April 20, 2020

Los Angeles Program to Streamline Alcoholic Beverage Sales Approval Process for Restaurants

Holland & Knight's West Coast Real Estate and Land Use Blog
Andrew J. Starrels | Michael Brill Newman
Breaking Ground: West Coast Real Estate and Land Use Blog

In an effort to aid small business owners that have been impacted by the COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders, the City of Los Angeles Department of City Planning has announced the proposed framework for a Restaurant Beverage Program. The program represents a new regulatory pathway that would allow qualifying restaurants to receive over-the-counter approvals for on-site alcoholic beverage sales, potentially saving restaurant operators significant time and money.

Under current city regulations, all businesses seeking to engage in the sale of alcoholic beverages for on-site consumption are required to obtain a conditional use permit that is referred to locally as a CUB and requires discretionary approval followed by a public hearing. For decades, CUB applicants have been subjected to the same costly and time-consuming permitting process, whether the business is a large entertainment venue or a small restaurant. This process is burdensome and costly for restaurant operators who are subject to fees in excess of $13,000 and a six-month minimum application processing period. The Department of City Planning estimates that fees under the new Restaurant Beverage Program would be approximately $4,000 and approvals could be made in only a few weeks as ministerial matters, if the restaurants satisfy certain operating criteria. Nightclubs, bars and other types of on-premise establishments would still be subject to the existing CUB process. From a local policy perspective, these are the types of establishments, unlike restaurants, that give rise to greater public welfare concerns.

Qualifying restaurants with an operational kitchen and menu would be subject to standard criteria, including but not limited to:

  • Limited operational hours between 7:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m.
  • No live entertainment, including dancing, karaoke, DJs or adult entertainment
  • No outdoor TVs or music
  • Limited outdoor seating (no more than the 30 percent of the restaurant's total seating area)
  • Minimum lighting standards
  • Alcoholic beverage service training for staff
  • Minimum security standards, including a camera surveillance system
  • Posted contact information for reporting community complaints or concerns

Additionally, participating restaurants will be required to enroll in the city's Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Program (MViP), a proactive city-initiated enforcement program. Any violations may be reported to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), which may trigger additional corrective measures.

The proposed program is expected to be considered by the City Planning Commission, followed by the City Council, in the coming months.

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