It seems like COVID-19 restrictions across the country keep changing, and it can be hard to keep up. COVID-19 has significantly changed California alcohol sales policies provisionally. These changes resulted in off-premise sales growing roughly 20% over the last year for every week since March of 2020. Under these new circumstances, businesses have changed how they distribute, sell, and even tax liquor in California. We’ve put together some updates on how alcohol sales in California have evolved since the start of the pandemic.
Who regulates California’s liquor laws?
California’s Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) regulates alcohol sales in California. This means the power is at the state level rather than at the local level. There are a variety of licenses available for the sale of California alcohol. The ABC has the power to license and regulate the manufacture, importation, and sale of California alcohol.
How has COVID affected California’s alcohol laws?
Many regulations have changed in the U.S. for both on– and off-premise alcohol sales. (We’ve rounded up a guide to COVID-19 alcohol updates by state.) California’s alcohol laws went through a series of changes through the course of the pandemic. The state’s updates on its regulation of liquor sales in California had two goals: slow the spread of COVID-19 and deal with the economic challenges businesses face. As a result, you will see expanded outdoor operations as a way to put the beverage industry on the road to economic recovery.
Which provisions will stay in place for alcohol sales in California?
Here are some of the provisions the California ABC will keep in place until December 31, 2021:
On-Sale Retailers Exercising Off-Sale Privileges
Businesses with on-sale licenses can sell alcoholic beverages for off-sale consumption. They just need to sell drinks in pre-packaged manufacturer containers.
Sales of Alcoholic Beverages To-Go
Businesses that sell meals prepared for pick-up and delivery may also sell pre-packaged containers of beer, wine, and pre-mixed cocktails not in manufacturer’s containers with the appropriate ABC License. You just need to attach a secure lid to prevent consumption without lid removal (e.g., no lids with sipping holes or openings for straws).
Deliveries to Consumers
If you have the license for off-premise California alcohol sales, you can still deliver alcoholic beverages in CA to consumers. The sales transaction has to occur at the licensed premises. This means that the order is received and processed at the physical business. So payment cannot occur at the time of delivery. Curbside delivery is still allowed. Craft distillers, however, may only exercise off-sale privileges at their licensed premises. They are limited to 2.25 liters of distilled spirits per customer each day, and they cannot deliver to consumers away from their business.
Businesses can still offer free delivery on alcohol if they are licensed to deliver alcohol.
Expansion of Licensed Footprint
This includes areas around the business that establishments have control over but were not previously licensed like outdoor areas, parking lots, and even sidewalks. These spaces are typically adjacent to traditional licensed businesses.
On-Sale Licensees without Kitchen Facilities
Businesses without kitchen facilities can now sell prepared drinks and pre-mixed cocktails in to-go containers. But they still need to sell alcohol with food, so they can now partner with a food provider such as a restaurant or food truck.
“Virtual” Meet the Winemaker or Brewer Dinners
Dinners can still occur if the on-sale retailer conducts them. On-sale retailers need to provide all food and beverage for sale. Winemakers and brewers will have to change how they distribute tastings to fit this new provision so that on-sale retailers distribute all alcohol.
Renewal of Relief for Charitable Promotions and Sales
Alcohol sales in California can include charitable donations to bonafide charities assisting with COVID-19 efforts.
Relief from Type-75 Requirement to Produce 100 Barrels of Beer Annually
The state waived minimums for Brewpub-Restaurant licensees to produce 100 barrels of beer a year. But establishments still cannot produce over 5000 barrels annually.
The state has mentioned that they will try to give ten days’ notice before changing these provisions, but also have said that they can change laws immediately in regards to public safety.
Has the California ABC withdrawn COVID-19 provisions?
Yes. California has removed restrictions on businesses and developed the Beyond the Blueprint Plan. Since many bars and restaurants have dramatically shifted their business practices due to COVID-19, it can be hard to keep up when more changes occur. California ABC withdrew or changed the following Regulatory Relief provisions on June 30, 2021:
- Returns of Alcoholic Beverages
- Retail-to-Retail Transactions
- Extension of Credit
- Drive-Thru Windows for Off-Sale Transactions
- Hours of Operations for Retail Sales
- Delivery Hours Extended to Midnight
- Distilled Spirits Manufacturers Providing High-Proof Spirits for Disinfection Purposes
- Virtual Wine Tastings
- Extension of Regulatory Relief for Club Licenses: Type 50, 51 and 52
To learn about the latest California market menu trends from Q4 2021 to present day (September 2022), download our California Market Report: Tequila and Mezcal here: https://overproof.com/agave/.
FAQs about Alcohol Sales in California
What time do they stop selling alcohol in California?
Businesses stop selling alcohol at 2 a.m., according to CA alcohol laws.
How early can you buy alcohol in California?
Alcohol sold in a grocery or liquor store is classified as off-premise. Off-premise alcohol sales can occur from 6 – 2 a.m. from Sunday to Saturday in California.
What time can I buy beer in California?
Liquor and beer have the same sales hours in California. Beer can be purchased from 6 – 2 a.m. from Sunday to Saturday.
Are there restrictions on buying alcohol on Sundays in California?
In California, there are no restrictions for buying alcohol on Sundays.
Do you have information on alcohol laws for other states?
Stay up to date on all the changes to alcohol laws in every state.
Stay in the loop, and be sure to fill out the form to get our guide to COVID-19 updates on alcohol policies in all 50 states.