How to Obtain a Beer License in California

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Learn how to obtain a beer license in California.
Learn how to obtain a beer license in California. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

In order to obtain a California beer license you need to demonstrate a public need and complete all required paperwork. There are multiple agencies you have to apply to for approval, starting with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Select the kind of license you want to apply for. California has different licenses for taverns, restaurants, stores and special events. Prices vary, so be sure to pursue the right license so that you don't waste money.

Look for an existing license for sale in the town where you are opening your business or hosting your event. You'll still have to apply to the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to take over the license, but you won't have to prove a public need to the local government if the license has already been approved.

Apply at the department's district office. The department maintains an online map showing where to find them. If you're buying an existing license, you'll need to bring the current owner with you to apply. To save time, you can download the application forms from the department's website before going in.

Apply for state and federal permits. Businesses must also obtain a seller's permit from the Sales Tax Division, register with the Excise Tax Division and contact the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, according to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Department.

Check with city or county authorities to make sure that your business is legally zoned and registered. If you're buying an established restaurant or tavern with a beer license, your business should already be in compliance with the law. If you're opening a new business, you'll need to prove a public need. Sometimes, just proving that there's no similar restaurant on your side of town is enough.

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