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California ABC Alcohol FAQs

These are California ABC’s most frequently asked questions about:

Q. 78. May minors be employed in “on-sale” premises?

A. In a bona fide public eating place, minors between 18 and 21 years of age may serve alcoholic beverages in an area primarily designed and used for the sale and service of food for consumption on the premises as an incidental part of their overall duties. These minors cannot act as bartenders. (Section 25667)
No minor can be employed during business hours on the portion of any premises which is primarily designed and used for the sale and service of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises. There are exceptions, under limited circumstances, with respect to musicians. (Sections 25663 and 25663.5)

Q. 79. May a minor enter and remain in a licensed premises even though the minor does not purchase or consume any alcoholic beverages? 

A. Not if the premises are licensed as an on-sale general public premises, on-sale beer and wine public premises or on-sale beer public premises. There are no restrictions regarding minors entering or remaining on premises licensed for off-sale of alcoholic beverages or premises licensed and maintained and operated as a bona fide public eating place. (Section 25665)
Q. 80. May an off-sale licensee hire minors or use the services of a person under 18 years of age for the sale of alcoholic beverages?
A. Yes, if the person under 18 years of age is under the continuous supervision of a person 21 years of age or older. (Section 25663[b])
Q. 81. May a habitual drunkard or an obviously intoxicated person be sold alcoholic beverages?
A. No. Every person who sells, furnishes, gives or causes to be sold, furnished or given away, any alcoholic beverages to any habitual drunkard, or to any obviously intoxicated person is guilty of a misdemeanor. (Section 25602)

Q. 82. How may a licensee determine whether a customer is obviously intoxicated?

A. A customer is obviously intoxicated when an average person can plainly observe that the patron is intoxicated. The usual signs are staggering, alcoholic breath, dilated pupils of the eyes, slurred speech, poor muscular coordination, etc. (Section 25602)

Q. 83. Is a retail licensee required to close the doors of the licensed premises and not serve alcoholic beverages during the hours that an election is being held?

A. No. The Legislature has repealed the law which prohibited sales on election days.

Q. 84. What are the lawful hours for retail sale of alcoholic beverages?

A. From 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. of the following day. In other words, it is unlawful to sell alcoholic beverages either by the drink or by the package, between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. of the same day.
It is also unlawful for any person to knowingly purchase any alcoholic beverages between the hours of 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. (Section 25631)
ABC may further restrict the operating hours of licensed premises. Such restrictions may be imposed in the following situations:

  1. If grounds exist for the denial of an application for a license or where a protest against the issuance of a license is filed and if ABC finds that those grounds may be removed by imposition of those conditions;
  2. Where findings are made by ABC which would justify a suspension or revocation of a license, and where the imposition of a condition is reasonably related to those findings. In the case of a suspension, the conditions may be in lieu of or in addition to the suspension;
  3. Where ABC issues an order suspending or revoking only a portion of the privileges to be exercised under the license;
  4. Where findings are made by ABC that the licensee has failed to correct objectionable conditions within a reasonable time after receipt of notice to make corrections given pursuant to subdivision (e) of Section 24200.

Q. 85. At what time must a licensee cease sales of alcoholic beverages when the time changes from standard time to daylight savings time and vice versa?

A. On the day that a time change occurs from Pactfic Standard time to Pactfic Daylight time or back again to Pactfic Standard time, “2 o’clock a.m.” means two hours after 12 o’clock a.m. of the day preceding the day such change occurs. (Section 25631)

Q. 86. May an on-sale licensee stack drinks or sell and serve drinks a few minutes before 2 a.m. and permit patrons to remain on the premises consuming alcoholic beverages after that hour?

A. No. It is a misdemeanor for any retail licensee or employee of the licensee to permit any person, including himself, to consume alcoholic beverages on the licensed premises between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. of the same day. (Section 25632)

Q. 87. May a retail licensee sell alcoholic beverages to another retailer for resale?

A. No. The law provides that only a licensed wholesaler, beer manufacturer, winegrower, rectifier or brandy manufacturer may sell alcoholic beverages to retailers, with the exception that an off-sale general licensee may sell distilled spirits to a holder of a daily on-sale general license. (Sections 23402 and 24045.1)

Q. 88. May a licensee sell beer in unlabeled cans or bottles?

A. No. Beer containers must be labeled and the labels must show the name and address of the manufacturer of the beer and also the bottler of the beer, if other than the manufacturer. Reasonable allowance will be made if the labels slough off in the water cooler, but care should be taken to avoid this. (Section 25200 and Rule 130)

Q. 89. Does the customer who requests an alcoholic drink by brand name have any assurance that the brand ordered will be served?

A. State law requires that the licensee or employee of the licensee must first inform the purchaser of a substitution of a different type or brand of beverage than that ordered by the patron. The patron then, of course, has the choice of refusing to accept the substitute. If the purchaser is not informed, the licensee or employee is guilty of a misdemeanor. (Section 25609)

Q. 90. May any person have on a licensed premises any alcoholic beverage other than the type authorized by the license?

A. Generally, licensees may not have or allow customers to have any alcoholic beverage on the premises that are stronger than those named on the license. An exception is made for a bona fide public eating place with an on-sale beer and wine license to have brandy, rum or liqueurs solely for cooking purposes. (Section 25607)

Q. 91. May wine be placed in decanting bottles by an on-sale licensee?

A. Yes. This may be done at the time of service to patrons for consumption on the premises.

Q. 92. May partially consumed wine bottles be removed from an on-sale licensed premises?

A. Yes, but only from on-sale licensed premises maintaining a bona fide eating place. (Section 23396.5)

Q. 93. Is the refilling of a distilled spirits bottle unlawful?

A. Any person who refills a bottle with distilled spirits is guilty of a misdemeanor. It is also unlawful to offer to keep for sale any distilled spirits in a bottle which has been refilled or partly refilled. (Sections 25176 and 25177)
The law which required that empty bottles be broken has been repealed.

Q. 94. May empty distilled spirits bottles be sold by an on-sale general licensee or his employees?

A. No. (Section 25178)

Q. 95. Is there any law prohibiting the use of open pouring spouts?

A. No, but it should be remembered that the use of open pouring spouts, particularly on slow moving items, can cause either or both of the following violations:

  • o Contamination of the beverage by insects. (Insects are particularly attracted to sweet alcoholic beverages.)
  • o Loss of proof by evaporation (approximately 4 to 5 proof per year).
Q. 96. Must keg beer sold to consumers be registered?

A. Every retailer selling keg beer to consumers must place an identification tag on all kegs of beer at the time of sale, and the purchaser must sign a receipt. Keg identification allows kegs to be traced.
Possession of a keg with knowledge that the keg is not identified OR providing false information by the purchaser on the Beer Keg Registration Receipt is a misdemeanor. (Section 25659.5)

Q. 97. Are there any special restrictions for licensees who sell both alcoholic beverages and gasoline?

A. Yes. Outlets that sell both alcoholic beverages and gasoline must abide by these conditions:

  1. No beer or wine shall be displayed within five feet of the cash register or the front door unless it is in a permanently affixed cooler as of January 1, 1988.
  2. No advertisement of alcoholic beverages shall be displayed at motor fuel islands.
  3. No display or sale of beer or wine shall be made from a drive-in window.
  4. No display or sale of beer or wine shall be made from an ice tub.
  5. No beer or wine advertising shall be located on motor fuel islands and no self-illuminated advertising for beer or wine shall be located on buildings or windows.
  6. Employees on duty between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. who sell beer or wine shall be at least 21 years of age. (Note: Non-selling employees are unregulated.) (Section 23790.5[d])