The California State Legislature passed AB 416, which was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on October 10, 2023. This allows the sale of Japanese Shochu to Type 41 liquor license holders in the state, according to The Japan Sake and Sochu Makers Association (JSS).
Sponsored by Assemblymembers Al Muratsuchi and Miguel Santiago, AB 416 now allows Shochu with an ABV of 24% or less to be classified in the category of beer and wine and thus, permitted to be sold to Type 41 liquor licensees, JSS states. Type 41 liquor licensees are generally restaurants and bars where beer and wine is permitted to be sold and consumed.
Shochu Receives Proper Labeling
Prior to the passage of AB 416, Japanese Shochu with an ABV of 24% or less could be sold to Type 41 licensees but it had to be labeled as “Soju,” which is a Korean distilled product, according to JSS. This was a result of the prior passage of an exception for Korean Soju and guidance from the California ABC directing such labeling. This had been the practice in California since the 1990s and was viewed as confusing and also overlooked important cultural distinctions.
With the enactment of AB 416, Shochu with an ABV of 24% or less is now in the same category as beer and wine, allowing restaurants and retailers with Type 41 liquor licenses to sell the beverage in their establishments. AB 416 also permits Japanese Shochu distillers to properly label their product as “Shochu.” The proper labeling of Shochu now eliminates any possible market confusion between Japanese Shochu and Korean Soju, JSS states.
“After years of campaigning and lobbying, we are incredibly pleased that AB 416 has been passed and signed into law. I sincerely appreciate the sponsorship and efforts of Assemblymembers Al Muratsuchi, Miguel Santiago, and Governor Newsom for signing the bill into law. This is an incredible team effort from distillers, exporters, importers, and especially all members of the Japanese Restaurant Association of America” says Hitoshi Utsunomiya, Director of JSS, in a news release. “Shochu has a long and celebrated history within the United States and we are delighted to be able to continue this legacy with our brands. Additionally, we are pleased that bar and restaurant owners are now allowed to sell and serve Japanese Shochu under its proper name.”