Conor Friedersdorf has an excellent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times discussing why obtaining a liquor license is so difficult and expensive for LA restaurants:
When I dine out in Los Angeles, I sometimes think of the editor Robert Messenger, who observed that a good cocktail 'whets the appetite, pleases the eye, and stimulates the mind. It is one of our conspicuous contributions to cultured living.' Or the writer Adam Gopnik, who said that 'meeting someplace with old and new friends, ordering wine, eating food, surrounded by strangers, I think is the core of what it means to live a civilised life.'
This is my way of saying that I like to order drinks at restaurants. But the price tag often stops me. Though California is home to many distillers and some of the world's most productive vineyards, a cocktail and a glass of wine while dining out can easily top $30. Why?
Supply and demand explains why wealthy Californians have access to, say, better real estate than poor Californians. There are only so many houses perched above the shores of Malibu, only so many courtside seats at Staples Center, and they go to the highest bidders. But the high cost of ordering a Negroni or a glass or Chianti is largely our creation, the result of a manufactured scarcity in licenses to sell liquor. A restaurateur must incur thousands of dollars in direct costs just to be in the drink business. And the process is so complicated that consultants and lawyers are hired to help navigate it..."
The whole piece is worth reading: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-friedersdorf-liquor-license-20170629-story.html