The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2014

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Page 44 of 136

44  /  the tasting panel  / december 2014 IN THE BIZ A black 1984 Rolls Royce Corniche convertible that once belonged to Martin Davis, the oil baron who once owned 20th Century Fox, is nestled around six or seven other classic cars, parked inside a garage-turned–office space in Downtown Los Angeles. "I never thought I would be interested in a Rolls Royce," said Craig Block, owner and operator of, which inhabits the space, "but I got to a certain age, where it was suddenly appealing. You kind of find your way." Finding the way for businesses looking to attain liquor licenses is exactly Block's specialty. Donning a button- down shirt with cufflinks and a sporty goatee, Block has a penchant for collecting cars—which take up about a third of's office, where we met back in October. Weaving in and among the cars, Block recounted the story of how he made it in the liquor licensing business. He was "a suit," working at a wholesaler, when a liquor store that was a client of his burned to the ground. The owner didn't know what to do with his liquor license, and Block, seeing oppor- tunity, offered to try to sell it. He succeeded, and when the company that bought it asked for 30 more, he knew he was onto something. Eventually, Block took a job with The Fox Agency—one of three big licensing companies—and when the owner, William Fox, died, with no natural successor, Block "inherited the mantle" and a life-long career.'s value may well rest in the fact that they work with regulatory agencies (like the ABC) on a day-to-day basis. "We spend a lot of time and energy cultivating product," explained Craig, "a specific license you need to allow the busi- ness to do what it needs to do. We understand what the agen- cies are looking for so that they don't have myriad of questions that leaves the client in a quandary about responding." The company is evolving, too. Block's son, Max, recently left his post at Wagstaff Worldwide, a major public relations firm headquartered in L.A., to join the family biz and build out their communications division (unlike Fox's agency, the eventual mantle will pass on to Craig's son). "We like to look at the company as an 'agency liquor license company,'" explains Max. "Clients get started with our liquor license escrow company; then the project goes through the consulting stage, goes through the escrow and, as we're working toward the completion of a project, PR and marketing can step in to build out a strategic plan to help the restaurant or bar come into fruition." In addition to many one-off clients, works with major chains including Hilton Garden Hotels, Walmart, Costco, AMC Theaters and major bar and restau- rant groups like 213 Nightlife, Spirited Group, Josef Centeno Restaurants and Ricardo Zarate Restaurants. After our interview, I was ogling an orange ragtop Volkswagen. "That's a 1974," said Block. "I'm very egalitarian; I can go from my Rolls Royce to my VW with no qualms," adding with a hearty laugh, "but if you're driving a Prius, don't start with me!" A Framework of Compliance FOR OVER THREE DECADES, CRAIG BLOCK HAS HELPED LICENSE LIQUID Craig Block, owner and opera- tor, story and photo by Jonathan Cristaldi

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