Bill to change California liquor laws could benefit bars, restaurants

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – Outdoor dining parklets and the shared spaces program could continue long after the pandemic.

This will mainly impact how restaurants and bars are able to serve alcohol outdoors which is very limited under pre-pandemic alcohol rules.

A bill proposed by Senator Scott Wiener looks to reform state liquor laws and create more flexibility for the state’s bars, restaurants, and music venues.

This is something that many bar and restaurant owners say is long overdue.

While unfortunate that these possible changes are coming about because of the pandemic, they say the state needs to modernize its liquor laws that were created decades ago.

Under a new Senate bill, these outdoor dining parklets and shared spaces might be here to stay, even after the pandemic is over.

Restaurant owner, Ben Bleiman, says this would be a change for the better.

“We should have a much better game in San Francisco because this city is beautiful and everybody says they love this city because of the European charm and yet you can’t sit outdoors you can’t be European if you can’t sit outdoors in most places,” Bleiman said. 

It would all be possible under the proposed bar and restaurant recovery act which would continue shared spaces and make the temporary liquor licenses that give restaurants flexibility on how and where they serve alcohol outdoors during the pandemic permanent.

“Allows us to expand the areas our businesses can be used to parklets in this case, to adjacent parking lots, to sidewalks, to adjacent spaces to our buildings so it’s not just the shared spaces but also private spaces that could be offered to the public and it allows you to license those in a much easier way,” Bleiman said. 

Bleiman says the bill would expand capacity for many bars and restaurants and allow some places to open up for different opportunities.

Senator Scott Weiner who proposed the bill says the legislation would also expedite the approval process for liquor licenses by limiting appeals and hearings to 6 months instead of years. 

He says the legislation is also geared toward helping live music venues.

“We’re also creating a new liquor license just for live music venues. right now live music venues have been harmed so incredibly by the pandemic. Right not they have to get a restaurant liquor license which means they have to put in a full restaurant kitchen even if they’re not planning on operating as a restaurant and that is incredibly expensive,” Weiner said. 

If positively received and approved, the legislation could go into effect as soon as September.

Senator Weiner isn’t the only one trying to update how restaurants serve alcohol.

Senator Bill Dodd recently introduced a to-go cocktail sales bill that would allow restaurants to sell to-go cocktails as part of take-out and delivery food orders.

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