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A New Bill Could Make The Pandemic's Outdoor Dining Rules Permanent And Cut Red Tape For Restaurants

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A waitress takes customers' orders in the outdoor seating area of a restaurant in Los Angeles on January 28, 2021. (Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images)
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During the COVID-19 pandemic, officials in many California cities and counties temporarily revamped the rules for outdoor dining. If Senate Bill 314 (aka the Bar and Restaurant Recovery Act) passes, some of those regulations could become permanent.

Introduced last week by Senator Scott Weiner, who represents San Francisco and parts of San Mateo County, most of SB314 actually deals with the laws around alcohol licensing.

The bill would expand outdoor seating and service areas, allow cities to create open container zones and streamline the process of acquiring a liquor license.

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Here's what SB314, if passed as currently written, would do:

  • force California's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to speed up the process of issuing alcohol licenses so it takes no more than six months. (Currently, it often takes much longer than that.)
  • lift the cap on the number of invitation-only events that venues with alcohol permits can hold. (This would allow wineries and breweries to hold more tastings.)
  • create a new type of liquor license for live music venues
  • allow two different bars to operate at the same location
  • allow minors to enter a bar outside of liquor service hours. (Combined with the rule above, a bar that's only open in the evenings could share its space with a cafe that's only open during the day.)
  • authorize cities to to create "open container entertainment zones" at outdoor festivals, street fairs and concerts where people can buy and consume alcohol.
  • make the parklets, parking lots and other outdoor spaces where restaurants have been allowed serve food and drinks a permanent fixture

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A State of California "Notice of Suspension" sign hangs on the door of a store that was closed for violating of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act in Los Angeles County on January 22, 2021. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

"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," Wiener told ABC7 in Northern California. "We want to make sure we are being as flexible as we can to make these businesses succeed."

SB314 is still in its infancy. The bill was introduced on February 4 and won't head to committee before March 7.

The bill has several co-authors from up and down the state. They include Assembly Member Wendy Carillo of the 51st District (which covers East Los Angeles and several Northeast L.A. neighborhoods), Assembly Member Eduardo Garcia (who represents parts of Riverside and Imperial counties) and State Senator Andreas Borgeas (who represents parts of the Central Valley and the Sierra Nevada).