Conditional Use Permits

Conditional Use Permits (CUP) are required for certain land uses which may need special conditions to ensure compatibility with surrounding land uses. It is crucial to obtain a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) if the owner wants to open businesses in most local districts. Often, the City and County require a discretionary permit with set conditions to regulate specific businesses within their jurisdictions. CUP is time–sensitive and marked with a termination date. However, a CUP status can only be revealed through extensive research.

Special permits are required to operate various types of businesses, such as an ABC License CUP for the Sale of Dispensing of Alcoholic Beverages. The Code Solution is pleased to offer pre-screening of your potential business with minimal charge.

Most zoning ordinances identify certain land uses which do not precisely fit into existing zones, but which may be allowed upon approval of a conditional use permit (sometimes also known as a “special use permit” or a CUP). These might include community facilities (such as hospitals or schools), public buildings or grounds (Such as fire stations or parks), temporary or hard-to-classify uses (such as Christmas tree sales or small engine repair shops), or land uses with potentially significant environmental impacts (hazardous chemical storage or a house in a floodplain). As with Zone Change and Zone Variance, a public hearing must be held to consider conditional use permits. If the local planning commission or zoning board approves the use, it will usually do so subject to certain conditions being met by the permit applicant. Alternatively, it may deny uses which do not meet local standards.

CUP, ABC License, and Special Permits FAQ

If a business falls into a specified category, a CUP would not be sufficient to legally operate the business. Coupled with a CUP, the owner should also obtain additional special use permits. Listed below are the types of businesses that require special permits by the local government: Ask a question
          • Restaurants
          • Cafes
          • Wine Bars
          • Bars
          • Night Clubs
          • Live Entertainment-Dancing
          • Karaoke
        Ask a question
          • Gas Stations
          • Auto Repair
          • Car Wash and detailing centers
          • Counseling and Referral Facilities (Department of Social Services Permit)
        Ask a question
          • Children’s Afterschool Care Centers/Academies, Consulting Offices, College Prep Classes, General Education Facilities
          • Hotels (CUP, ABC and Health)
          • Mini-Shopping Centers (CUP, ABC)
          • Supermarkets and Mini-Markets, Convenience Stores
          • Wireless Telecommunication Facilities (CUP)
          • Storage Building for Household Goods (CUP)
          • Religious Organization (CUP)
          • Elderly Care Facilities (CUP, Health, State License)
        Ask a question

The State of California will not issue an ABC License without obtaining a Conditional Use Permit first!

The most general types of ABC licenses issued in the State of California:

  • On/Off Sale General (All alcohol including hard liquor)
    • On/Off Sale Beer & Wine ONLY
Ask a question

When an illegal activity related to selling alcohol is reported to the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, the State Agency sends the Licensee(s) a legal letter—Notice of Defense. The Licensee has 10 days to reply either to “appeal the accusation” or submit a “stipulation and waiver” form to pay a fine in lieu of serving the suspension.


the code solution

Service Inquiry

Contact us today with information about your project, and we’ll get respond to you with a free estimate within 1-business day.

Ask a question



Q: Why do I need a Conditional Use Permit?

A: Most zoning ordinances identify that certain land uses do not adequately fit into the characteristic of existing zones, but it may be permitted upon approval of a “Conditional Use Permit” (a.k.a Special Use Permit). While a CUP grants permission to use the land as proposed, the local government body places conditions set aside for each project. These conditions must be followed by both tenants and landowners, or the approval is nullified. Such effectuated grant is tied to the property, where terms and conditions do not change in the event of sale or transfer (unless stated otherwise or expires with termination date).

Q:I used to operate a restaurant that sold beer and wine. I was also able to sell SOJU with my beer and wine license. Recently, I purchased a mini-market that already sells beer and wine. Can I sell SOJU under this beer and wine license?

A: NO. Many alcohol-related business owners are confused with this matter, but SOJU is categorized differently by On-Sale and Off-Sale under ABC’s Business and Professions Code. To clarify this matter, On-Sale categorizes SOJU as fortified wine and may be legally sold under TYPE 41 Beer and Wine license. HOWEVER, Off-Sale categorizes SOJU as hard liquor, and may ONLY be sold with TYPE 21 General (hard liquor) license.

Q:What other businesses require a CUP to operate?

A: There are many business types that require a Conditional Use Permit to legally operate. Some of most frequent businesses include: food establishments with sale and dispensing of alcohol (such as a restaurant, cafe, bar, night club, live entertainment, karaoke, etc.), automotive uses (gas station, auto repair, car wash), community facilities (such as a hospital, school, or church), hotels and motels, mini-shopping centers (supermarket, mini-market, or convenience store), elderly care facilities, massage parlors, wireless telecommunication facilities, and many more.

Q: I am purchasing a business that has an ABC license. Do I also need a CUP?

A: YES. Many business owners are unaware of the fact that your State will NOT issue you an ABC license prior to obtaining and getting approval of a Conditional Use Permit from your local City FIRST!


Q: What is the difference between CUP renewal and Plan Approval?

A: Often times, the applicant has the option of “changing” operating conditions approved from the previously approved CUP conditions. For example, a restaurant owner wants to increase the number of dining rooms (existing 9 rooms). Under Plan Approval, the owner is approved up to a 20% upgrade from the existing conditions set by the previously granted operating conditions (20% of 9 rooms yield 1.8 rooms, which gives the owner a total of 11 rooms).

Note: You do not need to file another CUP renewal, because the Plan Approval grants the upgrade in conditions as well as automatically renews your grant.

Q:What is the difference between applying for a new CUP vs. renewal of an existing CUP?

A: In the event a business owner or a landowner applies for a Conditional Use Permit, they might not exactly achieve what they requested for. However, it would be in the best interest of the owner(s) to operate under this new grant for the first 2-3 years and request for an upgrade in conditions (i.e. extending operating hours to sell alcohol, adding karaoke rooms, etc.) when renewing the grant after a certain timeframe (usually noted as one of the conditions under the grant). Every new CUP will have an expiration period that runs anywhere from 2-5 years from the initial effectuated date of the grant. It is most beneficial on the owner’s part to RENEW one’s CUP because they receive reduction in application fees, the time it takes to review and approve the grant, and a higher chance in approval rate for condition requests made.

Q: Is it true that a licensee under an on-sale general license can obtain a caterer’s permit from the ABC Department?

A: YES. Any licensee under an on-sale general license, a club license, or a veterans’ club license may apply to the department for a caterer’s permit.

Q:I operate/own a banquet hall, but the site does not have an alcohol license issued. How can I manage an event that involves dispensing alcohol?

A:You may hire an event caterer, who is a licensee of a caterer’s permit issued by the ABC Department.

Case Study

conditional use permits


Discover how our CUP team worked with an assisted living management company for one of our multi residential projects.