October 2023

To-Go Boozy Beverages Are Not Going Anywhere

Gibson & Jeffery, LLP.

Like many in the hospitality and alcohol industries, John and I were surprised that during the pandemic, the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control provided regulatory relief by expanding existing privileges for licensees to sell alcoholic beverages “to-go.” Before the pandemic the Department and many interest groups behaved as though the sky would fall and volcanoes would erupt if to-go alcoholic beverages were allowed. While the pandemic often made it feel as though the sky were falling, calmer minds and prudent regulation prevailed. Even though the Department’s regulatory relief program ended on December 31, 2021, the passage of Senate Bill 389 enshrined “to-go” beverages in statute, at least until January 1, 2027.

While Senate Bill 389 preserves and expands the ability of on-site consumption licensees to sell drinks to-go with meals, it also imposes a number of public safety measures and new responsibilities on licensees using this privilege. Below are the highlights:

Which licensees can sell alcohol to-go?

Any holder of an on-sale license for a bona fide public eating place that has off-sale privileges, or a licensed beer manufacturer, licensed wine manufacturer, or licensed craft distiller that operates a bona fide public eating place at its premises of production.


What drinks may be sold?

Any sort of alcoholic beverage authorized by your license may be sold to-go, including mixed drinks and distilled spirits.

All alcoholic drinks must be sold with a meal with a limit of two drinks per meal.


What sort of container must be used?

All beverages must be packaged in single serving containers. The container must be tamper evident. This means that container must have a seal that must be broken in order to consume the beverage.

The exception to this is beer, which must be sold in standard bottles or cans


Even though sealed containers are required, these to-go beverages will count as “open”for the purposes of California laws. Licensees selling to-go beverages are required to conspicuously post the waring below on their website (if accepting on lineorders) and at their premises.


“Alcoholic beverages that are packaged by this establishment are open containers and shall not be transported in a motor vehicle except in the vehicle’s trunk or, if there is no trunk, the containers shall be kept in some other area of the vehicle that is not normally occupied by the driver or passengers. This does not include a utility compartment or glove compartment (See Vehicle Code Section 23225). Additionally, these beverages shall not be consumed in publicor in any other area where open containers are prohibited by law.”


Can to-go drinks be delivered to consumer homes?

No. This is one of the biggest differences between the regulatory relief program and Senate bill 389. All to-go drinks in open containers must be picked up directly from the licensee by the consumer that placed the order. The licensee must check ID to verify the age and identity of the consumer that placed the order.


To be clear this means that services like Grub Hub, Caviar, and Door Dash can no deliver to-go open container beverages. Neither can a licensee’s own drivers.


Do I need to let the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control know that I will be selling to-go drinks?

Yes. You can notify the ABC of your intent to sell to-go drinks using their online portal which can be found here: https://www.abc.ca.gov/licensing/sales-of-alcoholic-beverages-to-go/alcohol-to-go-notification/


If you are a licensee that is looking to start or expand your alcoholic beverage to-go program we recommend that you contact us for more information on how to setup and run your program in compliance with the latest, evolving regulations.

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