California Grocers Association Sues California Alcoholic Beverage Control

The California Grocers Association (CGA) has filed a petition for writ of mandate to stay a California Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) industry advisory that aims to provide guidance in complying with a new state law to regulate alcoholic beverage sales at assisted self-checkout terminals.

According to Sacramento-based CGA, the advisory is inconsistent with the statute, unenforceable and in violation of the California Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

The new law, Business and Professions Code Section 23394.7, takes effect Jan. 1, 2012. It provides that “no privileges under an off-sale license shall be exercised by the licensee at any customer-operated checkout stand located on the licensee’s physical premises.”

“The advisory attempts to provide grocery retailers guidance on how to comply with the new law, by defining one of the law’s key provisions,” noted CGA President Ron Fong. “But the definition is vague and the advisory is an illegal underground regulation. The advisory is as unclear as the law itself. To protect our members, CGA was forced to file this writ.”

Rather than issuing the advisory, the ABC should follow standard procedure and promulgate regulations through the APA, added Fong, who says CGA “strongly disagree[s] with the ABC’s attempted interpretation of the new law.”

The trade group filed the writ in the California Third District Court of Appeal. As well as requesting the advisory be withdrawn, CGA requested that the court immediately issue an alternative writ of mandate that stays the effectiveness of the advisory pending a final ruling by the court.

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