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Distilleries, Breweries Serve Boozy Beverages Without Food Once Again

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - Saturday marked the first day breweries and distilleries joined wineries in businesses that can serve alcohol outside - without having to require a meal, too.

Though, there are still some rules - "drinks only" service must stop at 8 p.m., and afterward, meals become mandatory.

On a sunny Saturday at Tower Brewing in Sacramento, the only thing cold was the beer in the glass.

"We haven't been able to go anywhere without having to be bundled up, so it's nice to be in a T-shirt for once," said Tanner Durham, one of the many customers filling the patio for the brewery's fifth anniversary - coincidentally the day where drinking for fun doesn't require food, too.

"To say that we're here today, we're grateful – we're grateful," said Tower Brewing owner, Jeff Howes. "At least now we're being treated like other wineries, taverns and whatnot."

The move and release of guidance came months after the California Craft Brewery Association sued the state, demanding breweries be treated the same as wineries. Until now, wineries have been the only alcohol-related business able to operate without serving food.

That meant Howes had to really rely on food trucks, not a new concept for local breweries who have often worked with them in the past. But it was a sobering moment when they sometimes didn't show.

"A no-call, no-show is devastating to our business because we may as well just close our door that day," Howes said. "You're as dependent on them, ironically, as they are on you."

Though, Saturday was a win, as they worked alongside Rabbit Food Revolution. But the pandemic hasn't been easy for them either.

"We know nothing but the COVID environment," said Nate Anger, who owns Rabbit Food Revolution.

The food truck got its start a year ago, and they're thankful for the long-lasting partnerships built.

"We were born into this really tough economic environment and they were about all the opportunity they had," Anger said.

Though not every business had another to team up with.

"We're just not set up the same as breweries," said Cris Steller, owner of Dry Digging Distillery in El Dorado County.

At his business, their "tasting room" means only tasting liquor, not food. With the release of new state guidance, Steller's distillery can finally move from strictly bottle sales to soon finally booking outdoor, in-person reservations.

"To just get that sense of community back – that's going to be huge," Steller said.

As for regular bars, who don't make their own alcohol - they cannot reopen outdoors until the county they're in reaches the orange tier of California's roadmap to reopening.

But for local breweries and distilleries, the signs of a community buzzing once again, with no food required, brings up the spirits of many after a dark year.

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