Less Known Alcohol Beverage Licenses in California

Outside photo of Congressional Country Club

Congressional Country Club, photo by Keith Allison, Flickr Creative Commons 2.0

California’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (“ABC”) offers a wide variety of license types, required for a wide variety of purposes in California.  Ordinarily, only a few types of licenses are commonly thought of (Types 20 and 21 for off-site sales and Types 40, 41, and 47 for on-site sales).  In total, however, there are more than 80 types of licenses, each for a different purpose.  As this blog previously discussed, a license is ordinarily required if alcohol is sold (even indirectly) or it is served at an event where a member of the public can attend, a license is required. 

This post seeks to illuminate some of the more unique and unexpected reasons to need a license.  It is far from a complete list of reasons to need a license and simplifies what can, at times, be far more complicated.  Instead, it should be viewed as a quick look into some of the more surprising or unknown reasons to need a license.  Without further ado, let’s begin.

Types 51 and 52:  Clubs

These licenses apply to clubs, with recognized memberships, which would like to sell alcohol on its premises.  Type 51 applies to clubs generally, while Type 52 applies to specifically veteran’s club.  Both license types can only be held by tax-exempt non-profit entities.  Both licenses allow for the club to sell alcohol to members and guests for consumption on-site.  The largest difference is that a veteran’s club is permitted to sell alcohol for off-site consumption, but the general club license does not allow for such sales.

Type 70:  Restrictive Service

Restrictive service licenses demonstrate that distributing alcohol without selling it does not alleviate the need for a license.  Restrictive service refers to the practice of selling alcohol or giving alcohol away to overnight guests or the overnight guests’ guests.  ABC says the license is normally given to “suite-type” motels and hotels offering “complimentary” happy hour.  Sometimes, even when direct payment isn’t made for alcohol, a license is still required.

Type 86:  Instructional Tasting Licenses

Type 86 licenses are rare in that they are issued as an add-on to already-held Type 20 or Type 21 licenses.  A Type 86 allows for locations which ordinarily only sell alcohol for off-site consumption to have limited and occasional alcohol tastings on the site.  If granted, it requires physical separation from the off-sale premises while tasting is taking place and generally requires the participation of a specifically-authorized manufacturer or wholesaler licensee.  In essence, a Type 86 license allows liquor sales to operate Costco-like sample stations for alcohol.

Types 31-37:  Daily and Special Event Licenses

These licenses refer to short-term license uses.  Type 31 is for special event licenses, and are limited to wine or beer.  Types 32, 33, 34, and 37 provide for authorizing alcohol sales for a day at a time, for continuing businesses which only need to sell alcohol on a short-term basis.  The distinctions are between what types of alcohol can be sold for the day of the license’s issuing, whether it be for beer only, wine only, beer and wine only, or general alcohol sales.

Types 43-46:  Planes, Trains, and Boats

There’s still no room for alcohol sales, but with the proper licensing, other modes of transportation can be used for alcohol sales.  The license types differ based on the type of vehicle involved, either trains, planes, or boats (with a separate one for fishing boats).  Each of these licenses only permit the sale of beer and wine, with the exception of fishing boats, which are only permitted to sell beer.

Types 57, 83:  Catering

These licenses are designed to allow for caterers to provide guests with alcohol.  Type 57 is a caterer’s permit, which can be obtained on top of other traditional licenses.  Its purpose is to allow businesses to serve alcohol outside of its normal premises (such as a restaurant which offers catering services).  A Type 83 license, contrarily, is only for massive caterers, with a number of specific requirements which prevent smaller businesses from attaining a Type 83 license.  A Type 83 license can only be attained after establishing a positive track record for years with a different alcohol license.

Type 63:  Hospitals and Medical Facilities

Though not typically associated with serving alcohol, hospitals, convalescent homes, and rest homes are all businesses which may have interest in serving alcohol to the guests within their premises.  Different requirements arise depending upon the type of facility seeking a Type 63 license, but each fall under this umbrella.

Types 77 and 81:  Event Permits

If a business seeks to sell alcohol in a different location, ABC offers event permits for short-term licenses.  Type 77 expands upon an existing license, allowing for the business to sell alcohol on adjacent property to the property already licensed to sell alcohol, such as a parking lot Cinco de Mayo party next to a popular bar.  Type 81 licenses apply to specific circumstances of wine sales events.  This permit is only permitted for businesses which already hold a Type 2 winegrowers’ license, in order to sell bottled wine at a number of events designed to promote their product.

Type 14:  Public Warehouse

Type 14 licenses are an example that a license may be needed even without selling alcohol.  Public warehouses are frequently used by manufacturers to store alcohol before being distributed.  The public warehouse is a completely separate business entity from the alcohol manufacturers, being used only as a place to store alcohol before moving onto retail.  These public houses need an alcohol license in order to operate.

Types 19, 28, and 82:  Shippers and Dealers

Much like public warehouses, shippers and dealers of alcohol require a license even if they have no direct connection to end users.  Type 19 licenses are for industrial alcohol dealers, which sell alcohol for use in trades, professions, and industries, but not to be used as beverages.  Type 28 applies to out-of-state shippers of distilled spirits, who need the license to ship the spirits in California.  Type 82 is a direct shippers permit, applying to companies seeking to ship alcoholic products, such as bottles of wine, directly to consumers home addresses.  Though it can take a variety of forms, shipping and dealing alcohol frequently requires a separate license.

Types 79, 84:  Farmers’ Markets

As was discussed on this blog, farmers’ markets can be a lucrative source of income and promotion for businesses.  In addition to the Type 84 license discussed in that post, which can only be gained after having another alcohol license, businesses can sell alcohol at farmers’ markets with a Type 79 permit.  Type 79 works much in the same way as Type 84, but allows for the sale of wine.


This list is just the tip of the iceberg for the wide range of alcohol licenses available and needed.  Alcohol Beverage Control’s website provides a complete list of available license types and a number of forms to help attain them.

About William Adams

Attorney at Norton, Moore, & Adams, LLP.
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