August in California means one thing to alcohol beverage attorneys – ABC priority license announcements! Every year the California ABC announces which counties are eligible for new on-sale and off-sale general licenses based on population growth within each county. The 2017 figures have been released, and the numbers this year are sure to excite a lot of retail applicants. In addition, recent legislation granted the ABC the ability to authorize new on-sale general licenses in certain counties regardless of population growth. Along with the authorized priority licenses, the ABC will be accepting applications for licenses in the following counties: Napa (5), Inyo (5), and Alpine (4). Applicants for these licenses will need to meet certain restaurant seating capacity requirements.
General retail licenses authorize the sale of beer, wine, and distilled spirits. They are restricted by county population and must typically be purchased on the open market from an existing licensee, often for a very high premium. Licenses are usually confined to the county in which originally issued, so prices vary drastically across the state. Every year, during the ‘priority application period,’ the ABC accepts new license applications. In addition, they announce a number of inter-county transfer allowances – where an applicant in a priority county can purchase a general license on the open market from a licensee in any other county and transfer it into the priority county.
If you’re in the market for an Off-Sale General Package Store License (Type 21), an On-Sale General Eating Place License (Type 47), or a Special On-Sale General Club License (Type 57) within a county where licenses are available, you should apply. Note that an applicant may be approved for an On-Sale General Public Premises License (Type 48), but only if the applicant is able to establish during the formal application process that there is a substantial public demand that cannot otherwise be satisfied.
The maximum number of priority applications the ABC typically authorizes for each category (new on-sale, new off-sale, inter-county on-sale, inter-county off-sale) is twenty-five. The ABC has authorized the maximum number of priority applications in several counties, including Alameda, Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Santa Clara. For a complete list of license available by county, click here.
ABC District offices will accept priority applications by mail or in person from September 11-22, 2017. If by mail, it must be postmarked on or before September 22nd. If the ABC receives more applications than licenses available, a public drawing will be held at the District office, usually in early-mid October. Successful applicants will have 90 days to complete a formal application.
Priority application fees are $13,800 for new general licenses and $6,000 for inter-county transfers. A certified check, cashier’s check, or money order must be submitted along with the priority application. Unsuccessful applicants will be refunded the application fee, minus $100 service charge.
Residency requirements specify that every applicant must have been a resident of California for at least 90 days prior to the scheduled drawing. For corporations, limited partnerships, and limited liability companies, the 90-day residency clock starts ticking upon registration with the California Secretary of State.
An applicant doesn’t need to have a specific premises secured to apply for a priority license, but if successful, will need to submit a formal application for a specific location (within that same county) within 90 days. The applicant will be required to present a lease with at least a two-year term for the premises. Priority licenses are subject to certain conditions, including a prohibition against transferring the license for two years after issuance.
If you’re interested in applying for a new or inter-county on- or off-sale general priority license, contact an attorney at Strike Kerr & Johns.
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