What Are California’s New Alcoholic Beverage Laws?

What Are California’s New Alcoholic Beverage Laws?

6 Min Read

Breaking down the new alcoholic beverage laws in California — what does your business need to know?

In addition to the much-anticipated new law allowing restaurants and bars to continue selling to-go cocktails and wine, several new bills regarding alcoholic beverage laws in California come into effect at the beginning of this year.

Wondering how these new bills could affect your business? Learn more about the new bills that adds to, or amends, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act — and what you need to know.

New bills effective January 1, 2022

Takeout alcoholic beverages

SB 389 (Dodd, Chapter 657, Statutes of 2021)

Signed into law because of popular demand from the hospitality industry, this new bill allows any licensed “eating place”, as well as beer manufacturers, wine manufacturers or craft distillers that prepares and serves food on-site to sell alcoholic beverages to-go. Additional details include:

  • Takeout alcoholic beverages applies to beer, wine, liquor and mixed drinks.
  • Customers must buy food with their drinks.
  • Takeout alcoholic beverages are limited to two drinks per meal.
  • The drinks must be sold in manufacturer-sealed containers or containers with sealed caps or secure lids.
  • Takeout cocktails can only contain up to 4.5 ounces of liquor.
  • Single-serve containers must be used for takeout wine.
  • All takeout alcohol containers must have a clear label indicating it contains alcohol.

Eligible licensees must first notify the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control of their intent to sell takeout alcoholic beverages before doing so, and the department is able to restrict or prohibit these privileges. This is effective until December 31, 2026.

Selling wine away from licensed premises

AB 239 (Villapudua, Chapter 192, Statutes of 2021)

Licensed winegrowers and brandy manufacturers can use their ABC liquor license privileges, subject to exceptions, outside of their licensed premises at specific locations: brand warehouses or offices, or U.S. bonded wine cellars not located in the manufacturing or production facility. One limitation is that they are not permitted to sell or deliver wine to consumers in containers supplied, furnished or sold by the consumer.

This new bill removes that specific exception, allowing winemakers to sell or deliver wine to consumers in containers supplied, furnished or sold by the consumer in the locations mentioned above.

Promoting nonprofit donations

AB 1267 (Cunningham, Chapter 207, Statutes of 2021)

Under the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, a California ABC licensee cannot provide gifts, free goods or premiums when selling or distributing alcoholic beverages, except in specific situations outlined in the act.

The new bill acts as an exception to the restriction, effective until January 1, 2025. This allows winegrowers, beer, distilled spirits or brandy manufacturers, craft distillers, rectifiers or wine rectifiers to donate to a nonprofit charitable organization a part of the purchase price of an alcoholic beverage in connection with that sale or distribution. However, these businesses cannot create advertisements or promotions of the donation that references or encourages drinking alcohol.

Requiring minors at disciplinary hearings

AB 1275 (Jones-Sawyer, Chapter 208, Statutes of 2021)

In a hearing for a licensee accused of providing alcoholic beverages to a minor, employing a minor to serve or prepare alcoholic beverages or allowing a minor to enter and remain in the licensed premises, the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control must produce an alleged minor for examination.

The new bill removes this requirement for two of the specified situations and instead requires the department to produce an alleged “minor decoy” in a hearing for a licensee accused of providing alcoholic beverages to a minor, unless:

  • the minor decoy is unable to attend because they have passed away or because of a then-existing physical or mental illness or infirmity. A continuance can be granted if the judge finds it likely that the minor decoy can be produced in a reasonable timeframe.
  • the licensee has waived the appearance of the decoy in writing.

A minor decoy is defined as individuals under 21 years old that are used as decoys by local law enforcement agencies under Section 25658 to purchase alcohol from licensed premises, with the purpose of apprehending licensees and employees of licensees who sell alcoholic beverages to minors.

Filing electronic appeals

AB 1589 (Committee on Governmental Organization, Chapter 306, Statutes of 2021)

Instead of having to file appeals in person or by mail, this new bill allows aggrieved parties to file appeals electronically to the CA Alcoholic Beverage Control Appeals Board, along with allowing the electronic delivery of final orders by the board to an aggrieved party. The board is now only required to schedule a date and time for oral argument if the party requests it.

The bill also specifies that a licensed retailer cannot require a manufacturer, rectifier, winegrower, distiller or distilled spirits wholesaler to do any market research as a condition for selling alcoholic beverage products to that licensed retailer. Violators can be charged with a misdemeanor.

Selling wine or brandy in multiple licensed brand premises

SB 19 (Glazer, Chapter 274, Statutes of 2021)

Winegrowers and brandy manufacturers that have a duplicate license issued can only sell wine or brandy to consumers, or do wine tastings, at one licensed brand premise.

The new bill now allows this for up two to licensed brand premises. Violators can be charged with a misdemeanor. The bill also provides for an application fee of $440 for a duplicate winegrowers license application.

Alcohol advertising in Orange County

SB 386 (Umberg, Chapter 309, Statutes of 2021)

With few exceptions, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act prohibits certain licensees, including manufacturers, distillers, winegrowers, bottlers, or wholesalers from paying a retailer for advertising.

The new bill allows specified licensees in the County of Orange to sponsor events promoted by, and buy advertising space and time from, or on behalf of, an on-sale licensee that is the owner, operator, agent of the operator or sole assignee of the operator’s advertising rights of a mixed-use district in Orange County. This is authorized under the following conditions:

  • The mixed-used district comprises of at least 90 acres that includes office, retail, residential and other uses, which are situated on land surrounding a fully enclosed arena that has a fixed seating capacity in excess of 18,000 seats.
  • Advertising space or time can only be connected with retail, entertainment, dining and events taking place on the grounds of the district. The bill regulates where this advertising is authorized.

The bill also makes it a misdemeanor for:

  • certain licensees to make the holder of a wholesaler’s license to carry out contractual obligations using coercion or other illegal means, as specified.
  • an on-sale licensee to ask certain licensees to buy advertising space or time, as specified.

Prepare for the Responsible Beverage Service Training Act

One of the most anticipated alcoholic beverage laws in California coming into effect this year is the mandated alcohol server training requirements under the Responsible Beverage Service Training Act.

In order to legally serve alcohol, all on-premises alcoholic beverage servers and their managers are required to have valid Responsible Beverage Service (RBS) Certification starting July 1, 2022. Certification can only be obtained by taking an official RBS Training Course approved by the CA Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Is your licensed business prepared for the new training mandate? Learn more about RBS Certification and easily get your staff trained with Userve’s state-approved California RBS Certification Training Program.

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