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California’s New Bar and Restaurant Laws for 2023, Explained

Lawmakers embarked on ambitious legislative sessions in 2022 by passing laws that include higher hourly wages, worker protections, and more

Street vendor in Sixth and Bonnie Brae, Los Angeles.
Street vendor in Sixth and Bonnie Brae, Los Angeles.
Wonho Frank Lee
Mona Holmes is a reporter for Eater Los Angeles and a regular contributor to KCRW radio. She has covered restaurants, dining, and food culture since 2016. In 2022, the James Beard Foundation nominated her for a Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award.

California Governor Gavin Newsom and state legislators were busy in 2022, passing over 1,000 laws before the year ended. While these laws greatly impact everyday California residents, they will also leave a significant mark on the state’s many small businesses, including innumerable restaurants, cafes, and bars. From new rules surrounding street vendors, to pay changes for fast-food workers and increased financial transparency, here is a roundup of California’s new laws that went into effect or were updated as of January 1.

Street vendors

In September Gov. Newsom signed Senate Bill 972, which modernizes the regulations and state code surrounding street vendors. While vending is already technically legal statewide, this landmark law is designed to make it easier for vendors to receive the proper paperwork to formally sell food on streets throughout the state. The bill offers a more streamlined path to acquiring a permit and prohibits criminal penalties from health departments or law enforcement. The state senator from Long Beach Lena Gonzalez authored SB 972, which is a massive and much-needed update to the California Retail Food Code.

Minimum wage increase

The minimum wage in California rose to $15.50 per hour on January 1. The state-mandated wage increase began annually starting in 2017, when the minimum wage was $10 per hour.

Union protections for farm workers

Thanks to the passage of Assembly Bill 2183, farm and agricultural workers can vote by mail or at a physical location in union elections in 2023. The Sacramento Bee reports that Newsom signed the bill in September, despite his office previously signaling that they would veto the legislation. This bill has teeth too, as it grants the Public Employment Relations Board the power to fine employers up to $100,000 if workers are found to have prevented their employees from participating in a union.

Pay scale transparency

Assembly Bill 1162 states that any employer with 15 or more employees must include the exact pay for each role in subsequent job postings. If the company has 100 or more employees, AB 1162 must list the job posting with the “median and mean hourly rate for each combination of race, ethnicity, and sex within each job category,” or face state fines.

Fast-food reform, sort of

Assembly Bill 257, also known as the Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act, would increase fast-food worker pay and protections throughout the state. Simply put, the bill has the potential to shape worker laws throughout the country. The law overwhelmingly passed the California Senate in August and was signed by Newsom in September. But there is ample opposition though from a coalition of restaurant and business trade groups backing an effort to overturn the law.

AB 257 also mandates a 13-person fast-food council that consists of dining industry representatives, including fast-food workers and advocates for both franchisees and employees, to establish standards for wages at any fast-food chain with at least 100 locations nationwide, and potentially increase the hourly wage to $22 an hour in 2023. The law would also regulate working hours while placing a heavy emphasis on worker health, safety, and welfare at places like In-N-Out and Burger King.

Last week, a California judge temporarily blocked AB 257, pushing for a referendum that could push the law to state voters in November 2024, reports the Los Angeles Times. A court hearing determining its future is scheduled for January 13.