Resources for acquiring a San Francisco Liquor License
Use this page as your all-in-one guide for Liquor Licensing. This page contains resources you can use to learn about every aspect of how to get your liquor licenses. If you are interested in getting a liquor license or want to speak to one of our experts for Free please fill out your information below.
San Francisco is among the largest cities in California and is the densest. When it comes to licenses, the coldest winter you will ever experience is the summer in San Francisco. Getting a liquor license in San Francisco is not hard, it’s the hardest. Of all the counties in California, few are more expensive and none are more stringent. It is however, not impossible to get a license in the city. The knowledge below will give you the best chance of acquiring a what everyone so desires.
Types of San Francisco County Liquor Licenses
All counties in California have the same liquor license laws and San Francisco is no different. Like other counties, San Francisco licenses can be acquired either via the state or via the open market. Not all licenses can be acquired directly and buyers who are looking to purchase full licenses should expect to pay more than six digits. When starting your establishment, reference the list below to get a better understanding of the type of license you will need.
- Type 20 – Off-Sale Beer and Wine – A type 20 beer and wine license allows business owners to sell beer and wine only to patrons off-premises. It is one of the least expensive license types and is used for grocery stores, convenience stores and neighborhood markets. In San Francisco this license must be purchased from another business.
- Type 21 – Off-Sale Full Liquor – Type 21 licenses, like type 20’s pertain to off -sale. Such licenses, however, allow business owners to sell spirits (hard liquor). These types of licenses are very expensive, well over $100,000, and have very specific constraints on where they can be place within the county.
- Type 41 – Original Beer and Wine – Type 41 liquor licenses are your best bet for selling alcohol in the city of San Francisco. They are nice little licenses that are issued directly through the state, but only allow on-premise consumption. This makes getting a type 41 much easier than any of the alternative types of licenses. Type 41 licenses are still difficult to get because of the requirements of the city, but they are what most businesses not looking to spend a fortune go with.
- Type 47 – Full Liquor Restaurant – type 47 liquor license allow on-premise consumption of all types of alcohol for restaurants with more than 51% of their revenue coming from food. These licenses are very expensive and are rarely available on the open market. They are, however, slightly easier to get and come by than a type 48 license.
- Type 48 – Full Liquor Bar – Type 48 liquor licenses are the most difficult of the licenses to get approved for in San Francisco. This is largely because the licenses permit bars, with not food requirement, to sell all types of alcohol. They are the most highly contested and most expensive licenses available in the city.
- Type 57 – Full Liquor Private Club – The final type of license is a 57. This type allows full liquor sales on-premises to private members clubs. To be considered a private member club you must charge a membership fee. This type of license is convertible back and forth from a 47.
The Real Challenge with San Francisco
The real challenge when attempting to get a liquor license in San Francisco is not the state government. It is not even the county government or the ABC. The real challenge is the city government. Getting approval from the city can at times feel like pushing a boulder up a large hill; few people make it. Navigating the city government requires a level of tact and legal knowledge that even most land-use lawyers do not have. City approval can take years, if not an eternity, and the vast majority of people fail to get approval even after waiting and paying thousands of nonrefundable dollars to the city. If you have a location, and are in need to conditional use permitting in the city, please know that we have a service that can help you cause. Overall, if you want to save time and money we recommend finding a location that has already been licensed and has a conditional use permit.
Instructions to getting a San Francisco Liquor License
- Location Location Location – as previously stated getting a license in San Francisco is all about location. Make sure that your location has been vetted by the local municipality before even signing a lease or buying property. In California a lease or signed letter of intent is required before starting the application process.
- Determine what type of liquor license is needed and Buy the License – The list above should be able to direct you to know what type of license is needed for your establishment. After you know what type of license you need, you will need to either apply directly to the ABC or buy a license. Using a broker when buying a license is encouraged. Brokers do the work for you and save you valuable time and money.
- Open an escrow – All liquor license transfers in California require escrow by law. Choose an escrow company is that has a well trained staff of professionals who are well acquainted with the liquor license escrow process and its intricacies
- Have the entire premises surveyed – premises must be surveyed by a professional to create a distance map of the property. This map checks to see what residences, schools, churches and more are near your premise.
- Submit your application – Whether you are buying a license or securing one directly from the state, all potential licensees are required to apply and file with the ABC. This process can take more than 90 days, particularly if there are problems with your application.
- Post a notice issued to you by the ABC on your premises for thirty days – Posting notice allows people in your area to know you intend on selling alcohol. It is very important that the posting is in an easily visible area as the ABC may come to check the posting.
- After the public notice period, the ABC will conduct an investigation into the business – ABC investigations center around not only the business but also the individual. Any past criminal actions will not go overlooked and are likely to impact the chances of getting a license.
- Receive a liquor license in the mail from the ABC – It’s finally all over! just post your license in a place that is visible and start selling booze and making money.
We are the largest brokerage firm in the nation. We have decades of experience and specialize in getting hard to find liquor licenses, in areas like San Francisco County, for our clients. With the relationships we’ve garnered we can guarantee that we will get you the license you need. Our size and skill allows us to get licenses quicker, cheaper and more professionally than our competitors.
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