If you are a cafe or restaurant and do not serve alcohol, you are missing out on a very profitable service for your business. These are the top five questions that you should consider before getting started with obtaining a California Liquor License.

1. What type of license is best for my business?

Two of the most common license types for restaurants are Type 41 – beer and wine only, and Type 47 – beer, wine, and hard liquor.  An important state requirement to be aware of is that your restaurant must be a “bona fide eating place” to qualify for either of the above license types.  What does “bona fide” eating place mean?  Basically, it means that your restaurant must include a suitable kitchen equipped to serve ordinary meals (versus only appetizers to accompany drinks) and show that a minimum of 51% of your gross receipts are from food sales.

2.  What type of city permit do I need to serve alcohol?

Before issuing a state liquor license to you, the ABC requires that you obtain any zoning permits that may be required by your local municipality.  These zoning permits are most often called Conditional Use Permits (CUP) and, although the CUP process may occur concurrently with the state process, it is different than a liquor license. A CUP allows the serving of alcohol on the property itself and may remain for use by a future business if ownership changes – increasing the value of your business!  Whereas a state ABC liquor license is issued to the owners of the business allowing the sale of alcoholic beverages at a particular location.   Once you have your liquor license you may be able to bring it with you if you choose to relocate your restaurant.  However, you will still likely need to obtain a new CUP.

3. How many other restaurants are serving alcohol in the area?

Both local municipalities and the state ABC monitor the number of restaurants serving alcohol within census tracts to avoid “overconcentration” and/or “high crime” rates. “Overconcentration” means that the ratio of existing licenses to population exceeds the ratio of licenses to population in the County. “High crime” exists if the crime rate exceeds the municipality’s average by 20% or more.  Therefore, it is possible for two adjacent restaurants to be in separate census tracts and subject to different requirements based upon overconcentration and crime rates.   If either overconcentration or high crime rates exist, then you may need to obtain a finding of “public convenience and necessity” (PCN), which may include an additional negotiation or public hearing. By California state law, if the local municipality does not grant a PCN approval, then the state ABC cannot approve your license application.

4. How much time and effort am I willing to spend obtaining my license?

The time required to obtain zoning approval can take as little as 3 months to over 12 months.  The time to obtain ABC approval can also vary depending on processing times.  Some local municipalities offer expedited application review that could cut the approval time in half, but costs considerably more than standard review.  In the City of Los Angeles for example, expedited review could double your application fee.  If you are wanting a liquor license but unsure if you have the time it takes, your best bet is hiring a consultant such as SoCal Alcohol to help expedite the process and handle everything along the way.

5. What can I afford to spend obtaining my alcohol license?

All alcohol permits in California include two applications, each with their own fee: local agency (City) permit fee and state (ABC) license fee. Submittal fees for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) in the City of Los Angeles are approximately $8,000 for standard review and $14,500 for expedited review.  For your state license, submittal fees are approximately $650 for a Type 41 license and approximately $12,000 for a Type 47 license.  If a new license is unavailable, you may be able to purchase an existing license, which could cost about $30-50,000.

Although these are just some of the primary considerations that you should keep in mind before starting the approval processes for alcohol and local permitting, there are many other details that a qualified permit expert can provide you.  The bottom line is that evaluation of your needs, timing, budget, location as well as effectively navigating city and state agencies early in the process can save you time, money and stress, and increase your revenue faster. If you are looking for a beer and wine license or full liquor license and have additional questions, let us know! Contact us today for your free 30-minute consultation.