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Why L.A.'s 1st Ever Beerathon Got Canceled

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Photo by Alan Heitz via the LAist Featured Photos pool
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Last night the organizers of L.A.'s 1st-ever Beerathon let us know that the event had been called off thanks to regulations from the state of California prohibiting free beer. Well, it's a little bit more complicated than that.

The state agency that hands out liquor licenses, the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), says that Beerathon never got a license to sell alcohol. John Carr, a representative from the ABC, put it simply, "If there's alcohol, there has to be a license."

Here's the agency's full statement:


This event was not canceled by the California Alcoholic Beverage Control (CABC), but rather by the event organizers after contact by ABC informing them of the applicable state laws. CABC was not contacted in advance by the organizers of the event, but rather we contacted them as soon as the event was brought to our attention on Wednesday of this week.

The organizers do not hold any licenses authorizing them to sell alcohol. Selling alcohol without a license is a misdemeanor in California.

Had a bar/restaurant participated in this event, they would have been in violation of several sections of California law by participating in an unlicensed sale of alcohol or allowing an unlicensed person to use their license without authority. By doing so, the bars and restaurants would risk disciplinary action being filed against their alcoholic beverage licenses. Penalties can range from a fine to revocation of an ABC license.

The Department encourages community events which promote the health, safety, and well-being of the citizens of this State. In this particular event, the ticket price of $55 included 26 beers, a large quantity of alcoholic beverages. Events of this nature promote intemperance and the over-consumption of alcohol. Over-consumption of alcoholic beverages can pose a danger to public safety and lead to public intoxication, driving under the influence, and other alcohol-related crimes.
LAist spoke with Sam, the organizer of the Beerathon who insists on only going by his first name. He said that the organizers spoke with a liquor law attorney and an ABC expeditor, which he explained is someone who doesn't work inside the ABC but is well-versed in liquor laws.
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"It wasn't like we were going to throw this party and no one would know about it," Sam said.

He was advised that the Beerathon didn't need a permit from the ABC since the event was essentially a glorified pub crawl. So the Beerathon organizers ran their proposal by fire inspectors, but they never cleared it with the ABC because they didn't think it was necessary.

Sam first heard from the ABC on Thursday, and he said he tried to work out a deal but the ABC didn't like any of the proposals. If Beerathon had gone ahead, any of the participating bars could have lost their liquor license temporarily, so they had to back out completely.

Sam said he felt blindsided by the ABC's request, adding: "There was an agenda behind shutting this thing down."

He also put out a statement giving his thoughts on regulatory agencies: "Government is always resistant to new approaches, especially to regulatory issues and regulated industries. Here, crowd and liability issues were particularly concerning."

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But if all you wanted to do tomorrow was go downtown and try a bunch of beer with a bunch of other people, you can still do that. The bars will still be open and many of them will be offering specials. Caroline on Crack has a round-up of some of the drink specials that will be going on.