California Senate Bill Aims to Throw Restaurants ‘A Lifeline’

San Mateo Outdoor Dining

In a sign of the times, many restaurants have turned to outdoor tents and even igloos to increase in-person capacity during the pandemic.

In California, such structures might stick around.

This month, Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced Senate Bill 314, the Bar and Restaurant Recovery Act. The bill proposes relaxed rules for restaurants, bars and music venues, including the allowance of increased seating and alcohol service in “significantly expanded” outdoor areas located on streets, sidewalks, parking lots and alleys.

The act also would make it “dramatically easier for bars and restaurants to share commercial space with other bars and restaurants or with non-alcohol-serving businesses, thus allowing businesses to reduce their rent costs,” a press release notes.

In another change, minors would be allowed at liquor-serving establishments during hours when alcohol is not being served.

If approved, the bill also would expedite California alcohol licenses, capping appeals and protest hearings at six months. Relaxed catering license proposals further seek to expand revenue opportunities.

“The pandemic hit our restaurants, bars, and music venues like a wrecking ball, and we need to throw these small businesses a lifeline,” Wiener said in a press release. “These businesses are part of the fabric of our communities, and they employ so many of our neighbors. SB 314 creates much more flexibility for our hospitality businesses and makes permanent the expanded outdoor dining that so many Californians have grown to love.”

As the industry works to recover from what has been proclaimed “the most challenging year ever experienced by the restaurant industry,” new legislation could be key.

Also making headway last week was The RESTAURANTS Act of 2021, which was reintroduced by U.S. Congress. The proposal, which has the support of the National Restaurant Association, proposes the creation of a $120 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund to help select restaurants recuperate from the widespread impact of the coronavirus pandemic.


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