A new year always comes with new laws. As legislators passed bills in Sacramento last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed new legislation that will impact California restaurants, cafes, bars, and the cost of eating out. As always, these new laws will shift the experience of sitting down for a meal, or how restaurant owners operate. From a minimum wage increase, making outdoor dining permanent, and allowing alcohol/cocktails to-go, here is a roundup of California’s new laws along with changes to existing ones that started on January 1.
Senate Bill 389: Alcoholic beverages: retail on-sale license: off-sale privileges
Senate Bill 389 allows restaurants, bars, breweries, and wineries to continue selling alcoholic beverages to-go for an additional five years. This regulatory change started in the early days of the pandemic. The catch? Businesses must sell food with the purchase of booze. The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control provided guidance to accompany the new bills, including which types of liquor licenses are permitted to participate, and which type of to-go container is allowed.
Assembly Bill 61 and Senate Bill 314: pandemic relief extension and permanent outdoor dining
Assembly Bill 61 allows local jurisdictions and the California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control a little more regulatory flexibility. AB 61 grants businesses that utilized the temporary expanded dining area permit a one-year grace period to apply for a permanent one. That’s right, those temporary outdoor dining areas that rose throughout the city during the COVID-19 pandemic are one step closer to becoming permanent.
Senate Bill 314 will help California’s restaurants, bars, and music venues, allowing them to have more flexibility in how they can serve alcohol, including where they can serve, and how they can share spaces with other businesses. Newsom signed these companion bills in October, which became law immediately.
Assembly Bill 1276: Plastic utensils and condiments
Democratic Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo — whose district includes Echo Park, Chinatown and Eagle Rock — authored Assembly Bill 1276. The new law requires restaurants to distribute single-use straws, utensils, and condiments like ketchup only upon request. The first and second violations of AB 1276 will receive a written notice, with the next infractions punishable by a fine of $25 for each day, but not to exceed an annual total of $300.
Minimum wage bump
California’s minimum wage is now $15 per hour. Companies with 25 or less workers have one more year to comply and are required to raise their minimum wage to $14 per hour. The increases began in 2017 as part of a state law that gradually hiked the minimum wage when it was $10 per hour.
Assembly Bill 286: Food delivery: purchase prices and tips
Assembly Bill 286 was authored to increase billing transparency for restaurants when utilizing food delivery apps. It’s now illegal for food delivery apps to keep any gratuity meant for workers, whether delivery or from the restaurant. Prior to COVID-19 and during the pandemic, restaurants and delivery workers accused businesses like Doordash of pocketing workers’ tips.
Assembly Bill 1003: Wage theft
Restaurants throughout the state have been sued and/or fined for stealing wages from employees over the years. Assembly Bill 1003 hopes to discourage bad behavior with new penalties for employers. Intentional theft of wages of an amount over $950 is now grand theft in the California penal code, making it a felony instead of a misdemeanor. Theft typically comes in the form of not meeting the minimum wage, not offering overtime, meal, or rest breaks.
Proposition 12: Animal welfare law
In 2018, California voters passed an animal welfare law that requires breeding pigs, egg-producing chickens, and lamb calves to have enough room to stand and turn around before slaughter. The state still hasn’t developed regulations that should’ve been finalized in 2019, plus the law was supposed to be in operation by January 1, 2022. Farm groups and the meat industry have tried repeatedly to derail Prop 12 in court, and there’s even talk the U.S. Supreme Court could hear the case. More to follow on this development, which could increase the cost of livestock that could end up on your restaurant’s bill. A full explainer is here.