April 19, 2020

LA Alcohol Policy Update

First and foremost, I hope all of you are healthy and well. These are difficult and uncertain times for us all, but I know that we can get through them if we stick together. 

Many of you have reached out to us with questions regarding a recently posted Eater LA article titled, “LA Makes It Much Easier for Restaurants to Get a Permit to Sell Alcohol.” Given the number of inquires about the article and the confusion it seems to have raised, we felt it necessary to clarify the program at the center of the story. 

Contrary to the title of the article, the LA City Council has yet to approve the Restaurant Beverage Program (RBP), so it is not in effect. City Planning and City Council Members have been discussing and debating a version of the RBP since at least 2018. In short, this program would create a new administrative permit process wherein operators who agree to a standard list of conditions would be able to obtain city approval without hearings and public meetings. These meetings and hearings add time and expense to the process, so the passage of RBP would be a welcome benefit for the restaurant community.

We at FE Design have issued comments on the proposed conditions, discussed the RBP with senior city officials, and even testified at Council hearings in favor of its adoption. Although the program may take money out of our pockets because it would make City approvals easier to obtain, we nonetheless are actively supporting the program.

City Planning is still holding public meetings to gather feedback on the process and their list of standard conditions, so RBP is a work in progress. After that has taken place, City Planning will write a final version that will be reviewed by the City Planning Commission before it comes to a final City Council vote. This process may take several more months, or RBP may never get to a final vote. It is also possible for the program to be passed but in a completely different form. It is difficult to say at this point. 

If RBS does pass, restaurants who wish to apply would have to pay a feeand agree to a litany of conditions including, but not limited to:

  • Daily hours of operation are limited to the hours between 7:00 am and 11:00 pm for both indoor and outdoor areas
  • No off-site sales (take-out) of alcoholic beverages 
  • No live entertainment, karaoke, or DJs
  • All food delivered to tables by employees. 

Because of these restrictions, many of you will still opt to file a regular CUB. We can help to ensure that a new CUB has no term limit, so for many of you, the extra expense will be worthwhile to ensure that you are free to operate as you would like. Keep in mind that RBP only impacts requests for alcohol, so projects requiring parking variances, Specific Plan Compliance, or other Planning Department approvals would still have to go through the normal filing process. 

It is important to note that the cost and availability of liquor licenses themselves are not directly affected by this proposal. The State of California regulates the issuance of liquor licenses – not the City of LA – and they still require the same application processes that they always have. Licenses to sell full alcohol would still be limited in number, and a secondary market of buyers and sellers would set the cost of these licenses.

For further information, feel free to reach out to Manny Diaz at manny@fedesignandconsulting.com

Stay safe and healthy. We hope to see you soon!