Senator Wiener Introduces Legislation To Support Brick-and-Mortar Bars and Restaurants By Allowing Municipalities To Create Temporary Entertainment Zones

January 12, 2023


January 12, 2022


SACRAMENTO – Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced Senate Bill 76, the Entertainment Zones Act. SB 76 will aid the recovery of downtown small businesses by removing barriers to brick-and-mortar businesses participating in nearby outdoor events like street fairs and festivals. It allows municipalities to create temporary Entertainment Zones that allow neighborhood businesses — which are currently barred from selling alcoholic beverages to-go during festivals — to participate on equal footing with outside vendors.


Under current law, cities can designate open container zones for festivals, parades, etc, but only outside vendors can sell alcohol in the zone — local brick and mortar restaurants and bars are prohibited from doing so. SB 76 ends that inequity by allowing local restaurants and bars inside the festival zone to sell alcohol.


“Our communities can’t fully recover from the pandemic without thriving small businesses,” said Senator Wiener. “This commonsense reform gives brick-and-mortar small businesses access to the benefits of festivals being held outside their doors. It simply doesn’t make sense that outside vendors can come into a neighborhood during festivals and sell drinks to-go, while the established businesses next door can’t do the same. I look forward to working to remove these unnecessary barriers to economic recovery.”


The COVID-19 pandemic devastated foot traffic to downtown businesses, and most cities continue to suffer depressed levels of downtown activity. San Francisco has been particularly hard-hit, ranking last in a recent UC Berkeley study of downtown recovery in 62 U.S. cities. Researchers found that as of fall 2022, downtown San Francisco had just 31% the number of people downtown that it had before the pandemic as measured by mobile phone data. This reduced activity threatens to stymie economic recovery in San Francisco and across the state.


Outdoor events, including fairs and festivals, are key in many cities’ economic recovery strategy. These events bring critical boosts in tourism that many small businesses rely on to push them over the edge into profitability. The benefits and the increased spending spill over into non-tourism related industries as well, helping lift the entire economy.


Under current law, licensed businesses may set up booths to sell alcoholic beverages to-go, but neighboring restaurants and bars are forbidden from doing the same. SB 76 would allow municipalities to designate temporary Entertainment Zones in which brick-and-mortar bars and restaurants could sell alcohol to-go on equal footing with the festival’s licensed vendors.


“Nightlife and entertainment are critical to our City’s economic recovery, and Senator Wiener’s legislation to create entertainment zones would help us support these sectors, especially in and around our Downtown,” said San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed. “We are working to be creative about bringing more festivals, street fairs and outdoor activities to our City, and this legislation will help make those events more vibrant and attractive for visitors and residents in our commercial areas.”  


“Senator Wiener continues to be a champion for nightlife and NIVA CA is grateful for his leadership. This bill would continue to modernize ABC regulations to promote culture and community by implementing entertainment zones, which will open opportunities for street fairs and robust nightlife districts,” said Casey Lowdermilk, President of NIVA CA. “Additionally, this would conform the newly created music venue liquor license (Type 90) to the realities of business operations for these venues.”