Alcoholic Beverage Compliance Attorneys

Protect Your Liquor License

The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) tightly regulates the sale of alcohol in the state. They can come down very hard on a business that violates the myriad of rules that govern the industry. The ABC is known as one of the more difficult California regulatory agencies.

The attorneys at Unlock Legal can work with your business at all stages of the liquor licensing process.

  • We can help you file for approval of your initial license, a modification, or a transfer.
  • We can also help defend you from the enforcement or criminal charges.
  • Our lawyers have experience with complex ABC issues.

Interacting with government agencies is never easy, especially with one that has the powers of the ABC. We can demystify a complex process and effectively advocate on your behalf.

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Merchants and Establishments Need a California Liquor License

Before you can sell alcohol in California, you need to be licensed by the ABC. It is illegal to sell alcohol in California without a license. The board will not just grant a license to anyone. They pay very close attention to applicants before they approve the license. The general public even has a right to lodge a protest against the potential award of a license for numerous reasons:

  • The ABC may not approve an application when the applicant has a criminal history or has failed to disclose it.
  • The agency may deny an application based on its own concerns.
  • The ABC may deny an application after a protest based on the proposed location of the establishment.
  • The applicant is found to have misrepresented a material fact in their application.

In addition, you must also obtain a conditional-use permit from the local jurisdiction where you plan on selling alcohol, requiring you to go through two approval processes. Local authorities may have their own considerations when reviewing permit applications.

You Need Approval to Expand or Transfer a License

Once you are granted a license from the ABC, there may still be additional compliance obligations. The original license that you were granted may not be enough to cover your proposed operations. For example, you will need an expanded license if you want to grow your business or sell at more times. Even if you are physically adding square footage to an existing location, you will need approval from the ABC.

Reasons why you might need to modify your liquor license include:

  • You want to add new inventory to your line that is not supported or allowed by your current license.
  • You want to expand your business hours.
  • You wish to offer additional entertainment options and services to your customers.

Practically any major business decision may need to be brought to the ABC before you can execute it. Without an experienced attorney, you may be at risk of violating the terms and conditions of your current license.

Further, you must obtain approval to transfer a liquor license on the sale of a business. The ABC will scrutinize the new owner to see whether they meet legal requirements for holding a liquor license. There are numerous documents that must be reviewed, adding time to the transaction process.

The ABC may impose conditions or limitations on a license. You may need to negotiate with them during the application process. These conditions can restrict how you do business and where you may expand in the future. An experienced attorney knows how to deal with the ABC and represent your interests.

The ABC Can Initiate Enforcement Action Against You and Your Business

You do not just need an attorney when you are applying for an ABC license. There are ongoing compliance issues that can land you in trouble. That only do you need to follow ABC regulations, but you must also adhere to zoning and safety laws. All it takes is one misstep to potentially land you in trouble and put your ability to do business in jeopardy.

The ABC maintains its own force and coordinates extensively with law enforcement to enforce its own regulations. They launch their own investigations, and they have been known to show up at businesses unannounced. The ABC may launch an investigation when someone simply files a complaint about your business. As a result of their investigations and their coordination with law enforcement, they may either file civil enforcement charges or even criminal charges against license holders.

You Need an Attorney If You Have Been Charged with Wrongdoing

While you should continuously work with an alcoholic beverage compliance lawyer, you definitely need one if you have been charged with any wrongdoing. There is an entire legal process that will be followed, and you have the right to participate.

If your business has been accused of violating laws and regulations for the distribution of alcohol, your license may be at stake. However, the ABC does not have the final word. Due process requires that you have the ability to be heard and contest the facts and evidence that they present against you. You are entitled to an administrative proceeding in front of the ABC to fight any charges. If you are unsuccessful in this proceeding, you can take your case to the California courts. You may appeal the fine then all the way up to the California Supreme Court. Our attorneys are not afraid to fight hard on behalf of our clients, taking your case as far as it needs to go for you to get justice.

Your attorney might even interface and communicate with the ABC to head off any charges or disciplinary proceedings. The ABC may need to hear your side of the story, and your attorney can work with them informally to either have charges dismissed or reach a negotiated resolution that can result in a lesser punishment (if you receive one at all).

California Alcoholic Beverage Compliance Attorneys

The attorneys at Unlock Legal can work with your business at all stages of the liquor licensing process. We can help you file for approval of your initial license, a modification, or a transfer. We can also help defend you from the enforcement or criminal charges. Our lawyers have experience with complex ABC issues. Interacting with government agencies is never easy, especially with one that has the powers of the ABC. We can demystify a complex process and effectively advocate on your behalf. To learn how we can help you, call us today at (949) 988-4444.

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