Transfer ($100 for general/non-general)
Premises to Premises/Premises Changes
  • Premises to Premises ($780)
  • Intercounty Transfer ($6,000)
  • Exchange ($100)
  • Converting Seasonal ($6,000)
  • Substantial Physical Changes, Without Expansion ($345)
  • Premises Expansion ($380)
Double Transfer Fees
  • Premises and Person ($1,250)
  • Premises and Stock or Membership ($1,250)
  • Premises and Stock or Membership, Multiple ($1,250)
  • Premises and Fiduciary ($880)
Other ABC License Application Fees

Businesses or organizations applying for their ABC license may also be subject to miscellaneous fees. Those fees are:

Operating Fees

  • Condition Modification ($475)
  • Temporary Permit ($100)
  • Interim Operating Permit ($145)
  • Qualified Manager ($140)
  • Private Warehouse Permit ($170)
  • Beer Keg Receipt Books – 50 ($10)
  • Beer Keg Identification Tags – 100 ($25)

Other Miscellaneous Fees

  • Fingerprinting ($63)
  • License Replacement ($25)
  • Bad Check ($20)
The Cost of Annual Fees

Each year, those in possession of an ABC license will be required to pay the appropriate annual fees. These fees must be paid on time, or else the party’s license will soon be considered inactive.

Applicants will be required to submit annual fees at the time that they apply. However, if they later go on to withdraw their application, or if that application is denied by the ABC, this fee is refundable.

With some license categories, annual fees can vary widely. For the total to be calculated, the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control will need to account for population, production, or how many months of the year the license holder operates.

Annual Fees Based on Population

If the licensee holds an On-Sale General license, their total fees are determined using the population of the city where their business operates. This is further sectioned off into three categories: cities that have a population between 20,000 and 40,000, cities that have a population above 40,000, and then the remaining jurisdictions.

Annual Fees Based on Production

For those in possession of a Winegrowers (type 02) or a Wine Blender (type 22) license, the amount of alcoholic beverages they produce needs to be accounted for. Depending on how much each licensee produces in gallons, their annual production fees can vary.

Production will need to be reported on an annual basis. If that year’s production shifts the licensee to a new tier, they may be able to receive an additional refund or payment.

Annual Fees Based on Seasonal Operations

Whenever the license holder has a seasonal license, their annual fees are based on how many months of the year they operate. Typically, three-month increments are used to calculate these fees.

Keep in mind, however, that the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control no longer issues seasonal licenses to new applicants.


To calculate a licensee’s annual fee, the total of their license fee must be combined with one of these surcharges:

  • CHP Surcharge (paid by most permanent license holders)
  • Appeals Board Surcharge (paid by all permanent license holders)
  • Business Practices Fee (applies to license types 04, 05, 07, 13, 18, 21, 66, 27, and 74)

What If My Business Requires Multiple Licenses?

In some cases, a single business will need to receive more than one ABC license to operate. As long as the licenses are for a single premises, the applicant will only be required to pay a single application fee – being whichever is the highest fee.

Orange County Alcoholic Beverage Compliance Lawyers | Top ABC Attorneys

The legal team at Blake & Ayaz are experts in California’s alcohol beverage compliance laws. If you have any questions about these regulations or applying for an Alcoholic Beverage Control license, don’t hesitate to reach out. To get in contact with us and schedule your consultation, simply fill out the form on our website.

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