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BYOB, what's the law? (LA restaurant question.)

I am posting here because there is a discussion at a different web site regarding the legality of bringing your own bottle to a restaurant. Seems there is a restaurant in LA that would let you BYO with no corkage fee. The catch is that the restaurant does not have a liquor license. Someone posted that this is illegal and the restaurant can be fined and never will get a license if they are caught doing this. But the BYO policy is prominently posted on the restaurant's own web site.

So what's the law here? Is the restaurant doing something illegal?

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  1. They have to have a license to allow BYOB. If they get turned in and caught (like Sawtelle Kitchen did before they finally got their license) it will result in a fine and slowing of the already "molasses in January" pace of getting said license...

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    Sawtelle Kitchen
    2024 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

    7 Replies
    1. re: Servorg

      So why would a restaurant without a license boldly advertise their BYO policy on their own web site?

      1. re: PeterL

        I assume it's relatively easier to get a BYOB license, than a full liquor license?

        1. re: reality check

          No BYOB license. Just a wine & beer (that also covers soju too) or a hard liquor that covers the gamut. As to the question by PeterL about WHY they would advertise it on their website...Because ignorance of the law is the most common excuse (to paraphrase the old saying).

      2. re: Servorg

        My understanding, which may not be correct, is that in order to permit BYOB, the restaurant needs to have a beer/wine license. I don't think that there is such a thing as a "BYOB license."

        My guess is that many restaurants that dont have licenses have no idea that having a license is required to permit BYOB. And I know of at least two cases in LA area where fairly prominent places have been busted for permitting BYOB without or prior to getting a license.

        1. re: wpage

          It's probably better to deal with the consequences of a fine than it is to lose the business one would lose if alcohol were prohibited. I've noticed a number of restaurants struggle because they couldn't serve alcohol (pizza places in particular) AND they were unable to offer BYOB.

          Remember, most of the profit in food service comes from the alcohol sales, not food sales.

          1. re: Steve2 in LA

            There is no sale in BYO. This place I am talking about don't even charge corkage.

            1. re: PeterL

              Steve means that the restaurant loses out on its FOOD sales if folks don't come in because of no BYOB.

      3. I always thought you could do the BYOB at an unlicensed place, after all, I used to love going to the liquor store next door to the old Caioti Cafe off Laurel Canyon. But no, that was illegal, since they used to provide glassware:

        "An on-sale retail licensee may permit an adult customer to bring in personal alcoholic beverages for consumption inside the licensed premises. Corkage fees may be charged to the customer but this is NOT mandatory. Be advised that license privileges may not be exceeded. For instance, a customer may NOT leave the licensed premises with a partially consumed personal bottle of wine since the wine was NOT purchased from the licensee, nor may a customer bring in any type of alcoholic beverage that could NOT be legally sold by the licensee (e.g., a bottle of vodka on a beer and wine licensed business.) The licensee remains responsible for any violations of law that might occur, such as furnishing alcohol to minors or to obviously intoxicated patrons.

        "Section 25604 makes it a public nuisance for any person to maintain any club room in which any alcoholic beverage is received or kept, or to which any alcoholic beverage is brought, for consumption on the premises by members of the public or of any club, corporation, or association, unless the person and premises are licensed under the ABC Act. 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 the ABC Act. As used herein "consideration" includes cover charge, the sale of food, ice, mixers or other liquids used with alcoholic beverage drinks, or the furnishing of glassware or other containers for use in the consumption of alcoholic beverage drinks."

        So given all this from the ABC, if I bring in my own bottle, wine opener and glassware to an unlicensed facility, is THAT ok? After all, they would not be furnishing anything.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ocshooter

          "Section 25604 makes it a public nuisance for any person to maintain any club room in which any alcoholic beverage is received or kept, or to which any alcoholic beverage is brought, for consumption on the premises by members of the public or of any club, corporation, or association, unless the person and premises are licensed under the ABC Act"

          I think the relevant words in there are "received" and "brought" which would make the answer to your last question NO... ;-D> (unless, of course, you happen to actually be one of those rare folks who are personally "licensed under the ABC Act" and have an open carry and consumption license)