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Am I a tobacco retailer?

A "Tobacco retailer' means any person who sells, offers for sale or distribution, exchanges, or offers to exchange for any form of consideration, tobacco, tobacco products, or tobacco paraphernalia without regard to the quantity sold, distributed, exchanged, or offered for exchange. If any part of this definition applies to your business, then you are required to obtain a City of Hawthorne tobacco retail license.

I already have a state tobacco license issued by the California Board of Equalization. Why do I need a tobacco license from the City?
The tobacco license issued by the California Board of Equalization is meant to curb tobacco tax fraud and the counterfeiting of tobacco products. That license does not preempt local jurisdiction from adopting local tobacco licenses. The City of Hawthorne City Council adopted this ordinance on April 22, 2008 to encourage responsible tobacco retailing and to discourage violations of federal, state and local tobacco-related laws, especially those that prohibit the sale or distribution of tobacco products to minors.

To legally sell tobacco products in the unincorporated areas of the County you will need a valid state tobacco license and a City tobacco license.

What does the City's tobacco license require?
The license requires that tobacco retailers comply with federal, state and local tobacco related laws, including provisions of the City's tobacco license. Information about the City's tobacco license is provided in this FAQ and can also be found in the Hawthorne Municipal Code, Ordinance No. 1920.

How much is the license?
The license fee is $375 annually.

Where do I send the license application and required documents and payment? Mail the tobacco retail license application and required documents to:

City of Hawthorne
Licensing & Code Enforcement
4455 W 126th Street
Hawthorne, Ca 90250

How long is the license effective?
The license is effective for one year, from January 1st to December 31st, and has to be renewed annually.

Do I need to re-apply for the license every year?
No. If you have not changed retailing locations, you do not have to re-apply for the license. However, you must pay an annual license fee. If the retail location has moved or has changed its name since the last license was issued, you must re-apply for the license. If the retail business has been sold, the new owner must apply for a new license.

Can I sell tobacco from a mobile location such as a truck or car?
No license may be issued to authorize tobacco retailing at other than a fixed location. Itinerant tobacco retailing is prohibited.

What do I do if I have multiple tobacco retailing locations?
Each location that sells tobacco, tobacco products, and/or tobacco paraphernalia must have its own license. Each location must pay the license fee of $375 annually.

Will there be inspections?
Yes. Environmental Health Inspectors will conduct regular site inspections of retailers for compliance with local, state and federal tobacco retail laws. The Sheriffs Department will conduct random undercover youth decoy operations to check compliance with laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to minors.

What will happen if I am cited for a license violation during an inspection?
Violations of the license are subject to monetary fines, suspension and/or revocation of the license, depending on the type of violation and number of past violations.

Can I appeal a violation?
Yes. Retailers must submit a request in writing for an administrative hearing to review the violation. The request must be submitted and filed with the County within ten (10) calendar days following the notification of the violation.
Who do I contact if I have additional questions?
Retailers can contact the Tobacco Control and Prevention Program at 213-351-7317 or visit http://www.lapublichealth.org/tob for further information.

Can a Business be Conducted from a Personal Residence?
Business License/Tax Certificates are issued to businesses being conducted from a residence, however there are restrictions. If you intend to operate a business from your home, please contact the Planning Department to determine the regulations prior to commencing with any activity.

Is an Alarm Permit Required?
If you maintain an alarm system in your business, an Alarm System Permit is required in addition to the Business License/Tax Certificate. The annual fee for an Alarm System Permit is $69.00, and is valid for a fiscal year (July 1 - June 30). There is also a one time application fee of $56.00.

Alarm Permit Application Form

What is a Business License/Tax Certificate?
A Business Tax Certificate is commonly referred to as a Business License, however this term is a misnomer because it implies competence in a given field with testing for qualifications. The City of Hawthorne does not regulate the competence of professions for the purpose of enforcement.

What is the Duration of a Business License/Tax Certificate?
All Business License/Tax Certificates are issued for a calendar year period and expire December 31st of each year. Renewals must be paid in full on or before January 31st of each year, or penalties in the amount of 25% per month to a maximum of 100% will accrue. Renewal notices are mailed approximately 30 days prior to the expiration of a business license/tax certificate. Failure to receive a renewal notice will not relieve licensee of delinquency penalties -- it is the responsibility of the owner to maintain a current certificate.

Business License/Tax Certificates are not transferable, and as such, change of owner(s) and or address requires a new application and inspection fees.

When is a Business License/Tax Certificate Required?
Any person conducting or purporting to conduct any business, profession, trade or occupation, either directly or indirectly must pay a Business Tax, whether or not said person has a fixed place of business within the City and regardless of it being for profit.

The Business Tax benefits both the community and the business sector by generating revenue to support City services.

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