Last Updated on August 29, 2023 by Lydia Martin
If you’re considering starting a bar, restaurant, or any establishment that sells alcohol in California, obtaining a liquor license is a crucial step.
The process can be complex and comes with a cost, depending on the type of license you need. But, “How much is a liquor license in California?”
Today, we’ll explain the different liquor license prices, including the application fees, miscellaneous fees, production-based fees, or seasonal fees involved.
California’s Liquor Licenses Overview & Costs
California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) regulates the sale of alcoholic drinks within the state.
“These grants will help reduce youth access to alcohol and increase safety in communities throughout California.” -Joseph McCollough, ABC Chief Deputy Director
The costs of a liquor license depend on various factors, including the license types and the establishment’s location.
Generally, the license fees range from $990 to $17335 (up to $400,000), which also depends on the nature of your business.
California Liquor License Cost
The application fees vary based on the type of license you’re getting. Generally, for priority standard applicants, the cost ranges from around $17,335 and $990 for non-priority licenses.
California law requires applicants to pay annual fees to maintain their licenses. The annual fees charged to existing license holders can be any of the following:
- Population-based fees: Around $250-$1355 for a population over 40,000, depending on the license type.
- Production-based fees: Annual fee depends on number of barrels produced. For instance, a winegrower license requires a yearly fee of approx. $135/5,000 gallons produced.
- Seasonal license fees: The annual license fee depends on how many months per year your business operates. For on-sale general licenses, the cost ranges from $135-$1300, which is also influenced by the number of population.
Note: California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) no longer releases New Seasonal Licenses.
Aside from the annual fee, additional surcharges might be associated with your existing license. The fee varies depending on these factors:
- CHP Surcharge: $10, which applies to the majority of permanent license holders
- Appeals Board Surcharge: 3% of the license fee, rounded to the closest $5 increment, which also applies to all permanent licenses.
- Business Practices Fee: Around $24-$52, depending on the license type
Penalties For Late Payment (Annual Fees)
You should pay annual fees on time to maintain your liquor license’s validity.
- 60 days after the deadline: 50% of the license fee will be added to your annual fee
- 60-90 days after the deadline: 100% of the license fee will be added to your annual fee
- Not Paying 90 days after the deadline: License will be revoked.
4 Types Of Liquor Licenses A Proprietor Must Secure
1. Type 20
This is commonly referred to as the Off-Sale Beer and Wine License, allowing you to sell beer and wine for off-site consumption only.
Liquor stores , gas stations, grocery stores, and convenience stores have this type of license.
2. Type 21
This Off-Sale General License allows the sale of beer, wine, and other alcoholic beverages  for consumption off-site.
3. Type 47
Also known as an On-Sale General Eating Place License, this allows the sale of all types of beer, wine, and liquor for consumption on-site.
4. Type 48
Also called the On-Sale General Public Premises License, you can sell liquor for on-premises consumption. Bars, nightclubs, and establishments where the primary focus is to serve alcohol use such a license.
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Application Fees For General Licenses (TABLE)
|Application Type|| |
|Converting Seasonal General License (Type 49) to a year-round license (Type 47) pursuant to Section 23826.8|| |
|Type 78 – Wine, Food, and Art Museum|| |
|General – Priority (Types 21, 47, 48, 57, 71, 72, 75, 83, 87, 88, 99)|| |
|Type 90 – On-Sale General Music Venue|| |
|Type 62 – On-Sale General Dockside|| |
|Type 70 – On-Sale General Restrictive Service|| |
|General – Non-Priority (Types 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 76, 80)|| |
|Type 64 – Special On-Sale General Theater|| |
|Type 47 – On-Sale General Eating Place on Public Property|| |
Non-General Licenses (TABLE)
|Application Type|| |
|Non-General (Types 06, 26, 28, 82)|| |
|Non-General (Except Types 06, 26, 28, 82)|| |
|Non-General (Duplicate Type 02)|| |
Factors That Affect The Liquor License Costs
The California liquor license cost differs based on the location/county of your establishment. Urban areas with high demand for alcohol licenses may have higher prices than less populated regions.
Different license types, such as Type 20, Type 21, Type 47, and Type 48, have varying fees due to the scope and permissions they offer.
New Application vs Existing License Transfers
Obtaining a new liquor license may have different costs compared to transferring an existing license.
License transfers might involve additional fees, such as a change of ownership and premises, double transfer fees, and other ABC license fees (including operating fees and other miscellaneous fees).
How Do You Apply for A California Liquor License?
To apply for a liquor permit in California, you must first determine the specific type of license you need.
“Unlocking spirits, navigating costs; California’s liquor permits define ventures.” – Liquor Laboratory
Gather all the necessary documentation, complete the application form, and submit it to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC).
The ABC will review your application and assess your suitability for obtaining an ABC license. More requirements must be presented, particularly if you’re applying for multiple licenses. But what time do they stop selling liquor in California?
How much is a California Type 20 license?
A California Type 20 license costs around $435 annually.
How hard is it to get a liquor license in California?
It can be hard to get full liquor licenses in California due to the requirements, paperwork, and waiting periods, plus the fees.
How long does it take to get a liquor license in California?
It takes about 75 days for a person-to-person transfer and 90 days for an original liquor permit in California.
Why are liquor licenses so expensive in California?
California liquor licenses are expensive due to high demand, limited availability, complex regulations, and the potential for significant revenue generation from alcohol sales.
Licenses start from a few hundred dollars to thousands, depending on the ABC license.
On A Final Note
There are various operating permits in California, with event permits, zoning permits, and liquor licenses as the popular ones.
To sell alcohol, especially on multiple premises, securing a liquor license is crucial, which comes at a reasonable price. General licenses range from $990 to $17335, and $50 to $100 for non-profit temporary licenses.
We suggest visiting the local ABC office to know the type of license and the actual price it associates with.