5 Simple Steps to Help Reduce the Chance of Selling Alcohol to a Minor in California, More Important Now than Ever Before!

First, we can all agree that no one should sell alcohol to a minor.  It is not good for the minor or society as a whole.  That is why selling alcohol to a minor is a criminal offense.  However, selling alcohol to a minor is also a strike against the alcohol license in California, even if the owner of the license had no involvement or even knowledge of the sale. 

A strike on the license has become even more important due to what appears to be a shift in the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s policy.  Before the past year, ABC used its discretion on a case-by-case basis to determine a just penalty for the owner of the license.

However, the recent decisions from ABC indicate a shift to just strictly enforcing the three strikes law and revoking the license no matter what the underlying facts show.  The ABC Appeals Board in a recent decision (AB-9602) expressed its frustration with the new “draconian” policy of punishment instead of seeking compliance in every third-strike case.  If you want a copy of the Appeals Board decision, just email me and I will send you a copy.

So below are five simple steps that will help reduce the chance of selling alcohol to a minor.

1) Always, and I mean always, check IDs.  If it is a vertical ID, the odds are that it belongs to a minor.

2) Check the date of birth, compare the description, compare the photo.  If the ID does not match the person, don’t sell!

3) Feel the ID.  If the ID does not feel like the ID issued to you by the State of California, is expired, or frayed, don’t sell!

4) Always, and I mean always, ask the purchaser for their date of birth or if they are over 21.  If they say they are not 21, don’t sell!

5) Ask for a second ID (an ATM card, credit card, or college ID) and compare the name.  Does the name match?  If not, don’t sell!

With the new ABC policy of strictly enforcing the three strikes law, even one strike is a strike too many.   So, if the person looks too young, it is most likely that the person is too young.  If you have any doubt, don’t sell! 

The Changing Beer Market, is Confilct on the Horizon?

Clerk here for a well written article about the changing beer market, and how the changes are creating conflicts that will either be resolved in the marketplace or the state legislatures.

In California, I would not be surprised if the legislature takes a look at the Type 75 license which is a hybrid brewpub license. Probably will also look at the Type 23 small brewery license and how many retail stores in which it can have an ownership interest.

The Future of Craft Beer in 2018

Click here to read a great article on what the Brewers Association thinks the craft beer industry will do over the next year.

As the article mentions, there has been a huge growth in the number of small brewers. In California alone, the number of small brewer licenses has nearly doubled since 2014!  That is a huge increase in the amount of beer for the market to consume.  

Starting in 2018 ACTlegally Will Be Serving Your Licensing Needs

2018 just got even more exciting for ACTlegally!!!

Not only is Nicholas Loehr, former ABC Administrative Law Judge and attorney, joining ACTlegally in February but, due to requests from our clients, ACTlegally will start helping our clients with all of their licensing needs. 

We strive to be a one-of-a-kind law office and be the law office our clients choose for the life of their business.  So, needless to say, our approach to helping our clients with their licensing needs will also be one-of-a-kind.

Our licensing package includes:

- Help with what type of liquor license is best for our clients needs.

- Acquire the appropriate license, whether by purchasing and transferring the license or by a new application with ABC.

- After ABC issues the license, provide a Best Practices Guide to help our clients stay out of trouble and be in full compliance with the alcohol laws. 

Moreover, our clients will have the security knowing that if their application is denied or protested for any reason, the attorneys at ACTlegally will represent them at the ABC hearing for no additional charge* as part of the licensing package fee.

* Covers all hearing preparation and up to four hours of hearing time.

rbs training program act of 2017

The Governor signed into law the RBS Training Program Act of 2017 back in October of 2017.  Although the law will have a direct impact on California liquor licensees, it seems that many licensees have no idea that starting in July of 2021 every server of alcohol in Californa must be trained and pass a Responsible Beverage Service test. 

The Department Alcoholic Beverage Control can provide this training and the fee the Department can charge is capped at $15.00 per employee.  Yes, that’s right $15.00 per employee.

The goal of properly training employees is laudable and something every licensee should do.  In fact, our name, ACTlegally, is based on such a belief; our goal is to help our clients comply and act legally within the complicated California alcohol laws.

However, a fee of $15 per employee will add up quickly. Will you, as the licensee cover the cost?  Or will you shift it to the employees, and lose some because they cannot afford the class?

Needless to say, ACTlegally will become a certified RBS trainer and offer the class and testing to our clients at a reasonable cost. 

If you have any questions about the RBS Training Act, or any other matter, please feel free to contact us.

Nick Loehr is joining ACTlegally

The new year is right around the corner, and ACTlegally has some exciting news to share. 

In February 2018 Nicholas Loehr will be joining ACTlegally.  Mr. Loehr worked as an attorney at the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) for 14 years.  He then became an Administrative Law Judge exclusively hearing ABC cases for another seven years. 

Mr. Loehr knows California alcohol law from every angle and ACTlegally is excited to have him join us in helping our clients. 

What good?

What good?

You may be wondering what good can an attorney do for you.  It’s a legitimate question. 

The simple answer is the attorney can do things you do not know how to do.  As some say, do what you know and delegate the rest.

But the question deserves more than the simple answer.  You have invested a great deal of money and time into your business.  Your business is important to you. 

Hiring an attorney is equally important.  You need someone who will work as hard as you do.  You need someone who can see the pitfalls.  Someone who can see a way around the pitfalls.  Most often that person is an attorney. 

As pointed out in the last post, you cannot simply agree to a settlement offer without checking out your options.  Otherwise, you just agreed to have a strike put on your record.  That strike never goes away.  It is part of the public record.  And, worst of all, it can be used against you in the future.

There are a handful of attorneys who practice in the area of alcohol law, and they are good attorneys.  In my opinion, here are the three most important things to look for in hiring an attorney.

I would say it is most important that you get along with your attorney.  You don’t’ have to be best friends but would you be comfortable having a cup of coffee with him/her?  If not, I suggest you keep looking.

The second most important thing is what experience does the attorney have.  Do they have the experience you need?  It is easy to find an attorney because it seems there are more attorneys than ever.  But you can’t hire just any attorney because alcohol law is complicated.  One mistake and your license could be gone.

The third most important thing to me is how much will they cost.  Unfortunately money matters.  The good news is that attorneys all set their fees differently, so call around.

Be aware, ABC does revoke liquor licenses

There's a common misconception that the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control no longer revokes liquor licenses.  So, they think, might as well save money and not hire an attorney. Just take ABC's offer, whether it is an all-stayed penalty or payment of a fine.  After all, you trained your employees and they won’t make a mistake again.  Well, employees do make mistakes and law enforcement investigations can be wrong.  

You should carefully consider all of your options before you give up your right to a hearing.  Giving up your right to a hearing automatically puts a "strike" on your license.  If there is another violation, ABC will use the strike to try to get a harsher penalty.   The harshest penalty available is revocation of the liquor license.  

ABC has, and does, revoke liquor licenses!  A recent example is in Santa Maria and, according to the youtube video, the license was worth $100,000.00!!!.  Also, check out the local newspaper story.   The ABC Appeals Board decision is AB-9602.

Do not give up your right to a hearing without first talking to an attorney, preferably an attorney who knows the ABC and alcohol law.  Giving up your right to a hearing can come back to harm you in the future, it might even result in the revocation of your liquor license.  

If your business can survive without the liquor license, it may not be a big deal.  However, most licensees I have talked to depend on their liquor license to keep their business open.   As the old saying goes, don't be penny wise and pound foolish.