The COVID-19 economic shutdown affected hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs in California. Because of the need for social distance, establishments had to close shops and temporarily suspend operations almost immediately. The most affected industries in California are leisure and hospitality, retail trade, educational services, transportation, and warehousing.
Of all the establishments, the entertainment, recreation, hotels, food services, restaurants, and drinking places took the most brutal hit. One industry most particularly affected is the alcohol and beverage industry. Business owners have been struggling, especially with the series of new laws on alcohol sales.
Alcohol laws have changed several times in California since COVID-19 has arisen, making it hard for business owners to keep up and get updated. The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) has restructured its regulations, and it has become more difficult for business owners to maintain an ABC license.
Below we will answer the question, “how are ABC laws affected by COVID?” In addition, we’ll tackle how business owners can cope with the help of legal services, especially when they face violation charges.
Alcoholic beverage control in California
The California State Government Executive branch has an independent department that handles alcohol administration, licensing, and compliance. This department is the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, and they exist to protect the California community through alcohol regulation and education.
All business owners in California dealing with alcoholic beverages need to acquire an ABC retail license to do on-sale and off-sale selling. The term “on-sale” or on-premise means selling alcoholic beverages with clients consuming them within the establishment. “Off-sale” or off-premise means selling alcoholic drinks for consumption at home or anywhere else off-site.
Because of the pandemic, on-premise sales drastically went down and created many job losses. Consequently, off-premise sales went up because it was the only way to purchase alcoholic beverages that were allowed.
Seeing the need for businesses to sell without compromising health protocols, ABC made a series of changes in sales regulations called the Regulatory Relief. It specifically aims to help the alcoholic beverage industry thrive despite lockdowns and stop operations during the pandemic.
ABC issued its First Notice of Regulatory Relief in March 2020, allowing only off-sale, deliveries, and to-go selling. It also limited sales to pre-packed products instead of beers in kegs poured in mugs or wine served in wine glasses.
ABC has since released several more, the latest of which is the Eighth Notice of Regulatory Relief on June 3, 2021. This regulation allows those with on-sale licenses to exercise off-sale privileges along with the resumption of other business transactions such as returns of alcoholic beverages, extended hours of operations and delivery, and retail-to-retail transactions.
To help ease the burden of business owners, those with on-sale licenses may be eligible for a renewal fee waiver if the permit expires between March 1, 2021, and February 28, 2023. ABC has also imposed a 30-day grace period extension of payment of 2021 renewal fees and penalties.
How business owners cope with the changing regulations
Business owners who refuse to give up and continue to push through selling alcoholic beverages find that they can manage by complying with ABC guidelines. Business owners who find it challenging to stay current with the constant changes in policies seek the help of a compliance attorney near them to make sure they are adhering to California ABC criteria.
Those facing an ABC violation will find it very difficult to renew their licenses, especially with the new strict regulations due to the pandemic. The best option is to seek the help of an experienced California ABC attorney who knows his way around these regulations and can help with the hearing proceedings.
California was one of the earliest U.S. states to impose a lockdown when the pandemic started. Businesses have gone through a series of stop-start-stop due to the changing regulations and a second lockdown, which badly hurt California’s economy.
Hundreds of businesses have already folded, but the food and beverage industry seems to be one of the few that will continue to thrive and keep the economy going. With proper support from the federal government and business regulating bodies, business owners can still hang on to their source of living.