Selling a Liquor License to Help a Desperate Store Owner

We represented a small liquor store owner in the transfer of an alcohol license to a gas station mini-mart operator after her husband was arrested and charged for committing a felony.

Our pro bono client owned the store with her husband in a lower-income neighborhood in Riverside County, California. Her husband operated the store, while our client worked at another low-paying job. Even with both salaries, the couple had trouble making ends meet.

Her husband’s arrest, subsequent plea of no contest and resulting immigration status issues further compounded the couples’ economic woes. The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) threatened to revoke the liquor license for the store; under the ABC’s rules, a fine or suspension of the license was not an option. However, license revocation would have left our client financially devastated, as it would have forced the store to permanently shut down and would have denied the client’s ability to transfer the license.

With the threat of the license revocation hanging over her head, our client attempted to sell inventory on the weekends while the license was still active. She was unable to afford to hire an employee to assist with sales, and she even suffered a robbery at the store during this already difficult time. In addition, her store’s landlord remained unresponsive as she struggled to make rent payments even after moving in with her parents.

Although the situation seemed dire, we were able to negotiate a deal with the ABC, placing a stay on the license revocation so long as our client transferred the license to an unrelated third party within 180 days. We then located a gas station mini-mart operator in Corona, California to purchase the license, and we patiently waited while the operator (a large corporate buyer) waded through layers of internal bureaucracy to file its transfer application with the ABC. After further negotiations with the ABC — including convincing them to accept documents signed solely by our client while her husband remained in custody and allowing her to relinquish inventory — the ABC finally authorized the transfer of the license.

When the dust settled, we were able to secure $30,000 for our client so she could begin to get her life back on track after what had become an excruciating nine-month ordeal. While the payment may not cure the entirety of our client’s financial woes, it will alleviate them somewhat and help her to close a painful chapter in her life.

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