California Retail License Lawyer
When you start a business, it is important to have everything planned and organized. Creating a business plan, drafting a budget, staffing your business, and handling all the necessary details are essential to any business’s success. There are, however, some businesses that require additional licensure and approval to run.
Whether your place of business is a restaurant or a public gathering space, if you are serving alcohol, you will need to adhere to the Alcohol Beverage Compliance regulations. One of the major components of these regulations is having a recent and effective retail license. A business that operates without a current liquor license could face significant fines or be closed. A California retail license attorney can help you navigate the licensure process and ensure you are well within regulation. Trust the 60 years of experience at Blake & Ayaz if you are planning to open a business that serves alcohol.
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.
What is a Retail License?
Any license is something that grants an individual or business permission to do something that would be against the law in other circumstances. A valid license is required to operate a vehicle, be a practicing physician, sell merchandise, and more. The same is true for establishments that wish to sell various types of alcohol to the public.
Any business that wishes to sell alcohol to customers to consume on the premises or to take home must have a valid retail license. This requirement also comes with certain stipulations and regulations that the business must follow to remain in good standing. Maintaining a valid retail license is a privilege that can be taken away if the business fails to adhere to the proper standards. There are also different types of licenses that a business can operate under, depending on the type of establishment they hope to open.
Finding the Right Retail License for Your Business
The type of retail license you will need depends on how you intend to sell the alcohol on your premises. Some business owners may intend to open a restaurant or bar that serves alcohol to customers on-site. Others would rather have a storefront that sells various containers of alcohol, including beer, wine, and liquor. How you intend to sell the alcohol will determine what type of license you must apply for.
- On-Sale License. Restaurants, bars, and other establishments that have on-site alcohol sales will be required to maintain an on-sale license in California. This type of license is for businesses that plan to sell alcohol that customers can consume on-site.
- Off-Sale License. Businesses that sell containers of alcohol that customers must consume on other premises will be required to maintain an off-sale license in California. This will include places such as liquor stores, grocery stores, and convenience stores.
It is important to know what type of license your business will require so that you can apply and be approved as quickly as possible. While there are two primary categories of retail licenses for businesses that sell alcohol, each category has several sub-categories of licenses available for specific businesses.
Most Common Retail Licenses
More than eighty different types of licenses are available for businesses that wish to sell alcohol. A license will determine what types of alcohol a business can sell, where it can be sold, and what else they are able to sell on-site. Each license is applicable to a specific type of business or establishment, so it is important to understand the requirements for each one. While there are copious different retail licenses available, there are six that are the most common.
- 20: Off-Sale Beer & Wine. A type 20 license allows a business to sell containers of beer and wine that customers must consume elsewhere. This type of license is most common for grocery stores and convenience stores. These establishments are not allowed to sell liquor of any kind. If a business with a type 20 license is found to be selling liquor, they risk having its license revoked.
- 21: Off-Sale General. A type 21 license is similar to a type 20, but it allows for the sale of liquor on the premises. Liquor stores are most likely to hold a type 21 license as they sell liquor and other accessories to go along with the alcohol. This type of license tends to be more expensive and can be somewhat difficult to get.
- 41: On-Sale Beer & Wine – Bona Fide Eating Place. A type 41 license allows for the consumption of beer and wine that is purchased on the premises. This license is most common for restaurants. Liquor and spirits are not allowed on the premises unless they are used specifically for cooking, like brandy or rum. An establishment with a type 41 license must run and maintain its business as a bona fide eating place, meaning that the business is run in good faith and regularly serves meals to patrons. The facility must have an appropriately functional kitchen and serve a variety of foods.
- 42: On-Sale Beer & Wine – Public Premises. A type 42 license allows the sale of beer and wine to be consumed on the premises. This license is most common for taverns and bars. Food service is not required in these establishments. As with a type 41 license, any liquor or spirits cannot be sold on-site. There are also age limitations with this license, as anyone under the age of 21 cannot enter the establishment and stay there unless they are performing.
- 47: On-Sale General – Bona Fide Eating Place. A type 47 license allows a business to sell beer, wine, and liquor on the premises to be consumed or to be taken elsewhere. This is another common license for restaurants. Like a type 41 license, the business must be maintained as a bona fide eating place, meaning they have a suitable kitchen and regularly serve a variety of meals. There are no age restrictions connected to this license.
- 48: On-Sale General – Public Premises. A type 48 license allows a business to sell beer, wine, and liquor that customers can consume on the premises. Beer and wine that are sold on the premises can be consumed elsewhere. This license is common for bars and nightclubs. Like a type 42 license, minors are not allowed to enter the facility and stay unless they are a performer, and the establishment is not required to serve food.
While these six types of licenses are the most common, many more pertain to specific locations and businesses. Trains, boats, winemakers, beer brewers, caterers, and many more businesses have specific retail licenses they must maintain. Maintaining the proper license may seem like a hassle, but it is very necessary.
Why Your Business Needs a Retail License
Understanding what is legally required of you and your business to run any business successfully is essential. This understanding is particularly important if your business is selling alcohol. The sale of alcohol is regulated at the federal and state level, so to run a business that sells alcohol, you must comply with all federal and state regulations. Getting a retail license is one step in the process of ensuring that your business can function successfully.
You could face serious consequences if you or your business is found to be in violation of any laws governing the sale of alcohol. The punishments are doled out by the California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control and can range from an initial warning letter to full revocation of your license. In many cases, a first offense will garner a brief suspension of your license unless the offense is severe. Repeated instances of the laws or regulations of alcohol sales being ignored or broken will result in more severe penalties. It is important to ensure that your retail license is correct and current to avoid any unnecessary penalties or suspensions.
Applying For a Retail License
The process of obtaining a retail license to sell alcohol at your business can be lengthy. There are several key steps in the process, many areas that must be approved, and a few requirements that must be met. Business owners who are looking to get their retail license must understand the requirements so that they can complete the process as efficiently as possible.
The requirements that a business must meet to apply for a retail license include the following:
- Be over the age of 21.
- Have a CUP, or a zoning permit called the Condition Use Permit
- Show proof of ownership or a lease on the business location
- Have no criminal record that would disqualify you from obtaining a license.
- Do not have a history of alcohol dependency.
You will likely be able to proceed with the application process if these general requirements are met. Once the process has begun, there are a few key things that may need to be dealt with before your retail license is granted.
- Location of Business. Where you are opening your business can have a significant impact on the process of getting your retail license. There may be additional fees incurred because of the district where you file your permit. Your business may also be required to meet specific regulations laid out by the local zoning laws. It is important to be familiar with how local regulations and laws will impact your business.
- Seller’s Permit. In addition to the license required to sell alcohol, you will also be required to have a seller’s permit from the state of California. This permit is required because of the sales tax requirements. You must apply for the seller’s permit before you make any requests for a retail license.
- Proper Taxes. There are many federal regulations placed on the sale of alcohol in the United States. As a result, businesses that wish to sell alcohol must be approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The application for approval from the TTB is simple and has no additional cost.
- Local Regulations. The district, city, or county where your business is located may have specific laws in place that you will have to follow. Some locations require businesses to have a small business or retail insurance to run. Other places may have specific zoning or sales regulations in place that may have an impact on your business. When you are preparing to open your business and apply for your retail license, it is important to be familiar with these regulations.
- Approval of Various Departments. Depending on where you apply for your license, there are several government bodies and departments that may need to approve your application. Cities may require approval from the police department and city council. Larger counties may require approval from the sheriff’s department and district attorney. If there are concerns about where your business will be located, there may be an investigation by the Alcohol Beverage Compliance Board for approval.
- Posting Notifications. Once you have applied for your license, you will have certain responsibilities as the business owner. You will have to post a notice that you have applied for your license for at least 30 days at your business location. You may also have to notify residents or post a notice in the newspaper to inform the community. Some places will also require that you post proof of approval from local zoning. The location of your business will have an impact on what you are required to post.
The process of applying for and obtaining a retail license can be challenging. There are many requirements to meet and steps to be completed. You can expect the process to take ninety days or longer, depending on if there are any setbacks or issues. Understanding the requirements for an application can make the process easier. Working with an accomplished California retail license attorney can also help because they will work with you to ensure your application is completed in a timely manner and you are prepared for any costs associated with obtaining your retail license.
The Cost Of a Retail License
Several different factors will determine the cost associated with acquiring the appropriate retail license. The type of license you apply for, the population of the city where your business is located, and any associated fees will impact the overall cost. A sample of some common costs of retail licenses in California are:
- General Priority licenses, including types 21, 47, and 48: $16,560.
- Catering license for events with less than 1,000 attendees: $100
- Non-Profit temporary licenses: $50-$100
- Converting a license from seasonal to year-round: $1,045-$12,550
There are several other types of retail licenses and costs that are associated with them. The cost of obtaining the correct retail license can be significant for businesses. It is important to be familiar with these costs if you are planning to open a business that will sell alcohol in any capacity. Planning for this expense upfront can help you finalize the application and completion process more quickly and be financially prepared as you start your business. It is also important to understand what steps you will need to take to maintain your license.
How Licensing Regulations are Enforced
The California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control enforces and upholds the laws that are part of the Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) Act. This act is a set of laws put in place to protect communities across the state and ensure that alcohol is always provided safely and legally. There are several programs in place that the ABC uses to enforce these laws, including:
- TRACE. This protocol was developed as a way for first responders to identify and report alcohol-related incidents. The Target Responsibility for Alcohol Connected Emergencies (TRACE) requires first responders to notify the California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control if there is any incident involving alcohol and an individual under the age of 21 that caused significant injury or death. They must also report any circumstances where an individual who was intoxicated is charged with vehicular manslaughter, no matter their age.
- Trade Enforcement. There is a specific unit of the ABC, referred to as the Trade Enforcement Unit (TEU), that is responsible for monitoring and correcting unethical or unlawful business practices. This could include bribery, free goods, providing goods that are prohibited, and prohibited ownership. This unit serves as the primary source of interpretation for the ABC and those in the industry.
- Alcohol Policing Partnership. This program is a way for ABC agents to work with law enforcement agencies to find ways to reduce the public nuisance and crime associated with problematic locations that sell alcohol. The two organizations utilize community involvement, prevention, enforcement, and training to achieve their goals.
- Shoulder Tap Program. The goal of this program is to reduce the instances of adults purchasing alcohol for minors. Individuals under the age of 20 work with law enforcement and ABC agents and are posted outside of liquor stores. They attempt to entice adults into purchasing alcohol for them. The adult who purchased the alcohol and gave it to the minor will be arrested if the purchase is completed.
- Minor Decoy Program. This program allows law enforcement agencies to employ individuals who are under the age of 20 as decoys. These individuals will attempt to purchase alcohol while being honest about their age. If they are successful, then the business that sold them alcohol can face serious consequences, including fines and license revocation.
- Problem Locations. In some circumstances, an individual business that sells alcohol is doing so unsafely. When this occurs, citizens can file a complaint against the establishment. This will ensure that the correct enforcement body is aware of the problem and can step in when necessary.
How a California Attorney Can Help With a Retail License
It is important that you remain in good legal standing if you run a business that sells alcohol in any capacity. Stepping outside of the statutes and regulations that govern the sale of alcohol can have significantly detrimental effects on your business. There are some circumstances, however, when you may be outside of the regulations without your knowledge. A California retail license attorney from Blake & Ayaz will work with you to ensure you remain in good standing. They can offer key support in three ways:
- Experience. The team at Blake & Ayaz has over sixty years of combined experience. They have worked with clients from a wide array of backgrounds and with a variety of needs. They understand how to approach getting and maintaining a retail license for businesses that sell alcohol. This experience allows them to assess each unique case and determine the most favorable way to move forward.
- Education. The Blake & Ayaz team has dedicated years of their lives to learning and understanding the California laws associated with Alcohol Beverage Compliance. They work hard to ensure that they know and understand any changes to the law so they are able to direct clients on the correct course of action. Their knowledge of retail licensing can help you better understand the process and ensure you receive the license you need.
- Guidance. The attorneys at Blake & Ayaz will work with you through the entire process of applying, receiving, and maintaining your retail license. They know the appropriate timeline to apply and will ensure that your application runs smoothly. Their guidance, resources, and support can give you peace of mind and confidence as you take the necessary steps to open your business.
Business owners must ensure that any licenses that are required for their business to function remain in good standing. Doing so can be difficult if they are unfamiliar with the legal system and how the licensing process works. Any small mistake, intentional or not, can have dire consequences for their business. A California retail license attorney can help you navigate the necessary steps to get and keep your retail license. Trust the experienced team at Blake & Ayaz for all your retail licensure needs.