Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation Friday enabling restaurants to keep their pandemic-era expansions into areas like sidewalks and parking lots.
The two bills, Assembly Bill 61 and Senate Bill 314, allow restaurants to keep their outdoor dining areas throughout the pandemic’s duration and during a one-year regulatory grace period after the state ends its state of emergency.
During that time, local jurisdictions will have the opportunity to modify their zoning laws to permanently allow outdoor dining areas.
Some Bay Area cities, like San Mateo and Walnut Creek, have already made their outdoor dining programs permanent or considered plans to do so.
Newsom, speaking at a restaurant in Oakland, implored European cities that have embraced al fresco dining to “eat your heart out,” and argued that the state needs to continue rethinking how it can support restaurants and other small businesses during the pandemic and after it ends.
“This is a pathway for these businesses to, frankly, make up for a lot of the constraints that have been imposed upon them over the course of the last 18 months,” he said.
Newsom also signed a bill authored by Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, to allow restaurants, bars, breweries and wineries to sell alcohol with to-go food orders through the end of 2026.
In June, the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control extended similar regulatory relief of to-go alcohol through the end of 2021.
Newsom noted that Dodd’s bill is more restrictive than the executive orders he signed over the last 18 months enabling to-go alcohol sales in an effort to ensure that businesses are not operating without permits and public health and safety is maintained.
“These bills are nuanced … and that nuance includes a food component, it includes a component for pick-up, not delivery,” Newsom said, adding that local jurisdictions will have leeway in terms of enforcing the sale of to-go alcohol in a safe manner.
“This is an important step toward helping our restaurants, which have been hit hard by the pandemic,” Dodd said in a statement. “It will ensure their recovery, protecting jobs and our economy.”