The California Legislature is considering a bill that, if passed, would make the state’s liquor laws more flexible, with the aim of helping restaurants more nimbly adapt to outdoor dining as the COVID-19 pandemic wears on.
SB 314, introduced by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would permanently authorize restaurant parklets and allow cities to create open-container zones. The bill would also make it legal for bars and restaurants to share spaces with other businesses, allowing them to save money on rent and making it easier for pop-up restaurants to establish themselves.
“Bars & restaurants are struggling,” Weiner wrote in a tweet on Friday announcing the legislation. “Let’s help these small businesses recover.”
In California and across the country, the bar and restaurant industries have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic-induced economic downturn, forced to swiftly adapt their business models to takeout and outdoor dining. Thousands in California have shuttered permanently. A recent survey conducted by the California Restaurant Association found that of the restaurants still in operation, 30 percent said they will have to close completely or will close some locations.
The new legislation would permanently allow alcohol service in the outdoor dining spaces that have spilled onto streets and sidewalks during the pandemic. Cities and counties would also have the option of creating open-container zones in commercial outdoor spaces under the legislation.
SB 314 would also pave the way for more pop-ups to open by creating an exception to the current prohibition on multiple liquor licensees sharing space.
In addition, the bill aims to cut back on red tape for bars and restaurants by expediting the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s review of applications for caterer’s permits and liquor licenses. It would also create a new liquor license for live entertainment venues, eliminating an existing requirement that they have full kitchens in order to serve alcohol.
The legislation has bipartisan support. Among its coauthors are Sen. Andreas Borgeas (R-Fresno) and Assemblymember Carlos Villapudua (D-Stockton).
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