Historically, the profit margin from the sale of alcoholic beverages has helped restaurant owners stay afloat during sharp rises in rent and payroll costs. When numerous restaurants and bars were threatened with closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, City Planning released the framework for a proposed new program—called the Restaurant Beverage Program, or RBP—to simplify the approval process for sit-down restaurants to sell and serve alcoholic beverages.
The RBP Ordinance offers long-term financial relief to support local economic growth through a streamlined approval process. Rather than applying for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP), which is costly and can take months for the City to process, the RBP Ordinance creates two administrative clearance processes, a “General” version and an “Alcohol Sensitive Use Zone” version, for eligible restaurants. The Department’s Beverage & Entertainment Streamlined (BESt) Unit can approve these in weeks, rather than months, at a fraction of the cost of a CUP. The RBP Ordinance went into effect on March 31, 2022.
Under the General version, restaurateurs agree to comply with more than 50 standards similar to, and in some cases stricter than, typical conditions of approval applied under the CUP process in exchange for the program’s many benefits. Alternatively, the restrictive version of the program, which was created by the City Council, contains additional criteria to provide additional protections for communities that are burdened with public health and safety issues associated with the sale of alcoholic beverages. The City Council has the ability to opt specific geographies into either version of the program by Council Resolution.
The RBP application process is estimated to take about four weeks and cost about $6,000—nearly 66 percent less than a CUP, which costs about $15,000. Nightclubs, bars, and liquor stores are not eligible for the RBP; these businesses are still required to obtain a CUP, which involves community input, if they wish to sell alcohol.
Over the past few weeks, the City Council adopted Council Resolutions to activate the provisions of the RBP within Council Districts 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 12, and 15, with the most recent Council Resolution for Council District 12 adopted on June 15, 2022. As a result, restaurants within these eight Council Districts are now able to apply for the RBP. The City Council has the ability to add to or modify existing eligible geographies and may do so in the coming weeks and months.
For more information, and to apply online, visit planning.lacity.org/restaurant-beverage-program.