To be a successful bar or restaurant in California, you may need to obtain a liquor license.  If you choose to serve alcohol without this license, you could be facing big fines and penalties. Serving alcohol without a license is a misdemeanor offense that is publishable by up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine.  You may also lose the chance to get a liquor license again in the future, since the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) has the right to deny your application for such offenses

Actually getting a license can be difficult. The process starts with an application to an ABC office. The law requires all applicants to be present. If you’re transferring a license from one person to another, which may be necessary if you’ve recently purchased a business, both the original license holder and the person who will receive the license have to be present.

An annual fee is also required to keep your liquor license, plus an up-front cost to get the license. The up-front cost may be slightly less or much more than the annual fee, with costs ranging between $100 to $200 to sell bear or bear and wine to as high as $12,000 to $13,000 for general spirits sales. Renewal costs are between $108 and $876, depending on the type of license and as of 2012.

The time it takes to get a license can be lengthy as well. The law requires the ABC to mail a copy of your application to local officials over a 30 day posting period, with the actual investigation taking between 45 and 50 days. This means that licenses can take between 75 and 90 days to be fully processed.

You may want to consider talking to an expert to help smooth your way and avoid getting tied up in red tape.  An Alcoholic Beverage and License Consultant is a professional who knows all about the liquor licensing process and can help you navigate through this detailed and difficult process.