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When Can You Make, Sell, or Serve Alcohol in California Without a License?

The answer is: almost never. In general, doing anything related to making, selling, or serving alcohol in California requires a license from the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. But there are a few exceptions. Here are five things you can do without an alcohol license.

1. Make 100 Gallons of Beer or Wine

Adults can produce up to 100 gallons of beer or wine per year for personal use, with a maximum of 200 gallons per year per household. (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §23356.2.) So, all but the most prolific hobbyist brewers and vintners should be ok.

2. Serve Alcohol in a Limousine or Hot Air Balloon

You can serve alcohol to adults without a license in limousines, and, somewhat surprisingly, in hot air balloons, so long as there is no charge for the service. There is no limit on the volume or type of alcohol you can serve. (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 23399.5.)

3. Serve Wine or Beer at a Beauty Salon or Barber Shop

You can serve alcohol to adults at beauty salons or barber shops, so long as there is no charge for the service. You can offer each person up to six ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer (no spirits). Alcohol service can be anytime during business hours, but no later than 10 pm. The business must be in good standing with the California State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology. (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 23399.5.)

4. Serve Alcohol at a Non-Alcohol Related Business When It’s Closed to the Public

Non-alcohol related businesses, such as jewelry and fashion boutiques, can serve complementary alcohol to adults when their premises are not open to the public. This means appointment-only boutiques can offer wine, beer, and distilled spirits to customers during business hours because they are not open to the public. Boutiques can also offer alcohol at invitation-only events on their premises. They must offer the alcohol free of charge. (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 23399.1.)

5. Sell Your Wine at Auction

You can sell your wine at auction, regardless of whether it is considered vintage wine. The only catch is that you must sell the wine through relatively established auction houses. You can sell it through an auction house with annual wine auction revenues of $5 million or more, or at a retail off-sale licensee with annual United States auction revenues of at least $500 million. (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 23355.1(d).)

This informational piece, which may be considered advertising under the ethical rules of certain jurisdictions, is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute the rendering of legal advice and does not form an attorney-client relationship. You can unsubscribe from future messages by replying “unsubscribe” to this message.

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