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LA Breweries, Wineries Can Once Again Seat Customers For On-Site Drinking

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The County’s recently-updated rules governing outdoor dining include a big provision to once again let beer and wine spots serve customers on site, as long as food is still involved

Highland Park Brewery’s tanks ready to brew beer.
Highland Park Brewery
Wonho Frank Lee
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has just this morning released new guidelines for the return of outdoor dining, which is underway now in LA DPH jurisdictions county-wide (meaning, everywhere except the cities of Pasadena and Long Beach, which have their own public health departments). Those guidelines touch on a lot of important topics for restaurant owners, workers, and diners alike, including capacity caps and personal protective equipment, but there is one particular new section that stands out from the rest: Breweries and wineries can reopen, too.

For much of last year, breweries in particular have been vocal about perceived mistreatment from the LA County Department of Public Health, which severely limited services at most beer manufacturing facilities. Early on the in pandemic, some bars, breweries, and wineries that did not have their own permanent kitchen and appropriate licensing were allowed to partner with off-site food vendors — say a food truck or licensed pop-up, or a catering company or even a nearby restaurant — to prepare meals in addition to serving alcohol. The decision was one of many made by the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control board as a way to keep these business afloat (just like restaurants being able to offer to-go cocktails), but during a summer of back-and-forth openings and closings, LA County at some point decided to ban the use of outside vendors by breweries, leaving the county as the only one statewide with a more stringent ruling on the use of said vendors. Breweries pushed back heavily on the guidance, while simultaneously needing to lay off staff, slow production, and offer only wholesale and takeout sales. The kerfuffle ultimately leading to the creation of a $10 million fund to help close the financial gap for those affected beer manufacturers.

Now last summer’s ruling has been rolled back, meaning breweries and wineries can once again partner with food vendors for on-site consumption. Here’s the language:

Breweries and wineries with a #1, #2 and/or #23 state alcohol license that do not possess a restaurant public health permit (hereafter referred to as “Facility”) may offer outdoor, on-premises food and beverage service provided that the Facility adheres to all the protocols for restaurants detailed below, adheres to the additional requirements for the Facility, and enters into one of the following arrangements to offer meals with on-premises beverage sales:

  • The Facility may contract with a caterer or restaurant that has a valid Los Angeles County Health Permit to offer a bona fide meal with alcohol under the host facility requirements outlined in the California Retail Food Code, provided that the Facility obtains a health permit from the Environmental Health Division at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health prior to operating in such capacity. ALCOHOL MUST BE PURCHASED IN THE SAME TRANSACTION AS A BONA FIDE MEAL. The catering operation must provide Standard Operating Procedures to the Environmental Health Division prior to operating in such capacity
  • The Facility may work with a mobile food facility (i.e. food truck) permitted by the Los Angeles Department of Public Health to provide bona fide meals. For all arrangements, ALCOHOL MUST BE PURCHASED IN THE SAME TRANSACTION AS A BONA FIDE MEAL. The Facility shall notify the Environmental Health Division prior to operating in such capacity.
  • “Bona fide meals” are defined as a usual assortment of foods commonly ordered at various hours of the day that would be considered a legitimate meal; the service of prepackaged food like sandwiches or salads, or simply heating frozen or prepared meals, or serving only appetizers and snacks shall not be deemed complaint with the bona fide meal requirement.

A few other points: As noted above, vendors must be licensed and carry a public health permit that allows for food vending, so no illegally cooking hot dogs and serving beer in the parking lot. Second, all customers must receive food as well as alcohol, and standing customers are not allowed to be served (food or drink), so it’s table-service only for now. Third, breweries and wineries must be closed between midnight and 11:30 a.m. daily. And, as part of the larger restaurant reopening provisions, large parties, group events, public tours of the facility, and live entertainment — including televisions — are all a no-go.

There’s more to discuss with regards to worker safety, social distancing protocols, and the rules around offering flights of beer or tastes of wine, so those curious for the nitty gritty can find the full list of details attached to the modified public health order here.