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Last Call For Alcohol: California Alcohol Laws

What are the California laws for alcohol? When is last call in California, when can you buy and sell alcohol in California? We answer these questions and more below. If you aren’t sure what your rights and responsibilities are under California alcohol laws, keep reading.

Last Call For Alcohol

When Is Last Call For Alcohol In California?

Typically, the hours between 2AM and 6AM are the hours when it is illegal to sell any alcohol in the state. There have been various attempts to change these hours, and certain municipalities may indeed have different requirements.

It’s best to look up the local ordinances before you visit as some locations may have more strict policies.

What Is The Penalty For Selling Alcohol Outside of Approved Hours?

Alcoholic sales between 2AM and 6AM may result in a $1,000.00 fine and/or 6 months in county jail. Unless otherwise regulated by a local ordinance, bar patrons typically must depart by 3AM.

Rules For Alcohol Delivery

California state law recognizes the time of delivery, not the time the alcohol is rung up, as the “official” time for determining compliance with the law. If you buy at 1:45 AM and the alcohol is delivered at 3AM, the delivery time is what counts when the law gets involved.

California Rules For Selling Alcohol During Daylight Savings Time

California state law specifies that alcohol sales must stop two hours after midnight, no matter what the clock may actually read when Daylight Savings Time changes take effect.

What Is The Minimum Age For Alcohol Sales Or Consumption in California?

You must be 21 or older to serve cocktails, while servers may be allowed to sell or dispense non-cocktail alcohol at 18 years of age, including food service. In California you must have an Alcohol Server Certification to sell or dispense alcohol.

California law makes a provision for anyone under 21 to consume alcohol in a private place if there are parents, guardians, or relatives present. To consume in public, you must be 21 or older. You may not purchase alcohol if you are under the age of 21.

California Drinking And Driving Laws

Drinking alcohol in a motor vehicle is illegal in the state of California. If an open container is visible, it is a violation, but certain exceptions may apply for taxis, motorhomes, buses, etc. It is unlawful to drive under the influence of intoxicants in California. A first DUI could lead to as much as six months of jail time, fines, and a license suspension. A second DUI conviction could see the offender incarcerated for as long as one year. Violators are subject to license suspension and other measures.

California Legal Alcohol Limit

It is illegal for you to drive if you have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of:

  • 0.08% or higher if you are over 21 years old.
  • 0.01% or higher if you are under 21 years old.
  • 0.01% or higher at any age if you are on DUI probation.
  • 0.04% or higher if you drive a vehicle that requires a commercial driver’s license.
  • 0.04% or higher if you are driving a passenger for hire.

California Laws For Alcohol In Boats

Operating a boat under the influence is illegal but there are no open container laws for boats. However, those convicted of a boating-related DUI face penalties up to one year in jail, a fine of $5,000 and other penalties.

California Laws For Selling Alcohol On Sundays

The State of California has no “Sunday law” restricting the sale of alcohol on Sundays.

FAQs about Alcohol Sales in California

What time do they stop selling alcohol in California?
Businesses stop selling alcohol at 2 a.m., according to California alcohol laws. Most bars stop serving between 1:30 a.m. and 1:45 a.m. but allow you to finish your drink prior to 2 p.m. Alcoholic beverages cannot be consumed from 6 a.m. – 2 a.m. at licensed liquor establishments.

How early can you buy alcohol in California?
Alcohol sold in a grocery or liquor store is classified as off-premise. Off-premise alcohol sales can occur from 6 a.m. – 2 a.m. from Sunday to Saturday in California.

What time can I buy beer in California?
Liquor and beer have the same sales hours in California. Beer can be purchased from 6 a.m. – 2 a.m. from Sunday to Saturday. 

Are there restrictions on buying alcohol on Sundays in California?
In California, there are no restrictions for buying alcohol on Sundays.

Does the time change mean an extra hour of drinking?
In California, you do not lose or gain an extra hour of drinking on the day of a time change. On the day that a time change occurs from Pacific standard time to Pacific daylight saving time, or back again to Pacific standard time, “2 o’clock a.m.” means two hours after midnight of the day preceding the day such change occurs.

Who regulates California’s liquor laws?
California’s Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) regulates alcohol sales in California. This means the power is at the state level rather than at the local level.

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Joe Wallace has been covering real estate, mortgage and financial topics since 1995. His work has appeared on ABC, The Pentagon Channel, plus a variety of print and online publications. He is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News.