California Grocers Assn. sues state Alcoholic Beverage Control over advisory aimed at providing guidance on complying with law regulating alcohol sales at self-checkout terminals; CGA says advisory is inconsistent, unenforceable, illegal

SACRAMENTO, California , December 29, 2011 () – -The California Grocers Association today filed a petition for writ of mandate to stay a California Alcoholic Beverage Control Industry Advisory that attempts to provide guidance in complying with a new state law to regulate alcoholic beverage sales at assisted self-checkout terminals.

CGA claims 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 January 1, 2012. The law 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. But the definition is vague and the Advisory is an illegal underground regulation,” said CGA President Ron Fong. “The Advisory is as unclear as the law itself. To protect our members, CGA was forced to file this writ.”

Rather than issue this Advisory, Fong said, the ABC should follow standard procedure and promulgate regulations through the APA.

“We strongly disagree with the ABC’s attempted interpretation of the new law,” Fong said, adding CGA met with ABC officials to discuss the new law. “What was discussed in our meetings was significantly different than the Industry Advisory released last week.”

CGA filed the writ in the California Third District Court of Appeal. In addition to requesting the advisory be withdrawn, CGA requested the Court immediately issue an alternative writ of mandate that stays the effectiveness of the advisory pending a final ruling by the Court.

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