The husband-and-wife owners of two San Luis Obispo restaurants have sold one of their two liquor licenses to a Pismo Beach hotel group for $225,000, according to a company involved in the sale.
Dean Vasquez of License Locators said that he represented the operators of the incoming 124-room Vespera on Ocean, a Marriot Autograph hotel in Pismo Beach, in purchasing the license from Leonard and Wendy Cohen, who own Ciopinot Seafood Grille and La Esquina Taqueria
Vasquez said the sale is in escrow and expects it to go through without any complications. Vespera on Ocean is set to open in April or May 2019.
Vasquez, who consults and facilitates alcohol license sales statewide, said that the going rate for a privately sold Type 47 alcohol license in San Luis Obispo County is between $190,000 and about $225,000.
A Type 47 license can either be granted by the state — though none are currently available in San Luis Obispo County due to issuance limits — or sold privately between business owners and recorded with the state.
“The demand is higher than the supply,” Vasquez said, adding that the sale price for the Ciopinot license was “on the high end.”
“Times change quickly,” he said. “These licenses that used to be $35,000 or $40,000 are now a quarter million dollar asset. I’m not sure all business owners who have one realize the value.”
Ciopinot and La Esquina can still sell wine, beer and distilled spirits, Leonard Cohen said, because they’re taking advantage of rules that allow the adjacent businesses to operate under one Type 47 alcohol license.
The restaurants are located next door to each other at 1049 and 1051 Nipomo St., respectively, at the Creamery complex.
Cohen said he obtained the license for Ciopinot about 10 years ago. He won a liquor license lottery three years ago for La Esquina through a bill authored by former Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, which provided San Luis Obispo County with five additional liquor licenses over a three-year period.
No new lotteries for hard alcohol license in San Luis Obispo County have taken place over the past two years, which are allowed based on population growth and state ratios on licensing, according to John Carr, a spokesman for the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
“There’s such a high demand right now and I think the big hotels and other types of businesses going in can get nervous if they’re getting ready to open and don’t have a license to serve hard alcohol,” Cohen said. “Now seems to be a really good time to sell.”
Type 47 licenses granted by the state currently require a fee payment of $15,000 to operate — well below the market rate for a sale between businesses.
Vasquez said that the process statewide generally is much simpler and accessible to obtain an alcohol license for only beer and wine. He said he’s worked with companies that sell their hard liquor licenses and transition to beer and wine only..
A total of 128 alcohol licenses exist countywide under Type 47 permitting, according to the Alcoholic Beverage Control website. In comparison, 448 exist for businesses that sell beer and wine under Type 41 licenses.