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COVID Recovery: Gov. Newsom Signs Measures Extending Outdoor Dining, To-Go Cocktails

OAKLAND (CBS SF) – As California seeks to recover from the pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed measures extending outdoor dining and to-go cocktails, which have kept many restaurants afloat.

"These innovative strategies have been a lifeline for hard-hit restaurants during the pandemic and today, we're keeping the entrepreneurial spirit going so that businesses can continue to create exciting new opportunities and support vibrant neighborhoods across the state," Newsom said at a restaurant in Oakland on Friday where he signed the measures.

Newsom signed Assembly Bill 61 by Asm. Jesse Gabriel (D-Encino), Senate Bill 314 by State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Senate Bill 389 by State Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa). All three bipartisan measures passed the legislature unanimously.

AB61 and SB314 extends outdoor dining and alcohol sale permits for a year after the pandemic emergency ends, to give establishments an opportunity to permanently expand outdoors.

"Outdoor dining is a popular and successful pandemic-era change that small businesses across the state – and their patrons – are passionate about keeping," Wiener said in a statement.

"Neighborhood restaurants are the backbone of communities across California, but too many are barely hanging on by a thread," said Gabriel. "AB 61 provides important flexibility so that restaurants can safely expand outdoor dining and continue to serve the communities they call home."

Meanwhile, SB389 allows restaurants, along with bars, breweries and wineries that sell food, to offer to-go cocktails with food orders through the end of 2026.

"This is an important step toward helping our restaurants, which have been hit hard by the pandemic," Dodd said in a staement.

California is among nearly three dozen states that began temporarily allowing the sale of to-go cocktails during the pandemic as a way to help keep establishments in business. Most of these states have since extended sales through at least next year or have made to-go cocktail sales permanent.

The restaurant and distilled spirits industry praised Friday's bill signings.

"The road to restaurant recovery will be a very long one and the importance of these measures taken together will remain a critical part of helping restaurants get back on their feet, reemploy massive numbers of Californians, and continue to safely serve the public," said Jot Condie, president and CEO of the California Restaurant Association.

Adam Smith of the Distilled Spirits Council said, "Cocktails to-go have proven to be a vital part of businesses' survival during COVID-19 and will only provide increased stability as they work to get back on their feet. Local restaurants and bars are desperate for a sustained source of revenue, and cocktails to-go provide a critical lifeline for these businesses."

Restaurants and bars are still on the long road to recovery, but the series of new bills signed into law is definitely lifting their spirits.

In downtown Burlingame Friday night, it was a bustling at Velvet 48. For the better part of the last 18 months, their parklet has been the only place they've being doing business. The relatively new wine bar was open for less than a year when the shutdown began.

"The parklet really has been a lifeline for us. And throughout the pandemic it's been very difficult to piece it all together, but the parklet is really the only way we've been able to consistently serve people outside," said owner Jason Cooper.

Under the bill signed Friday, restaurants and bars can continue to sell to-go cocktails with food for another five years.

"We did that a lot especially like in the winter, and when we didn't want to go inside and it was too cold to stay outside, so I think definitely, we'd love to keep that up if it sticks around," said Emily Grossner, who enjoys to-go cocktails.

Flights restaurant on Burlingame Avenue says overall it's doing more business outdoors than indoors during the pandemic.

"For all of us, just having the ability to keep serving our guests regardless, if its alcohol to go or just serving people outside, it's a really great way to keep our business going," said general manager Carlos Cruz.

"I have a 7-month-old baby, we're not dining indoors right now," said Edwardo Frias of Millbrae. "Even post pandemic, I love the idea of just extending to the outdoors, I think it just brings a lot more to the neighborhood, community."


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