Transferring a liquor license from person to another can be a confusing process without assistance. The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) has many processes in place to handle such a transaction.

Here are some frequently asked questions in regards to a Liquor License Transfer in California

Can a license be transferred from one person to another person without making an application to ABC?

No. An application signed by both the present licensee and the transferee must be filed with ABC. ABC then proceeds as it would on a new application and may deny the transfer if the transferee-applicant is not qualified for a license. If such transfer also involves a change of the premises, ABC’s approval of the new premises is required.


Does the filing of the application for transfer accomplish the transfer of the license?

No. Neither the transferor nor the transferee should assume that the license will be transferred on a particular date, or at all, merely because the application has been filed. ABC may deny the application, or protests or accusations may be filed which may result in delay or denial of the transfer. ABC is not required to investigate the personal qualifications or premises of a currently licensed person when a license is being transferred between partners and no new partner is being licensed.


How long does it normally take for the issuance or transfer of a license?

Most investigations take approximately 55-65 days, and by law the license cannot be issued for a minimum of 30 days. Circumstances often result in a longer waiting period; therefore, before final approval and issuance of a license, applicants are cautioned regarding extensive financial commitments, plans for grand openings, etc. If new construction or considerable remodeling is necessary, the applicant should seek prior approval under Section 24044 before beginning any actual work.


Pending transfer of the license, may the intended transferee operate the licensed business?

The transferee may operate the licensed premises during the transfer period if a 120-day permit has been obtained. To qualify for this temporary permit, the premises must be currently licensed and have been operating within the past 30 days prior to application.


When the lease on the licensed premises is terminated and the premises must be vacated, what is required of the licensee?

A licensee must surrender his/her license to ABC within 15 days. During the maximum one year surrender period the licensee may transfer the license to other locations or transfer the license to other persons. All renewal fees must be paid during the surrender period.


What steps are required for the issuance or transfer of an alcoholic beverage license?

A person who wants to apply for an ABC license must start with the nearest ABC District Office. An ABC staff member will ask the applicant questions about the proposed operation and determine the type of license needed. The staff member will then advise the applicant what forms and fees are needed to file the application. Some applicants, before filing an application with ABC, must first obtain approval from zoning officials, open an escrow, or go to the office of the County Recorder for a certified copy of a Notice of Intended Transfer. Generally, all parties must appear at the District Office. This is not generally a “mail-in” process because ABC requires personal information such as personal history affidavits. Fees are paid at this time. The applicant also views a video about ABC laws. A temporary permit may be issued under certain conditions.


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