Avoid Penalty Flags from the ABC During Super Bowl 50

In anticipation of Super Bowl 50 on Sunday, February 7 in the Bay Area, and given the large number of both retail and supplier-side licensees that are participating at the Super Bowl, and in events and promotions in the week leading up to the game, the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has issued an advisory providing guidance to licensees participating, selling and/or serving alcoholic beverages at Super Bowl related events.

The takeaway from ABC’s advisory? All the same rules apply.  If you were not permitted to do something before, you are not permitted to do it now just because it’s Super Bowl.

However, a little reminder from the ABC about the rules never hurts, so here is a brief summary of their do’s and don’ts to help you avoid penalty flags during Super Bowl week.


  • The Super Bowl is not a “time out” for licensees.  All current laws and regulations remain in effect during Super Bowl and no new laws have been passed regarding the sale, service, consumption, or marketing of alcoholic beverages for Super Bowl.



  • Just because it’s the Super Bowl doesn’t mean after parties are allowed at licensed locations. It is still illegal (a misdemeanor) to sell or serve alcohol between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.  ABC guidelines also specifically say that purchasing alcohol ahead of time or in bulk to be served after 2 a.m. on a licensed premises is not permitted.



  • In case you forgot, it is unlawful to serve alcoholic beverages to minors under the age of 21 (even if they look like football players) and it is unlawful to serve alcoholic beverages to obviously intoxicated persons (even if they look like football players that just won the Super Bowl).  Make sure to keep checking IDs and monitor your customer’s behavior before selling or serving them any drinks.



  • All of your sales and service activities, and your location, need to be licensed, even though it might be a lot more fun to do something different “because its Super Bowl.”  You can only sell and serve alcoholic beverages in the areas covered by your existing licenses.  And you can only sell alcoholic beverages if you are licensed to do so.  This includes charging admission fees or pre-selling tickets that include alcohol in the admission or ticket price.



  • You can only sell what you are normally allowed to sell.   You are not permitted to sell an amazing Super Bowl inspired Vodka cocktail at your licensed premises if your license only permits you to sell wine or beer.


ABC is out and about, especially during big events like the Super Bowl, so just operate in accordance with the rules and regulations that are normally applicable to your license to ensure that you and your employees don’t fumble.

Super Bowl will bring a lot of business and potential new customers to industry members.  Keeping the above tips in mind will help ensure a winning Super Bowl for all involved (except maybe the losing team).

For more information on the rules and regulations governing the sales, service and distribution of alcoholic beverages, please contact Bahaneh Hobel via email.