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Outdoor Dining & Parklets Forever?

New CA bill proposes changing liquor laws to make them more flexible
By - posted 2/8/2021 No Comment

Could the popular outdoor dining and parklets become a permanent fixture in California? 

Thanks to ABC7 for sharing the news of a new proposed bill that will make California’s liquor laws more flexible and make it easier for bars and restaurants to keep utilizing the newly created outdoor dining spaces and parklets even after the pandemic ends.

Another highlight of the bill would be to create new “outdoor entertaining zones” for outdoor festivals, street fairs, and live-music concerts where people can purchase and consume alcohol, including from surrounding businesses.

A new bill introduced by Senator Scott Wiener, the Bar and Restaurant Recovery Act. SB 314 aims to help California’s restaurants, bars, and music venues recover economically from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic by creating more flexibility in how they can serve alcohol, including where they can serve and how they can share spaces with other businesses.

SB 314 makes the following changes to the alcohol rules governing restaurants, bars, and music venues:

● Makes permanent the temporary pandemic regulation allowing significantly expanded outdoor restaurant/bar seating with alcohol service, for example, on streets, parking lots, alleys, or sidewalks. This expanded outdoor seating and service area — previously prohibited under California’s alcohol laws — has allowed restaurants and bars to survive and has been wildly popular with the public, with a more European-feeling street life.

● Makes it dramatically easier for bars and restaurants to share commercial space with other bars and restaurants or with non-alcohol-serving businesses, thus allowing businesses to reduce their rent costs, in the following ways:

Allow minors to be present outside of liquor service hours, when alcohol is not being served. For example, a bar may share space with a daytime business, such as a cafe, movie theater, or other non-alcohol business. Currently, a minor is prohibited from being in the space even if no alcohol is being served at the time. This change will make it much easier for bars to share space with other businesses and thus relieve rent pressure.

○ Allow two different restaurants or bars to operate at the same location with different alcohol licenses, specifying each of their businesses’ operating hours on the license. Current law prohibits this kind of space sharing with different alcohol licenses.

○ Enable a building that has two or more businesses within it to utilize a shared alcohol consumption space, either indoors or outdoors. This will allow restaurants and bars to save on administrative costs by permitting the use of a shared location within a single licensed building.

● Streamlines and makes more flexible California’s alcohol license process by:

Expediting issuance of alcohol licenses by capping appeals and protest hearings to a firm six-month deadline. Currently, the process can take much longer.

○ Allowing businesses to use a flexible catering license at one location more than the 24 times allowed under current law. This change will provide restaurants and caterers with the discretion to use their catering license more often, creating a more stable income for their workers and a more consistent revenue source for their business.

○ Expediting the approval of new Type 58 catering licenses for existing businesses that already own a different type of alcohol license. Catering licenses give existing businesses additional ways to create revenue through food sales.

● Creates a new entertainment venue liquor license separate from a regular restaurant license. This new license will be specific to music entertainment venues, removing administrative time and costs that currently exist when a music venue tries to get a liquor license.

● Authorizes cities and counties to create an open container entertainment zone. This change will allow local governments to authorize outdoor festivals, street fairs, and live-music concerts where people can purchase and consume alcohol, including from surrounding businesses.

SB 314 is a bipartisan bill, co-authored by Senator Andreas Borgeas (R-Fresno) and Assemblymembers David Chiu (D-San Francisco), Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles), Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), Adam Gray (D-Merced), Carlos Villapudua (D-Stockton), Chad Mayes (I-Rancho Mirage), Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), and Eduardo Garcia (D-Imperial).

Read more at the Office of CA Senator Scott Weiner.

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