The maximum penalty for serving alcohol after hours in California is six months in jail and a fine of $1,000. In the state, selling alcohol outside of legal hours is a misdemeanor offense with serious consequences. The consequences can be even more severe for parties who serve alcohol to minors after hours.
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What Type of Crime Is Selling Alcohol After Hours?
Selling alcohol after hours is a misdemeanor criminal offense. In California, the legal hours for alcohol sales are from 6:00 AM to 2:00 AM. Serving alcohol outside of this window — in the early morning hours from 2:00 AM to 6:00 AM — constitutes a misdemeanor crime. Even providing just one drink to a customer after hours could lead to charges and penalties.
What Time Do They Start Selling Alcohol in California?
After 6:00 AM is the time a business may start selling alcohol in California. A business (e.g., restaurant, bar, liquor store, or club) may not sell alcohol between the hours of 2:00 AM and 6:00 AM. This four-hour period overnight is considered “after hours” for alcohol sales. If a bar stays open serving food or other drinks during these hours, they cannot legally provide any alcohol to patrons.
Excessive alcohol consumption (e.g., binge drinking and heavy average daily alcohol consumption), is responsible for approximately 79,000 deaths per year in the United States. It’s the third-leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., according to “The Effectiveness of Limiting Alcohol Outlet Density as a Means of Reducing Excessive Alcohol Consumption and Alcohol-Related Harms.” by Carla A Campbell, Carla, et al.
Each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) records roughly 140 deaths in the U.S. from excessive alcohol use. Excess alcohol use is also responsible for more than 900,000 emergency room visits in 2020, according to a study on emergency room trends by Marissa B. Esser, et al.
The penalties for serving just one drink after hours can include up to six months in jail and $1,000 in fines. Establishments also risk losing their liquor license altogether if they are caught violating alcohol sale laws multiple times.
Alcohol use accounts for a large portion of deaths and emergency room visits in the United States. By implementing laws and penalties for serving alcohol after hours, California is doing its share to regulate alcohol use and prevent excessive alcohol consumption within its borders.