To-go drinks, outdoor dining options here to stay after pandemic

California

SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) — Restaurants across California will be able to keep some popular elements of pandemic-era service even after June 15, including offering alcoholic beverages to-go and expanded outdoor dining options.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the new state rules at a stop in San Francisco Thursday, as part of a package of policies he believes can boost an industry battered by COVID-19 health restrictions and stay-at-home orders.

Cross Street Chicken and Beer in Kearny Mesa says it took a 20% hit in sales during the pandemic.

“Being forced to shut down or being not able to operate confused our client fan base. It didn’t help us at all,” general manager Wilson To told FOX 5. “It just made it more difficult for us to serve our community.”

Now Newsom says the state will continue permitting restaurants and bars to operate in outdoor areas such as sidewalks and parking lots, although such operations are still subject to local zoning regulations. According to Newsom’s office, the governor is “urging local governments to facilitate outdoor dining through local zoning and programs that support and promote expanded, open-air, take-out and delivery options.”

Expanded outdoor dining options and the sale of to-go alcoholic beverages emerged during the pandemic in an effort to help restaurants struggling to survive under strict COVID-19 regulations, which forced indoor dining to close for months and restricted eateries to open-air or take-out service.

Newsom noted that while the sale of to-go alcohol will be able to continue, such sales will have to be coupled with food purchases.

“It’s going to be a huge help for us,” To said Thursday. “We’re trying to recoup the losses we’ve had to deal with in 2020, so I think definitely drinks are going to help us get to that point again.”

“California’s restaurants help create the vibrant and diverse communities that make California the envy of the world,” Newsom said. “As the state turns to post-pandemic life, we’ll continue to adapt best practices that have helped businesses transform customer experience for the better.

“With new opportunities and support for businesses large and small, and the California can-do spirit that has carried us through the past year, we will come roaring back from this pandemic.”

The extended rules announced by Newsom will also allow bars to continue partnering with food trucks, catering companies or restaurants to sell meals with alcoholic beverages.

The California Republican Party scoffed at Newsom’s announcement, deeming it a hollow gesture to an industry that “suffered more than most under Gavin Newsom’s overbearing shutdowns.”

“Newsom offered little to the nearly one-third of California restaurants that permanently closed during the pandemic and two-thirds of employees who at least temporarily lost their jobs,” according to the state GOP, which called the announcement an effort by Newsom to detract from a pending recall election.

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