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Friday, Jun 2, 2023

There Is No Such Thing as Free Booze at Local Bars

How much free booze does it take to lure customers into bars these days?

Answer: None, unless the owner is willing to risk violating one of the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s rules.

Times are tough and many establishments are scrambling to find ways to entice business, but giving away liquor is verboten in California, warns Steve Zolezzi of the Food & Beverage Association of San Diego.

However, it’s all in the phraseology.

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For instance, bistros are not allowed to offer free alcoholic beverages to customers. OK, we get that.

But they “may offer packages that include beverage alcohol, provided the total charge to the customer covers their cost of acquisition,” the ABC’s rule states.


Marketing a Sunday champagne brunch with all the free bubbly one can drink is against the rule. However, it’s Hoyle to say that “included with your Sunday brunch is champagne,” Zolezzi said.

It’s also a no-no to offer a glass of wine for 1 cent with the purchase of a dinner entree. But it’s OK to say that the entree includes a glass of wine or alcoholic beverage of one’s choice.

Still confused? Zolezzi welcomes calls.

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It’s Sweet Sixteen For Dakota Grill & Spirits:
One of the oldest of the Cohn Restaurant Group’s eateries, Dakota Grill & Spirits, a steakhouse that opened in 1993 in the first two floors in what’s noted as the city’s first downtown skyscraper, celebrated its 16th birthday the week of Feb. 16.

David Cohn, who heads the family business, called it one of his bolder moves because the Gaslamp Quarter had yet to go through the redevelopment, including a retro baseball stadium that made it what it is today.

Over the years, Dakota Grill has snagged numerous awards, including the California Restaurant Association’s Gold Medallion and the The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Reader’s Poll , Best Eclectic Cuisine.

And if Cohn were to celebrate all of his restaurants’ birthdays, it would take 12 parties throughout the year. Aside from the Dakota Grill, the list includes the Gaslamp Strip Club, Island Prime, Indigo Grill, Prado, Corvette Diner, Kemo Sabe, Blue Point, Mister Tiki Mai Tai Lounge, Thee Bungalow and 333 Pacific. Another, the Pineapple Grill, is located in Hawaii.

Send tourism and hospitality news to Connie Lewis via e-mail at clewis@sdbj.com.


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