On Oct. 8, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law legislation that will expand opportunities for outdoor dining across the Golden State. Authored by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Woodland Hills), Assembly Bill (AB) 61 will empower local jurisdictions and the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) to provide regulatory flexibility to neighborhood restaurants struggling with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
AB 61 provides restaurants with regulatory flexibility on a number of key issues, including enabling more outdoor food preparation and service, allowing restaurants to better use their own spaces for increased outdoor dining capacity, and extending existing ABC orders allowing for alcohol service on outdoor premises. AB 61 also includes an urgency clause, meaning the measure goes into effect immediately.
“Neighborhood restaurants are the backbone of communities across California, but too many are barely hanging on by a thread,” said Gabriel. “Outdoor dining has been a critical lifeline that has helped these establishments keep their doors open during these challenging times. AB 61 provides important flexibility so that restaurants can safely expand outdoor dining and continue to serve the communities they call home. I applaud Governor Newsom for his thoughtful leadership in protecting both public health and small businesses as we continue to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged small businesses across the state — particularly in the restaurant industry. While the National Restaurant Association reports modest employment growth in the last two months, with California leading the nation in job gains, employment remains below pre-pandemic levels and nearly 4 in 5 restaurants are understaffed. As of August, California also had 234,800 fewer eating and drinking establishments than it did in August 2019.
“The restaurant industry has been hit hard by the pandemic. With indoor dining rooms still closed in most places, outdoor dining has become an important lifeline for restaurants,” stated Madelyn Alfano, immediate past chair of the California Restaurant Association board of directors and owner of Maria’s Italian Kitchen, a neighborhood Italian restaurant with several locations in the San Fernando Valley. “AB 61 will help to address issues restaurants face as we have created outdoor spaces to continue to serve our customers. Nothing is more important to me than the safety of our customers and the ability to continue to provide delicious meals for my community.”