A moratorium on additional retail off-sale beer/wine licenses in cities and counties around California has been lifted in two counties and 21 cities. The moratorium was put in place in 1995, by legislation, which prohibited the issuance of new licenses in cities and counties where the ratio of licenses exceeds the population of one for each 2,500 inhabitants.

Counties, which were under the previous moratorium, but where ABC can now issue licenses up to the allowed ratio, include Riverside and Sacramento. Some cities in those counties are still under the moratorium. Cities no longer under the moratorium include Newark, Pittsburg, Culver City, Glendale, Pico Rivera, Corte Madera, Laguna Beach, Canyon Lake, Corona, Hemet, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Moreno Valley, Murrieta, Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, Riverside, Temecula, Citrus Heights, Folsom, and Escondido.

Three cities that have been added to the moratorium list are Fairfield, El Segundo, and Manhattan Beach.

ABC Interim Director Manuel Espinoza says increased populations of the counties and cities resulted in the lifting of the moratoriums, while those cities that went on the moratorium list were the result of the number of beer and wine licenses reaching the level of the maximum ratio of licenses to population.

By statute, the new moratorium list will be in effect for five years. People who wish to obtain a beer/wine license, and who live in a moratorium city or county, will have to purchase one from an existing licensee, with the approval from ABC. Background checks by ABC are required to make sure the applicant is qualified to obtain a liquor license.

An exception to the moratorium rule allows ABC to issue a beer and wine license if local government agrees that a public convenience and necessity will be served by the issuance of the license, and the license location is not in a high crime area.

The temporary beer/wine license moratorium was made permanent by the State Legislature in 1997 as part of a comprehensive four-bill package, which strengthened ABC's statutory authority to crack down on problem liquor licenses. Supported by the League of California Cities, the statute also restricts the issuance of licenses in areas with high concentrations of liquor licenses or in high crime areas.

The law already restricts the issuance of "general" off-sale liquor licenses, which allows the selling of distilled spirits, to one license for every 2,500 population in any county. That ratio was established in 1963.