*Update* California State Senate Bill SB 32 has been passed and signed into law, taking effect immediately. Thanks to the people who worked hard to make it happen.
This bill was introduced in response to a sudden crackdown by the ABC (Alcholic Beverage Control) on infusions, homemade bitters and tinctures, sangria, and other 'rectified' drinks at cocktail bars in San Francisco.
Most bar owners did not know that these common practices were illegal and the crackdown set off a bit of a panic. My take on the issue from February 2010 is here. (I can't believe it's been that long already!)
The bill was, in short:
SB 32 (Small Business Regulation Reform) – SB 32 modernizes the state’s outdated alcoholic beverage law to permit the innovative, artisanal practice by bars and restaurants of creating “infusions.” Infused cocktails, which are made by flavoring alcohol with fruits, vegetables, herbs or spices, have become increasingly popular throughout the state.
Legally, the bill redifines the term 'rectifier' to exclude on-premise rectification for on-premise consumption- meaning bars can rectify spirits for drinking at the bar. The bill's text is below.
BILL NUMBER: SB 32 AMENDED BILL TEXT AMENDED IN SENATE MAY 26, 2011 INTRODUCED BY Senator Leno (Coauthor: Senator Berryhill ) (Coauthors: Assembly Members Jeffries, Ma, and Portantino) DECEMBER 6, 2010 An act to amend Section 23016 of the Business and Professions Code, relating to alcoholic beverages , and declaring the urgency thereof, to take effect immediately . LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST SB 32, as amended, Leno. Alcoholic beverages: definitions: rectifiers. The Alcoholic Beverage Control Act contains various provisions regulating the application for, the issuance of, the suspension of, and the conditions imposed upon, alcoholic beverage licenses by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Existing law defines a "rectifier" to include every person who colors, flavors, or otherwise processes distilled spirits by distillation, blending, percolating, or other processes. This bill would refine exclude from the definition of "rectifier" to exclude any on-sale licensee that colors, flavors, or blends distilled spirits or wine products on the licensed premises for consumption on those premises. This bill would declare that it is to take effect immediately as an urgency statute. Vote: majority 2/3 . Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: yes. State-mandated local program: no. THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: SECTION 1. Section 23016 of the Business and Professions Code is amended to read: 23016. "Rectifier" means every person who colors, flavors, or otherwise processes distilled spirits by distillation, blending, percolating, or other processes. "Rectifier" does not include an on-sale licensee that colors, flavors, or blends distilled spirits or wine products on the on-sale licensed premises to be consumed on the licensed premises. SEC. 2. This act is an urgency statute necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety within the meaning of Article IV of the Constitution and shall go into immediate effect. The facts constituting the necessity are: In 2008, the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) issued an advisory informing on-sale licensees that engaging in rectification of distilled spirits exceeded their licensing privileges. The ABC has recently started to forcefully notify on-sale licensees of this advisory. As a result, many bars and restaurants have stopped serving infused drinks and have experienced a drop in business. Therefore, to allow businesses to resume this economically stimulating business practice as soon as possible in order to bolster California's economy and to aid struggling bars and restaurants in this economically stagnant time, it is necessary for this act to take effect immediately.