California Licensing Lawyer
Starting a new business is exciting. However, it also comes with its fair share of challenges. From deciding whether to franchise, where your location should be, and how to market your product or service, there is a lot to consider before opening your doors. There are also several legal steps would-be business owners must make to ensure that the business is protected. This is particularly important for businesses that make or sell any kind of alcohol.
If you are considering opening a business that includes the production, sale, or distribution of alcohol, contact our firm. An alcohol beverage compliance attorney can help you find and apply for the right license for your business. With over six decades of experience, the team at Blake & Ayaz can ensure your next endeavor is operating legally and is protected.
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.
Non-retail Licensing in California
Any business looking to distribute or manufacture alcohol must have a license to do so. In California, these are called non-retail licensing. Non-retail licenses are for businesses that sell or make alcohol but not directly to the public.
This could include some breweries, distilleries, organizations that import alcohol, and businesses that sell alcohol at the wholesale level. If this applies to your business, you will need to apply for a non-retail license before you open.
Types Of Non-retail Licenses in California
Determining what type of license works for your business is your first step in this process. You will then have to figure out what specific license your business will need. In some cases, if your business has a few different departments, you may need to apply for a different license for each operation.
A few of the most common non-retail licenses include:
- Beer Manufacturer. One of the most common types of non-retail licenses is for organizations that make at least 60,000 gallons of beer during a year. This license is often for breweries and other manufacturers but does not include selling the alcohol they make. If you are a beer manufacturer but do not meet the gallon requirement, like a microbrewery, you will need to apply for a different license. Home brewers are able to operate without a license if they do not manufacture over 100 gallons each year and do not sell any.
- A winegrower license deals more with the tools and equipment you have than the alcohol itself. To qualify for a winegrower license, you must have all of the necessary equipment to make wine from the fruit you grow. You are always required to have an individual license, even if you have a shared proprietorship and use the same facilities as another winegrower.
- The state of California has a very specific definition of a still, so it is important that you know what license you need prior to beginning production. If part of your process includes separating alcohol into different mixtures or solutions, then you may be required to hold a still license. Stills are most often used to create spirits, specifically alcohols like brandy, whiskey, and rum.
- Rectification is a process that involves adding new ingredients into an alcohol to create different reactions, such as limoncello and other specialty drinks. Your business is required to hold a rectifier license if you create any type of specialty alcohol, but you will not need a license if you are creating the new drinks and serving them immediately.
- Beer and Wine Importer. Not every non-retail license has to do with making, distilling, or rectifying alcohol. Your business may sell alcohol from outside of the United States. In those cases, this license will allow you to import and export different kinds of beer and wine. It is important to note that this is not a license for selling alcohol, so a valid resale license must be added before you can sell anything that is imported.
- Distilled Spirits Importer. Beer and wine are common, but they aren’t the only drinks people like. Some enjoy international spirits like rum, vodka, and gin. Similar to a beer and wine importer license, you are not permitted to sell the distilled spirits you import with this license. Any beverages that are imported have to be transferred to a different license before they can be sold.
- Beer and Wine Wholesaler. This is one of the only non-retail licenses that allow alcohol to be sold. If your business provides alcohol on a larger scale, like to other stores or restaurants, then you are required to have a wholesaler license. This license permits you to sell alcohol to other supplies in some cases, but mostly this is for a business that sells alcohol to retail locations.
California has almost eighty different types of licenses for businesses that make or sell alcohol. Each license is very specific to what the business produces or sells. Your license must be the right type or it could mean you aren’t operating legally. An experienced licensing attorney can help you decide which option is right for your business.
What to Know About Applying for Non-retail Licensing
Making sure that your business has the correct license is crucial, but it isn’t necessarily easy. It can be a confusing process, especially if you are starting a unique business or are a first-time business owner. The federal, state, and local governments each have specific requirements you must meet. Unfortunately, the process can take months; be sure to get the legal help you need well ahead of your opening or before you decide to sell or produce your product. Each step requires lengthy documentation, so working with a licensing attorney can help you with looming deadlines and understand how to navigate the process in a timely way.
- Application Timeline. Getting an application approved is not a simple process. The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control will complete a full investigation before any applications can be approved. It may also be necessary to notify certain local entities, like a city council or business board. These things can create frustrating delays, so you should expect to wait anywhere from one to three months for your application to be approved.
- Tax Requirements. Any alcohol that is brought into California, distributed to sellers, or sold to the public is subject to a tax on a per-gallon basis. Any businesses with a non-retail license will also have to register with the Board of Equalization (BEO) to handle your property taxes and alcoholic beverage taxes. Paying the proper taxes ensures that you can maintain your business long-term.
- Federal Requirements. One of the most important aspects of starting a business, especially one that deals with alcohol, is making sure that all of your information is correct. Your business may be affected by federal requirements, such as requiring a Tax Stamp to be included on your license. Ensure everything is correct by contacting the United States Treasury Department and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau closest to you and verify your requirements.
- Local Requirement. Your local government may also have certain regulations in place that will impact your business. Be sure to connect with your local officials, such as a city council, to see if you need a local business license or any special permits to use certain facilities and to make sure that your business will be in line with any zoning regulations.
The process of applying for a non-retail license can be complicated. Your license may not be approved if you are not fully in line with all local, state, and federal laws. A California non-retail licensing attorney from Blake & Ayaz can help you understand everything that goes into getting your license secured, like any costs associated with the process.
How Much Do Non-retail Licenses Cost?
Maintaining the right license for your business means you can get your enterprise started. Be sure to budget accordingly; there will be fees at the beginning of the process and fees that you will have to pay yearly once your license has been approved. Consider these fees at the start of your operation to ensure you are running a financially sound business.
Fees are required for non-retail licenses, too. The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control will check that your license is correct, that you are legally allowed to apply for the license, and that your location is suitable. An application fee is due when you first apply for your license. From there, the ABC’s investigation will start. In most cases, you will only have to pay one application fee, even if your business needs multiple licenses.
Once your non-retail license has been approved, you will also have to pay several annual fees. Knowing what fees your business is required to pay can help you avoid overpayment to save money. Some yearly fees may include a fee on the amount of alcohol you produce each year, practice fees connected with the ABC Act, and a surcharge to help fund a designated driver program through the California Highway Patrol. An experienced licensing attorney can help you understand any fees required for your license, from application to annual fees.
California Liquor License Enforcement
When you own and run a business that involves alcohol, you have a higher burden of responsibility than other types of organizations. The state wants to ensure that your business practices are as safe as possible. Making sure that your license, fees, and facilities are all up to date helps to make this possible. In addition to the work that each business does, the state also works to enforce the rules and regulations businesses have to follow. If your business has a non-retail license then you will deal with two main types of enforcement.
- Trade Enforcement. California created the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, or ABC Act, as a way to regulate how alcohol is made, sold, and consumed. This act includes laws and regulations put in place to manage the alcohol industry. The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has a Trade Enforcement Unit, or TEU, that makes sure businesses follow correct practices. If your business is reported for breaking any laws or trade regulations, then the TEU will launch an investigation. Their investigations may include businesses that are owned illegally, products being given away for free, bribery, and more. It’s in your interest to ask the TEU to review any advertising or programming to ensure that it meets the correct standards.
- Not every issue will require an investigation by the TEU. Some businesses have a pattern of small incidents that can build into a major problem. This might include unsafe working practices, selling to minors, or creating a disturbance in their neighborhood. In these situations, an individual can file a complaint against a business that has done something wrong or become a problem. The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control will look at any evidence and decide if any discipline is necessary.
When alcohol is handled, distributed, or consumed incorrectly, it can have harmful consequences – these consequences can impact your business, even if you are not at fault. That’s one reason why an attorney is so crucial to have on your side. Any business that plays a part in providing alcohol to the public must follow all laws and guidelines to keep its employees and customers safe.
To that end, California has enacted the ABC Act, which means anyone who sells alcohol can be responsible for the actions of the impaired individual. Any violation of the ABC Act, including having an incorrect or out of date license, could have serious effects on your business. Working with an experienced non-retail licensing attorney can protect your business.
Trust Blake & Ayaz For Your Non-retail Liquor License Needs
To stay in compliance with ABC, contact an experienced alcohol beverage compliance attorney, like the team at Blake & Ayaz. We will work with you to make sure your business is running with the proper licenses.
Making or selling alcohol requires a higher burden of responsibility and, therefore, more requirements when it comes to licensing. To ensure you have the right license and it is applied for in a timely manner, contact our team. Trust the team at Blake & Ayaz to help you choose the right non-retail license for your business.