Senator Wiener’s Legislation to Support Live Entertainment Venues and Local Bars and Restaurants in COVID-19 Recovery Passes Senate

January 12, 2022

SACRAMENTO - Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco)’s legislation, Senate Bill 793, passed the Senate with a bipartisan vote of 32-0. It will now head to the Assembly for policy committee hearings. SB 793, the Entertainment Venue Recovery Act, creates a new live music entertainment venue license to reduce the burden on these venues. Venues must currently conform to the qualifications of a restaurant license — requiring them to install expensive restaurant-grade kitchens — even though many do not fit into that category. The bill will also allow localities to zone for entertainment zones, where cities can allow local businesses to sell both food and alcohol during street fairs and similar locally created events.

Combined with other critical measures, SB 793 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industry bounce back from the devastating impacts of the pandemic, enacting common sense reforms, restructuring outdated laws, and allowing businesses more opportunities to succeed.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. Most music venues have been closed for the entire pandemic. Many hospitality businesses have permanently shut down since March of 2020, having not operated at full capacity, or at all, for so long. 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 these small businesses from thriving.

SB 793 will make changes to help entertainment venues and other hospitality businesses by:

  • Creating 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 significant infrastructure 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. Currently, cities can create open container zones, but brick-and-mortar businesses inside the zone are not allowed to sell alcohol into the street festival.

“The pandemic has devastated so many of our small businesses, and entertainment venues have experienced an unparalleled crisis,” said Senator Wiener. “When we’re not in a COVID-19 surge, Californians – myself included – are enjoying getting back to concerts, parties, and other events. We need to ensure our live music venues, bars, and restaurants can thrive as they welcome us back.”

“This is a great measure that will provide relief for California’s venues as they continue to grapple with the pandemic,” said Casey Lowdermilk, President of the California chapter of the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA).

“We are proud to see it move forward and really appreciate Senator Wiener’s leadership and advocacy,” added Lowdermilk.