We speak English & Spanish | Se Habla Español y Ingles | 1-800-770-8095

You have questions, we have answers...


Frequently Asked Questions

We know you’ll have questions about buying a California liquor license.
Here are some of the more common questions, along with in-depth answers:

What types of additional permitting is needed to obtain a liquor license?2024-04-10T14:29:54-07:00

While a California liquor license is obtained from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), additional permitting varies by city and county.  Here’s a breakdown of what you can typically expect:

  • Local Business License: Most cities and counties require a general business license to operate any business, including those selling alcohol
  • Conditional Use Permit (CUP) or Zoning Permit: Depending on your location and type of establishment, you might need a CUP or zoning permit. These permits ensure your business complies with local zoning regulations regarding alcohol sales. For example, some areas may have restrictions on how close a liquor store can be to a school or daycare.
  • Health Department Permit: Your local health department may require a permit to ensure your establishment meets health and safety standards for food handling (if applicable) and general hygiene.
  • Fire Department Permit: A fire department permit might be necessary to verify your business meets fire safety codes.
What are the liquor license qualifications for restaurants and bars?2024-04-10T14:29:48-07:00

The requirements for securing a liquor license can vary by city and county in California. You’ll need to secure the proper zoning permits and follow local regulations. The ABC can also deny the issuing of a license to an individual who has violated the ACT or has a criminal record that disqualifies them from a liquor license.

What are the ABC license types and their basic privileges?2024-04-10T14:29:43-07:00

There are five basic types of ABC licenses.

On-Sale General: This license type allows for the sale of all types of alcoholic beverages, including beer, wine, and liquor. This license allows for consumption on the premises, and also allows for the sale of wine and beer (in an original, sealed container) for consumption off the premises.

Off-Sale General: This license allows proprietors to sell all kinds of alcoholic beverages for consumption off the premises.

On-Sale Beer and Wine: This license type allows for the sale of beer and wine for consumption both on and off the premises, providing it is in an original, sealed container.

Off-Sale Beer and Wine: This license type allows for the sale of wine and malt beverages for consumption off the premises only.

On-Sale Beer: This allows the sale of malt beverages for consumption both on and off the premises.

How long does a liquor license transfer take?2024-04-10T14:24:09-07:00

While ABC investigations can average about 90 to 120 days for a double transfer, the timeframe for securing a liquor license can vary significantly depending on your city or county local permit requirements. Circumstances often result in a longer waiting period; therefore, before final approval and issuance of a license, caution should be used regarding extensive financial commitments, plans for grand openings, etc. While some city and county permit offices have streamlined processes that take just 3-9 months, others may involve more complexities.

With License Locators by your side, you can navigate the process with confidence and get your business up and running sooner.

Do liquor licenses require a renewal?2024-04-10T14:25:02-07:00

Yes. It’s a licensee’s responsibility to renew, even without notice from the ABC. There is a yearly renewal fee that must be paid prior to the license’s expiration date. Following a license expiration, a licensee may operate for 60 more days and renew their license by paying the fee compounded by a 50 percent penalty for late payment; if the payment is not made within this 60-day period, the license is canceled. An additional 30-day period allows licensees to reactivate their license, providing they pay the renewal fee and a 100 percent penalty.

How do I get a liquor license in California?2024-04-10T14:26:04-07:00

Getting a liquor license in California can be a complex process, but here’s a general roadmap to give you an idea of the steps needed. Research and choose the license type that best suits your business needs (beer and wine only, full bar, etc.). Reach out to your city or county planner to verify which, if any, local permits you will need. If the license you need is restricted under moratorium and the ABC is not issuing original licenses, you will need to purchase a license on the open market. Once an available license is sourced, an escrow is opened and you will contact your nearest ABC office for specific guidance on the application process, fees, and any local requirements.

Consider working with a liquor license broker who can guide you through the process and handle complexities. You will need to understand the timeline and be prepared to wait. Processing times can vary greatly depending on your location and the complexity of your application. In some cases, it might take only 3-9 months, but it can take much longer. You will need to gather the required documents, including business plans, financial statements, and proof of ownership for the premises. You can find a detailed list on the ABC website. You’ll need to post a public notice about your application on your premises for a set period. Be aware that there’s a possibility of protests from residents or nearby businesses. The ABC will review your application and conduct an investigation. This will involve inspections of your premises and background checks of the applicants.

Remember: This is a general overview. It’s crucial to consult the ABC and relevant local agencies for the latest information and specific requirements for your situation. License Locators offers free consultations to help get you on your way.

What is the cost of a liquor license in California?2024-04-10T14:27:01-07:00

The cost of a liquor license in California can vary greatly depending on several factors, making it difficult to give a single price. Here’s a breakdown of what impacts the cost:

  • License Type: The type of license you need (beer and wine, full bar, etc.) significantly affects the price. Full liquor licenses are generally the most expensive.
  • Location: The city or county where your business is located plays a big role.
  • Availability: In some areas, the number of liquor licenses is limited. This can drive up the price due to increased competition.
  • Application Fees: The ABC charges application and transfer fees that vary depending on the license type.
  • Local Fees: There might be additional fees from your city or county if you are required to obtain a conditional use permit or other local permit.

Here’s a range to give you a general idea:

  • Low End: A few hundred dollars (mostly application fees for non-general licenses not restricted under moratorium.
  • High End: Upwards of $400,000 (for certain full liquor licenses in low-inventory high value counties)

Additional Costs to Consider:

  • Broker Fees: If you work with a liquor license broker, expect to pay a fee for their services, typically 10% of license purchase price.
  • Legal and Consultant Fees: Legal or consulting help can add to the overall cost.
How do I find a reputable liquor license broker?2024-04-10T14:34:33-07:00

Before seeking a broker, familiarize yourself with the general steps of obtaining a liquor license in California. This knowledge empowers you to ask informed questions during your search. Identify your needs and be sure that your broker has experience in acquiring that particular license type.

  • Request References: Ask brokers for references from past clients who obtained similar licenses in your area.
  • Chemistry and Communication: Choose a broker you feel comfortable with and who clearly communicates the process and expectations.
  • Ask relevant questions about their experience, success rates, fees, and services offered.


  • How many years of experience do you have specifically in California liquor license brokerage?
  • What is your success rate for obtaining licenses like the one I need (mention specific type)?
  • What are your fees and how is your service structured?
  • What services do you offer beyond application assistance (negotiation, escrow, etc.)?
Go to Top