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New State Bill Would Make CA’s Outdoor Dining Rules Easier — and Permanent

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Senate Bill 314 is an ambitious push to cut red tape while expanding LA’s al fresco options

Hermosa Beach, CA returns to having outdoor dining under loosened coronavirus restrictions Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A new piece of California legislation could pave the way for a massive reconfiguration of outdoor restaurant dining space from Sacramento to San Diego and beyond — at least if state Senator Scott Wiener has his way. Last Friday, Wiener introduced Senate Bill 314, also known as the Bar and Restaurant Recovery Act, which is designed to permanently help the ailing restaurant industry by easing restrictions on outdoor seating. The bill would also seek to reform some longtime restaurant regulations and permitting processes, while giving more flexibility to the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, which oversees restaurant alcohol licenses.

Some highlights from Senate Bill 314 include:

  • Making last year’s temporary expansion of outdoor seating (as in LA’s Al Fresco initiative) permanent. Restaurants with approved alcohol licenses would also be allowed to use these spaces for on-site booze consumption.
  • Two separate restaurants or bars with separate ABC licenses can rent and serve alcohol from the same physical location. At present, this activity is prohibited.
  • Expedite the lengthy application process for both ABC licenses and permits for caterers and pop-ups. With SB 314, the approval process will take no longer than six months.
  • The bill would also authorize California cities to to allow open container entertainment zones at outdoor festivals, street fairs, and concerts where alcohol is purchased and consumed.
  • The proposed law eliminates an annual limitation on tastings allowed at wineries and distilleries.

The arrival of proposed bill SB 314 follows a motion introduced at a January city council meeting in Los Angeles, similarly aimed at reducing red tape, lengthy turnaround times, and permit redundancies in order to make life easier for small businesses, particularly restaurants — and all with an emphasis on the future of outdoor dining. Bay Area rep Wiener’s proposed bill will now head to committee, so don’t expect state-level action on this one just yet.