Everything you ever wanted to know about: LIQUOR LICENSE

So you want to sell booze to your customers?  Read on. 

The Alcoholic Beverage Control (Pleasantly abbreviated as: "ABC") is the gatekeeper and enforcer of all things related to buying and selling liquor, wine and beer in California.  There are a huge number of licenses available to the would-be booze monger, distiller, wine bar, micro-brewery, bodega, supper club, theatre... etc.  Here's a list of the license types available according to the ABC website: https://www.abc.ca.gov/permits/licensetypes.html

However, this list doesn't tell you much about what each number represents.  In fact, that information is buried deep in the California Code.  Why? I'm not sure.... you'd think this information would be readily available! I'll track down the full list and post once I find it. 

The ABC does offer up this list of the "Most Common License Types and their Privileges" https://www.abc.ca.gov/forms/abc616.pdf which, to be fair, is probably what you want.  This covers bars, restaurants, clubs, bottle shops, breweries, caterers, B&Bs, tasting rooms.  Chances are you fit into one of these categories.  If you want to open a restaurant, you probably want a TYPE 41 or a TYPE 47.   

Liquor licenses are divided into two distinct categories: ON Sale and OFF Sale. This refers to the licensee's right to open a bottle of wine/booze/beer and serve it to a customer for consumption ON the premises vs. OFF the premises.  For example, the holder of a TYPE 21 ('Off Sale General") license, CANNOT open a bottle of wine and pour a glass for her customer.  The bottle must be sold for consumption OFF the premises.  Make sense?

The difference between a TYPE 41 and 47 is hard alcohol.  A TYPE 41 allows the sale of, "wine and beer" but also includes some notable exceptions, like Sake, that are higher in alcohol but not distilled, which is the important distinction.  Some items, like Sake, are also allowed as "cultural exceptions" which are petty arbitrary, in my opinion.  What if in my culture we have to drink gin??

There are some other loopholes to the rule that enable some great cocktails to be made with a TYPE 41 license:  Sherry, Vermouth, and Bitters are all allowed with a type 41 license, even though some of them have an ABV (alcohol by volume) percentage as high as bourbon or vodka.  More on Loopholes another day...

Another important caveat of both the TYPE 41 and TYPE 47 licenses is that the licensed establishment must be a "Bonafide Eating Place".  Although I love the use of the term "bonafide" it is not super specific.  Really the rule is that a certain percentage of total sales must be food (51% iI think). And don't try to sneak by selling lots and lots of chips, salsa... You must sell hot meals that the ABC considers actual food, not just snacks.  They'll ask to see your menu, just to make sure.  Generally the idea beyond this rule is to avoid your place become a BAR that primarily sells Alcohol.  The ABC works closely with the Zoning Department and the SFPD to ensure that neighborhoods don't become overrun with late night bars and clubs.  If there is a high concentration on your block, your license request may be denied. 

So, if you want to have a kick-ass craft cocktail bar within your restaurant, or simply be able to serve a great Martini as the first of 28 course on the tasting menu, you'll need a TYPE 47.  If all you need is a great wine list and a couple draft beers, stick with the TYPE 41.   So, if the TYPE 41 limits me to wine and beer only, you might ask, "why not get the 47"? No brainer, right?   

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$  <-- That's why!   To be continued.....