How to Get a Liquor License in the State of California

This article is for educational purposes and does not constitute legal or tax advice. For specific advice applicable to your business, please contact a professional.

If you’re starting a business that sells alcohol in California, then you’ll need a liquor license. The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) oversees all alcoholic beverage licensing activities. They provide detailed information about the license application requirements and process. But with over 50 specific license types to choose from, finding the right information might require a little navigation. This guide highlights the most important parts of the process so you can get to it faster.

1. Determine the type of license you need

The license you choose depends on the type of alcohol you intend to sell and where it will be consumed. The most popular licenses for retailers, bars, and restaurants are the on-sale and off-sale licenses.

There are also more specific licenses, such as the On-sale General – Eating Place license, which covers the sale of beer, wine, and distilled spirits for consumption in a restaurant. 

More: A full checklist of everything you need to start a restaurant

2. Determine the applicable license requirements

Documentation and regulatory requirements differ by license type, so it’s important to identify which requirements apply. In general, to get approval for most applications, you’ll need to meet these requirements:


3. Determine the cost of your application

The ABC maintains a detailed fee application schedule for different license types. The application fee varies depending on the license type. 

There may be other miscellaneous fees, such as operating, fingerprinting, and bad check fees.

MORE: Everything you need to open a bar

4. Submit your application

The final step is to file your application. The ABC lists five stages in the license application process:

As part of the notifications step, you must post the Public Notice of Application at your premises for 30 days, and provide information to the ABC as needed for the investigation step.

You may also be required to complete some or all of the following steps:

The average processing time from the date you file your application to issuance, if your application is not contested by a third party, is 55 to 65 days. If your application is contested, it will take longer — up to 175 days.  

Once your application is approved and you’ve obtained your license, take steps to ensure it’s not revoked. This includes renewing your license on time and abiding by the applicable rules that apply to your license type.

Chidinma Nnamani
Chidinma Nnamani writes about the food industry, digital marketing, and technology — and explores the fine spaces where they intersect. She works with B2B startups and agencies, helping them deliver clear, actionable, and insightful content for business audiences.


Tell us a little more about yourself to gain access to the resource.

i Enter your first name.
i Enter your last name.
i Enter a valid email.
i Enter a valid phone number.
i Enter your company name.
i Select estimated annual revenue.

Thank you!
Check your email for your resource.

Results for

Based on your region, we recommend viewing our website in:

Continue to ->