Government Intrusiveness Fact of the Day

To get a liquor license for my corporation in California, I must tell the state where I was married and on what date(!)  This is about the weirdest thing I have been asked on a form for my corporation.  Of course this is on top of the usual over-the-top list of requirements to get a liquor license which include providing the state with:

  • Fingerprints of owners and officers
  • Name of bank and checking account numbers
  • Name and address of accountant
  • Name and address of attorney
  • For every owner and officer:
    • Spouse's name
    • Home address
    • Home phone number
    • Drivers license number
    • Social Security number
    • Height, weight, eye and hair color
    • Value of home
    • Value of investments
    • Debts and mortgages
    • Net worth and Personal income history (again for each as individuals, not for the corporation).

The entire application, including forms and drawings, requires hours and hours to complete.  As is usually for government forms packages, the same information is requested on multiple forms.  To apply for two licenses requires two entire sets of forms filled out, signed, and notarize separately, despite the fact that 99.9% of the information is the same.  My wife and I have to fill out extensive, totally identical personal affidavits multiple times, despite the fact that the exact same forms with all this information are already on file with the State of California for other liquor licenses the company holds in the state.

The purpose, of course, is twofold:

  • To make sure we are not fronting for Al Capone, a problem that went out of date about 5 minutes after the repeal of prohibition, but still drives licensing requirements 75 years later.
  • To make the process arcane and onerous enough to discourage us from entering the business in California, or, as a minimum, to force us to hire a consultant to help us with the process, the profession of which is 99.9% dominated by ex-California ABC employees.  The harder the process is, the better the prospects for their post-retirement consulting gig.


  1. tomw:

    The unstated purpose, of course, is to insure sinecure for as many civil servants as possible. They make reliable vote sources.

  2. CT_Yankee:

    So someone can file a Freedom of Information request and get all you personal and business account information? I would hope that you have all the phone and bank account numbers promptly changed after each application.

  3. Esox Lucius:

    I live in a little town West of Chicago and we throw a little "Taste of..." town party each fall. Every year we labor over the "beer garden" as if something catastrophic and tragic is about to happen. It took 13 years of residents saying they didn't want to be fenced in to a beer garden before we were allowed to walk around with a pint in the fair. We have never in 15 years had a problem with underage drinking and there are cops everywhere all the time at this event. It amazes me that we get so bunged up about a couple of people drinking a few beers. It's like they are saying "I know I can take care of myself but everyone else must be a raging alcoholic"

    I swear, you take the most logical person and elect them to office and the turn into everyone's nanny.

  4. GU:

    Esox Lucius,

    I don't disagree, but I think there is another contributing factor to nannyism: having children. Once (many, not all) folks have kids, something in their mind snaps, and suddenly everything is an UNSPEAKABLE DANGER THAT MUST BE STOPPED LEST THE MENACE DESTROY MY CHILD. I call it "scared parents syndrome." Anyone else notice this, or am I way off?

    I should say that I think Coyote's public choice explanation is probably correct in this instance. But strong nanny values among the voting populace gives politicians enough slack to enact dumb laws like these without being challenged. Paternalistic values serve as an important cog in the political machine.

  5. Mark:

    I did a SBA loan in 2007. I filled out form after form, all asking for the same information. At closing, the loan processor came into the conference room with literally a file folder as thick as the white pages of a major metropolitan city. I would not doubt that I entered my name, address, dob, and social 100 times for that loan.

  6. CT_Yankee:

    Just backing up my comment above with something out of today’s news:

    Former NY state tax worker stole thousands of identities, opened phony credit card accounts

  7. rxc:


    I recognize the syndrome - I have a sister who is in severe withdrawal from the graduation/adulthood of her two children, and their departure into the dangerous outside world.

    I think these people make up for it by sponsoring laws designed to protect everyone else's children. Nannyism is a lifelong career.

  8. bobby b:

    Actually, they're trying to help you.

    Knowing that you're about to become heavily involved with alcohol, they're just trying to get you to write down all of that information in one easy-to-find spot. Once you have that permit in-hand and the beer trucks are pulling in, it'll be Katie, bar the door as far as you ever really knowing your SSN again.

  9. ElamBend:

    There is a reason for the marriage question. Lots of states use their licensing power as a cudgel to go after dead-beat dads. Half the info you give them is for other reasons. Another example is that here in the City of Chicago real estate developers are required to get a 'license' for each individual LLC (i.e. each development). Every single equity owner (of a certain % I forget) of the LLC as to submit their personal info (single page form) and another single page application is turned in. The city just takes a fee, UNLESS some equity owner owes for parking tickets or what not. Those have to be paid before the license is 'approved.'

  10. mahtso:

    Requiring the spouse and each equity partner to disclose their information makes perfect sense because it prevents the use of strawmen (or stawwomen as the case might be.) I have seen instances where a convicted felon tries to hide behind his wife pretending that she is the license-holder while he controls the operation. Of course, my comments are predicated on the system(s) that exist (i.e., limiting who may hold a license) and are not a comment on whether it would make more sense to allow anyone to sell liquor or real estate (or practice law or be an engineer or perform surgery....)