Liquor Licenses in California — The ABC Investigation

In California, you are required to have the appropriate license issued by the Alcoholic Beverage Control, or ABC, if you plan to sell, serve, or manufacture beer, wine, or distilled spirits at a public or private facility. People are often under the mistaken impression that obtaining an ABC license is a simple task, a mere formality. The reality is that getting a liquor license approved takes a considerable amount of time and effort. One reason it takes time for a license to be approved is that the ABC must first conduct an investigation. A better understanding of the licensing process, including the required ABC investigation, may help you plan accordingly if you will need a license in the near future.

Whether you are planning to apply for a new license or a transfer of an existing license, the ABC will first conduct an investigation to determine if you are eligible for the license as well as if the premises are eligible for a license. If a business entity, such as a partnership or corporation, is applying for the license the list of people who must qualify for the license can be extensive, including, but not limited to, each individual owner, general partner, limited partner with a 10-percent interest or more, managing member, member with 10-percent or more of the voting interests of a limited liability company, trustee, and corporate officer, director, and 10-percent-or more shareholder. Spouses of those who have an ownership interest may also be required to qualify. Along with filling out a detailed personal affidavit that requires an applicant to answer questions about his/her criminal history (or lack thereof) as well as any previous ABC licenses held, each person who is required to qualify may also be required to submit to fingerprinting for the purpose of running a criminal background check.

Typically, an applicant is denied for one of two reasons – criminal convictions or previous violations of the ABC laws. Crimes involving moral turpitude can result in the denial of an application. According to the ABC the investigation process typically takes 55-65 days. By law, a license cannot be issued in less than 30 and it can take significantly longer than 65 days for issuance of a license.

If you are concerned that something in your background could be an issue during the investigation process for an ABC license, be sure to consult with an experienced California liquor license attorney before you begin the application process and certainly before you make plans that include the license.

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