Obtaining a Liquor License in California: A Step-By-Step Overview

Having a liquor license is a vital element to many California businesses.  From the wineries in Napa Valley, to nightlife and fine dining establishments, a wide range of businesses require a liquor license in order to be able to provide their customers with the service they demand.  The process of obtaining this license can seem overwhelming to someone who is not familiar with the proper steps to take.

Here is an overview of the steps involved in obtaining a liquor license in California.  However, please note, sometimes it is necessary to hire experts to assist in this process.

  1. Select a location for your business. The liquor license is issued as much to the location as it is to the individual. That makes it important to purchase, lease or rent a location for your business before you begin the process of applying for a liquor license.
  2. Survey your property. You will need to have the entire premises professionally surveyed. They survey is required as part of the application for a liquor license in California.
  3. Analyze the types of liquor licenses that are available, and select the one that best meets your needs. A business that sells alcohol directly to the public needs a different license than a business that manufactures or distributes alcohol.
  4. Submit an application form for the type of license you selected. Liquor license applications can be obtained from California’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) website (www.abc.ca.gov/) or picked up in person from the ABC location nearest to your city.
  5. Wait one month for a public response.  After your application is filed with “Alcoholic Beverage Control,” a notice will be posted to the general public to make them aware of your intention to serve alcohol on the premises. The public then has a 30-day window in which to lodge an objective to your business being granted a license.
  6. Complete an investigation by the ABC. If there are no significant objections from the public, “Alcoholic Beverage Control” will begin a fact-finding investigation into your liquor license application. This investigation will include background checks on the individuals listed on the application, as well as into the business in general and the location of the business. The applicants may be called in to an interview as part of the investigation.
  7. Receive a ruling on your liquor license application. Upon completion of a due diligence investigation, a liquor license will be mailed to your business from the ABC, provided that you meet the requirements for holding a liquor license in California. The entire process can be completed as quickly as 90 days, but may take longer if complications arise or public objections are voiced.

For more information, please visit www.abc.ca.gov/.

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  • <strong>Amy Bergrud</strong>, Director of Finance, Malibu Estate/Surfrider, Sunset Marquis Hotel

    “ABC Consulting is a pleasure to work with... Mike and Rhonda are experts in their field and have helped us to get ABC licenses for our multiple locations."

    - Amy Bergrud, Director of Finance, Malibu Estate/Surfrider, Sunset Marquis Hotel
  • <strong>John Maino</strong>, President, Ironfire Brewing Company

    “Alcoholic Beverage Consulting relieved all the stress of filling out and filing of our alcohol licenses with the ABC and TTB, allowing us to focus on what we do best."

    - John Maino, President, Ironfire Brewing Company
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    “I have been working with Mike Brewer and his team for over 16 years and find everyone consistently responsive, reliable and willing to go above and beyond."

    - Dianne Scott, Director of Corporate Relations, BJ’s Restaurants, Inc.
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  • <strong>Harald Herrmann</strong>, President/CEO, Yard House Restaurants

    “The Alcoholic Beverage Consulting Service team have been instrumental in support of the growth and success of Yard House over the past 5 years.”

    - Harald Herrmann, President/CEO, Yard House Restaurants