Tips & Tricks
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Serving Alcohol at Nonprofit Events in California

What nonprofits need to know before having alcohol at their fundraising events

Alcohol donation laws—often full of legalese and unclear requirements—can be challenging to interpret. In this article, we hope to demystify liquor licenses laws for nonprofit events in California. Please note that these rules may not apply to your fundraising event if you’re located outside of California!

This is your crash course on most important things to know if you want to serve or sell donated alcohol at your nonprofit fundraising event:

What liquor license(s) do I need?

The Special Daily Permit is the liquor license that most nonprofits need when hosting special events. Keep on reading to see if your specific event needs this license!


How do I apply for a Special Daily Permit?

Visit the Alcohol Beverage Control’s website directly to fill out a licensing form. Their website also has a helpful page describing the steps in the ABC license application process.


I’m hosting an annual gala later this year. When should I start applying for a license?

Based on our research, event organizers suggest that you apply for a Special Daily Permit license no later than 2 weeks before your event. According to the ABC, the license must be used within 30 days of issuance.
If possible, start applying for alcohol donations before you obtain any licenses. Securing alcohol donations from wineries or breweries can take months.


I am planning a fundraising event that is free to the public. Can I serve donated alcohol for free? Do I need a liquor license?

Giving away alcohol for free during public events is prohibited. A public event is one that has no set guest list, and is free for anyone to enter.

You will need to sell the alcohol to guests if you want to keep the event open to the public. In this case, you will need a Special Daily Permit to sell alcohol at this fundraiser. If you definitely want to serve the alcohol for free, then you must restrict your invite list and make it a private event.


I am planning an event with no fee (entrance fee or mandatory donation) to attend, all drinks are free for attendees, and my venue does not require an ABC Event Permit. Do I need a liquor license?

Based on our research, event organizers suggest that you apply for a Special Daily Permit license no later You do not need a liquor license.


I am organizing a private fundraising event where all guests need to pay an entrance fee/donation. I have a caterer who will be pouring donated wine for my guests during dinner for free. Do I need a liquor license?

Your caterer, or whoever is serving the alcohol, will need a license. You do not need a Special Daily Permit.


I am organizing a private fundraising event where all guests need to pay an entrance fee/donation. I plan on selling donated beer to my guests. Who needs a liquor license?

Your caterer, or whoever is serving the alcohol, will need a license. You do not need a Special Daily Permit.


I am planning on raffling off wine and beer as prizes for my fundraiser. Do I need a liquor license?

In this case, you would need to obtain an ABC Special Daily Permit and follow the same steps as if you were selling alcohol at your event.


We just scratched the surface to share the most common, key information that a nonprofit would need to host a fundraising event with alcohol. Please read through our sources below for a more in-depth study of liquor license laws in California.

Also, note that the information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice (see full legal disclaimer below).

Sources:

Legal disclaimer: The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Information on this website may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information. This website contains links to other third-party websites. Such links are only for the convenience of the reader, user or browser; TheShareWay and its members do not recommend or endorse the contents of the third-party sites.



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