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San Luis Obispo County businesses await approval of more liquor licenses

Posted at 5:50 PM, Jul 09, 2024

Right now, San Luis Obispo County is tapped out on liquor licenses. That means if a new restaurant wants one, they either have to hope they are selected by the county in a lottery system, which hasn’t happened since 2014, or buy one from an existing business.

In some cases, on the open market, liquor licenses can cost as much as $200,000, according to Blue Mango’s Management Services Director of Operation Samantha Welch.

“As new businesses start to grow and fewer become available, then it definitely became like high-end real estate, business real estate,” Welch said.

The Alcoholic Beverage Control’s Deputy Division Chief of Licensing, Richard Slife, explained that there is only one factor that determines how many licenses can be issued to different counties. It's an equation that looks at whether a county has experienced enough increase in population to warrant additional licenses.

“With the present formula, we're limited to that population increase and there is no other criteria as of now,” Slife said.

He says new population data is being gathered now and will determine how many and what kind of licenses each county will be getting but if more liquor licenses do become available, Welch sees it as a benefit.

“I think it could stimulate growth. I think it would definitely stimulate more competition, but competition makes us all stronger, I think,” she said.

However, Slife added that despite the frustrations felt by business owners over a lack of distilled spirit licenses, they are ready and able to accept applications for various beer and wine licenses.

The official number of licenses that will become available to different counties comes out in August. Applications for those licenses can be submitted between September 9-20.