No new general alcohol licenses granting businesses the right to sell beer, wine and distilled spirits were granted to San Luis Obispo County for the third straight year.
The state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agency recently announced the more than 30 California counties that received new licenses, including Santa Barbara, Ventura, Sacramento and Fresno counties — but SLO County didn’t make the cut.
Beer and wine licenses are more easily accessible.
If a county’s population increases by 2,000 people in a year, then one new general alcohol license is granted for on-site consumption and one new license is allowed for sale of sealed drinks for off-site use, said Matt Hydar, an investigator with ABC.
The last time that SLO County received a new general alcohol license was in 2015 when former Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian passed legislation that provided five additional liquor licenses that were distributed over a three-year period.
A lack of new licenses allowed could make existing general alcohol licenses even more valuable commodities. That’s because they can be sold to other businesses.
The owner of Ciopinot and La Esquina restaurants in San Luis Obispo recently sold one of his two alcohol licenses for $225,000 to the operators of the 124-room Vespera on Ocean, a Marriot Autograph hotel in Pismo Beach.
A general liquor license is currently on sale in Napa County for $345,000.
“Times change quickly,” said Dean Vasquez, of License Locators, a liquor licensing consulting company. “There’s a much higher propensity for sales between owners, particularly when no new licenses are being allowed.”
Leonard Cohen, owner of Ciopinot and La Esquina, said the sale of his license went quickly to the hotel group, which opens its new facility in April or May 2019 and had a high level of interest in being able to sell mixed drinks.
“I set the price and sold it in one day,” Cohen said.
The process is much simpler to obtain an alcohol license for only beer and wine, but some businesses depend on being able to sell hard alcohol, according to experts.
This year, some counties including Santa Clara, Contra Costa, Los Angeles and Orange each received the maximum of 25 on-sale and 25 off-sale licenses for general use.
On-sale licensing allows for the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages on the premises of a business, while off-sale allows for sales of sealed drinks that can be consumed off-site.
Many other licensing categories exist, such as licensing for wholesalers, manufacturers, caterers, beer and wine importers and more.