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Dec 7, 2009 07:25 AM

SF - BYOB not allowed any more ?

Last night I was at one of my favourite Indian dives in the Tenderloin, where I was informed it is no longer legal to bring your own booze into restaurants - because of some crackdown - details were sketchy.

Is this accurate? Has anyone else encountered this issue within the past month ?

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  1. It has always been illegal for restaurants without liquor licenses to allow customers to bring in liquor:

    7 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      I realize that strictly speaking it's always been illegal. But I have sat down next to cops at places like Shalimar and imbibed beer for years now. So I was surprised to hear about the rule being enforced.

      Has anyone else had the same experience lately ?

      1. re: osho

        To my memory, the issue started a couple of years ago. The Chronicle wrote a mini-review of the (now defunct) de Afghanan Kabob House on Polk. In the article, they mentioned a BYOB policy that got the restaurant in trouble. I hadn't been aware of the policy to that point, but have been careful ever since not to put restaurants w/o a liquor license in jeopardy when I can help it (and certainly not to write about it if they do bend the rules).

        More background on Michael Bauer's blog:

        1. re: Fig Newton

          While trying to find the code that states BYO is illegal, I actually stumbled upon the Bauer article. I think the story is a bit strange. Why would an ABC rep contact the writer of the story before contacting the restaurant? The writer also did not mention the name of the ABC contact and the specific code that was being violated.

          1. re: pininex

            I think the ABC rep was trying to gently point out that the writer got the restaurant in trouble. Cracking down on BYOB in unlicensed establishments is not a priority for the ABC, but they really can't ignore it when a writer for a major paper rubs their nose in it! I think the main purpose of the ABC rep contacting the writer was to hint that if it hadn't been mentioned in the article, the ABC could have continued to look the other way.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              For those that don't follow the nightlife news, the state ABC has been very harsh with SF's nightclubs over the last year.
              Jamie's DNA lounge blog is always entertaining:

              There are two aspects to the crackdown, requiring venues to abide very strictly to their permit restrictions while the law permits operating variations, and inventing new rules regarding the exact percentage of food sales vs alcohol sales for some classes of permit. You can read all about it by following the links, but it comes down to re-interpreting code provisions.

              This intersects with restaurants because the code provisions deal with when you can run all ages shows, how much of a restaurant you have to be to be a restaurant, and similar. Imagine being under 21 and just not being able to see live music - more than half of the venues in SF are 21+ permitted, but quite a few have permits that allow some all ages shows, which they then use with acts that draw a younger crowd. I've personally never seen problems with underage drinking in the reputable SF nightclubs.

              I get the impression that the ABC people are working hard to justify their existence - they can't be fired if they have pending cases, right? - but maybe that's cynical. I have no inside info.

        2. re: osho

          Also, it's an ABC issue, so not surprising that you could sit next to cops while breaking the rule - they probably don't care much about it.

          1. re: Fig Newton

            Yeah, local cops don't enforce obscure liquor license provisions, the ABC does.

      2. Does anyone have a link to the specific CA ABC code that covers BYO?

        3 Replies
        1. re: pininex

          This does not contain the specific ABC code on BYOB (in fact, I don't there is one), but you can find trade information that does mention BYOB here:

          If you're really interested you can look into the code yourself, but be forewarned, it's almost 300 pages long.

          1. re: Euonymous

            I was looking for that yesterday and couldn't find it. The relevant part is at the bottom of page 8 and top of page 9.

            Kind of absurd that it's legal to take the unfinished portion of a bottle of wine home with you if you purchased it in the restaurant, but not if you brought it yourself.

            1. re: Euonymous

              Actually, it does reference the relevant code section -- Business & Professions Code 25604. That code states, among other matters, that

              " it is a public nuisance for any person to keep, maintain, operate or
              lease any premises for the purpose of providing therein for a
              consideration a place for the drinking of alcoholic beverages by
              members of the public or other persons, unless the person and
              premises are licensed under this division. As used herein
              "consideration" includes cover charge, the sale of food ...."

              This would seem to include restaurants that allow people to bring alcohol into the premises. It's not clear who exactly enforces this -- the code section goes on to say that the Attorney General of the state, or any district attorney, may enforce the section by "bring[ing] an action in the name of the people to abate the nuisance," and that the AG shall bring such an action if the ABC requests it. But as to day to day enforcement, my understanding is that the ABC typically only investigates if it has received a complaint -- but the ABC's only authority is as to a license, and they have no authority on their own to shut down an unlicensed restaurant. They can make the owner's life hell, though, which is probably enough to scare most restaurateurs out of allowing byob...

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