Senator Wiener’s Legislation Extending Outdoor Dining with Alcohol Passes Assembly Committee on Governmental Organization

July 14, 2021

SACRAMENTO - Senator Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) Bar and Restaurant Recovery Act, Senate Bill 314, passed the Assembly Committee on Governmental Organization with a unanimous, bipartisan vote. SB 314, along with its partner legislation authored by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, Assembly Bill 61, will permanently allow the popular and successful outdoor dining and parklet regulations currently in place because of the pandemic. SB 314 will 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.

Restaurants and bars across the state have made use of expanded outdoor seating and service areas, allowing them to stay open and survive the pandemic. This expanded outdoor dining with alcohol has also been wildly popular with the public, giving our cities a more European street life feel. Expanded outdoor dining has the potential to make our cities more vibrant, lively and prosperous. 

Combined with other critical measures, SB 314 will help the hospitality industry bounce back from the devastating impacts of the pandemic, enacting common sense reforms, restructuring outdated laws, and allowing businesses more opportunities to succeed.

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated small businesses — particularly in the hospitality industry. Bars and restaurants have either been closed or operating at reduced capacity. Music venues have been closed entirely. Many of our local businesses have permanently shut down since March, after months of negative revenues and low capacity numbers made it difficult to stay afloat. We have a responsibility to make it easier for small businesses to bounce back and stay open, and to ease the burden of unnecessarily difficult and antiquated regulations that keep our businesses from thriving.

SB 314 will also help workers in the service industry by increasing service jobs. Small businesses employ 35.8% of California’s workforce, and thousands of service workers have been laid off from their jobs since March 2020. COVID-19 has eliminated a stable source of income for many service workers. Along with the lack of a stable income, laid-off service workers may now face food insecurity, an increased risk of eviction and homelessness, increased emotional distress and anxiety (coupled with lack of healthcare), and fewer resources to pay for childcare. The impacted communities are primarily low- and middle-income workers of color, who faced many of these issues before the pandemic struck and are now in even more challenging situations.

SB 314 makes the following common sense changes to the alcohol rules governing restaurants and bars:

  • Allows current licensees with outdoor dining expanded premises under ABC’s emergency relief order a grace period of one year after the emergency order is lifted to apply for a permanent expansion, allowing significantly expanded outdoor restaurant/bar seating with alcohol service, for example, on streets, parking lots, alleys, or sidewalks. 
  • Makes it dramatically easier for multiple licensed retailers to share commercial space with manufacturers, thus allowing businesses to reduce their rent costs and increase their revenue. This will allow restaurants, bars, and now manufacturers, 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:
    • Allowing businesses to use a catering license at one location 36 times, increasing the currently allowable limit from 24. 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.
    • Providing an extended period of time for an event to submit their permit application to ABC to 90 days, instead of the 30-day window allowed under current law. This provides a greater level of flexibility for the event planning process, allowing them more time to meet ABC requirements.

SB 314 is a bipartisan bill, with Assemblymembers Carlos Villapudua (D-Stockton), Jesse Gabriel (D-Woodland Hills) and Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) serving as principal co-authors. It is co-authored by Senators Andreas Borgeas (R-Fresno), Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) and Jim Nielsen (R-Red Bluff), and Assemblymembers David Chiu (D-San Francisco), Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles), Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), Adam Gray (D-Merced), Cecilia Aguiar Curry (D-Napa), Chad Mayes (I-Rancho Mirage) and Eduardo Garcia (D-Imperial).

“Outdoor dining is helping our hard-hit hospitality businesses rebound from COVID-19, and it’s bringing us all together to enjoy meals and drinks outside as we move toward the end of this difficult time,” said Senator Wiener. “Continuing to allow outdoor dining with alcohol post-pandemic is an obvious change we can make to help businesses bounce back and to make our cities more lively and energetic post-COVID-19 – something we all can look forward to.”