San Diego

State Alcohol Controller Announces Liquor License Allotment for SD County

San Diego County will likely see 50 new bars and restaurants opening this year.

California's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) just announced its county-by-county distribution of new liquor licenses available for the coming year.

Here in San Diego, for the fourth straight year, the county is receiving the maximum number of licenses for bars and restaurants.

San Diego County will likely see 50 new bars and restaurants opening this year. That’s a good thing, according to attorney Matthew Friedrichs who represents business owners trying to obtain liquor licenses.

"The restaurant industry is rough, ability to get profit margins with food and rising labor costs, profit margins are slim," Friedrichs said.

With a liquor license, a restaurant can usually attract more customers and earn a higher profit margin on the alcohol sales.

Not everyone is happy with alcoholic beverage control, or ABC.

"ABC policy suggests only one alcohol license per 2,000 residents in an area, but in Pacific Beach we have about 1 alcohol license per 220 people,” said Scott Chipman, who’s lived in Pacific Beach for more than 40 years.

Chipman has vowed to fight every single license being applied for in his community. He correlates the neighborhood's high violent crime rate to the high concentration of alcohol licenses.

"We don't want Sacramento issuing alcohol licenses without considering the impacts on the community," he said.

While it's still too early to know where these new licenses will end up, ABC officials said that the maximum allotment for San Diego is based on population.

Sacramento legislators determine the policy, they see it through. Liquor licenses are also available in the open market - a business closing its doors can sell a license to another business hoping to expand with alcohol sales.

Those licenses typically start at around $80,000 according to Friedrichs, which is why the opportunity to get one at $15,000 directly from the state is a popular deal often sorted out through a lottery.

"It's important to note, even if you win the liquor license lottery, which is typically held in October, it doesn't mean you can start selling booze,” Friedrichs said.

Additional approval is often based on the proposed location and type of business opening up.

Critics of ABC say they want more local control, which would include a conditional use process and fee structure to allow police more control over alcohol licensed businesses.

Contact Us