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Frequently Asked Questions - General Alcohol Regulation in California

General Alcohol Regulation in the State of California.

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Legal Age to Consume Alcohol

21 years old (Twenty-one)

Legal Age to Pour Alcohol

21 for bartenders and cocktail servers, 18 to serve alcohol in a bonafide eating place, if working in an area primarily designed and used for the sale and service of food, and as an incidental part of a server's overall duties.

Legal Age to Sell Alcohol

In package stores employees ages 17 and younger may sell only if directly supervised by someone at least 21; otherwise 18. Employees in premises that sell alcohol and gasoline must be 21 for sales between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.

Legal Age to Serve Alcohol

21 for bartenders and cocktail servers, 18 to serve alcohol in a bonafide eating place, if working in an area primarily designed and used for the sale and service of food, and as an incidental part of a server's overall duties.

Limit for Driving While Intoxicated
Notice about BAC Limits

.08 (DUI/DWI); Under 21 - .01; Commercial Driver - .04

Maximum Alcohol per Drink

Not Regulated
Number of Drinks One Can Serve at One Time Not Regulated
State/Province Dram Shop Liability Laws Yes - Limited [ Download Law]
Social Host Liability Laws No - [ Download Law]

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Acceptable Forms of Identification

The ABC recommends that licensees accept only "Bona Fide" identification which are currently valid, issued by a Government Agency and contain the following criteria:

Name of Person, Photograph, Physical Description, Date of Birth, Issued by a Governmental Agency, & Must be Valid (Not Expired)

For additional information see Section 25660 of the B&P Code.
Recommended Age for Carding (not mandatory):

Hours of Alcohol Sales

On-Premise Establishments Sales are permitted between 6:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. of the next day, unless restricted by special ABC conditions.
Retail Stores Sales are permitted between 6:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. of the next day, unless restricted by special ABC conditions.

Policies Regarding ID Confiscation

Under Section 25659, a licensee, or his or her agent or employee, may seize any identification by a person that shows to be under 21 or false, so long as a receipt is given to the person from whom it was seized and the seized identification is given over to the local law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction over the premises within 24 hours.

Policies Regarding Minors

It is unlawful to serve or sell alcohol to anyone under the age of 21. Persons under 21 years of age may not enter and remain in any premises with a green-colored ABC license except on lawful business. These premises are required to post a sign visible from the exterior at each public entrance and another one inside stating that no one under the age of 21 is allowed inside. Minors may enter and remain in any licensed premises which has a pink-colored ABC license.

Minors are not allowed to consume alcohol in the presence of their parents or legal guardian under any circumstances, either on or off a licensed premises, except that a very small amount of an alcoholic beverage may be consumed in a bonafide religious service. The prohibition extends to all locations in the state, not only within a licensed premises. Those furnishing alcoholic beverages to minors face a misdemeanor charge regardless of the location (except as described above.)

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Laws Regulating Server Training

BartenderGirl.Com Official T-ShirtThere are no state laws regulating server training. Some cities or counties may require server training as part of their Conditional Use Permit process (e.g., City of Dana Point in Orange County). The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control offers a voluntary training program for licensees called LEAD (Licensee Education on Alcohol and Drugs). This program focuses its training efforts on new license applicants, licensees located in high-crime areas, licensees who have violated ABC laws, major special events and county fairs. This program is, however, open to all persons.

Regulation of Non Alcohol Beer and Wine

Formally there are no laws regulating the sale of non-alcohol brew or non-alcohol wine to minors; however, California authorities strongly recommend establishments not make those sales. The beverage is not considered to be an alcoholic beverage if it contains less than one-half of 1% alcohol by volume.

Summary of Liquor Liability Laws

Following is a list of violations and penalties:

  • Minors in a public premises (bar/green license): penalty for licensee is maximum penalty of $1000 and/or 6 months in county jail.

  • Minors in a public premises (bar): penalty for minor is fine not less than $200.

  • Sale during prohibited hours: maximum penalty of $1000 and/or 6 months in county jail.

  • Sale to an intoxicated person: maximum penalty of $1000 and/or 6 months in county jail.

  • Sale to a habitual drunkard: maximum penalty of $1000 and/or 6 months in county jail.

  • Sale to minors: maximum penalty of $250 and/or 24-32 hours Community Service.

  • Sale to minors - 2nd offense: maximum penalty of $500 and/or 36-48 hours of Community Service.

  • Furnishing alcohol to a minor: $1000 and 24 hours Community Service.

  • Furnishing alcohol to a minor resulting in great bodily injury or death: minimum 6 months in jail and/or maximum $1000 fine.

    ABC administrative penalties are determined on a case-by-case basis.
    Learn more about ABC in the State of California.

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Statute of Limitations

The Statute of Limitations is one to three years depending on the type of violation.

Summary of Happy Hour Laws

Licensees may not offer free drinks, two-for-one drink specials or anything of value in conjunction with the sale of an alcoholic beverage.

The law allows a licensee to offer a food and drink combination for a special price as long as the drink is not free or complimentary. The price paid for a meal alone must be less the price for a meal and an alcoholic beverage together.

There is no difference between "happy hour," "drink specials," and/or "promotions" as these are generic terms used to describe reduced rates for drinks and are permitted as long as the retailer charges a price for the drink which does not under-cut the wholesale price paid.

State Alcoholic Beverage Control Agency Contact Information

Name: Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control in Sacramento
Telephone: 916-263-6900
E-Mail: postmaster@email.abc.ca.gov
Web Site: http://www.abc.ca.gov - ABC FAQs

If you have any further questions please call our office to speak with an event planner coordinator at 800.665.0804 or e-mail us

Have more questions? Ask BartenderGirl. We may have the answers!

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