The State Worker

Head of California liquor licensing agency calls it quits

Part of the liquor area at the Nugget Market in Davis on Feb. 18, 2015.
Part of the liquor area at the Nugget Market in Davis on Feb. 18, 2015.

The director of the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has retired, a state official said Monday, with the state beginning a nationwide search for someone to lead the agency that regulates almost 90,000 alcohol licenses in California.

Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Timothy Gorsuch as the department’s director in October 2013. In an e-mail to employees last week, Gorsuch said he was leaving to spend more time with family and friends and “then on to other adventures.”

“Being a part of your ABC family has been a tremendous honor for me and I will treasure all of the wonder memories and friendships that I will carry with me forever, thank you,” Gorsuch wrote in a May 3 e-mail, his last day at the department. The retirement will take effect May 17, said Russ Heimerich, a spokesman for the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, which oversees the department.

Gorsuch’s tenure coincided with continuing concerns about the department’s ability to enforce state alcohol rules. The state had almost 90,000 entities licensed to sell alcohol in summer 2015, an increase of about one-fifth from a decade earlier. Meanwhile, the number of authorized sworn agent positions had dropped from 165 to 145.

Earlier this year, Brown appointed Gorsuch’s chief deputy director, Lori Ajax, to lead the state’s new medical marijuana agency.

Until replacements are found for both posts, retired CHP deputy commissioner Mona Prieto will be the alcoholic beverage department’s acting director and CHP lieutenants Sunshine Garside and Julian Irigoyen will share the duties of acting chief deputy, Heimerich said.