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In a boost for the struggling dining industry, California is extending the ability of restaurants and bars to serve alcoholic drinks in outdoor dining areas, for delivery and to-go through the rest of the year, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday.
Through Dec. 31, restaurants, bars, breweries and wineries can continue to serve alcoholic drinks in areas like sidewalks and parking lots, where businesses have set up tables during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, "if you do takeout food, you'll be able to get the takeout cocktails," Newsom said. The same applies to deliveries.
"I'm very excited about this. And I think this is a good thing for our economic recovery. It's also a good thing for public health — because we want to encourage more people to still be outside. This pandemic is not behind us," Newsom said, reflecting on people who have yet to be vaccinated.
"We want to encourage these outdoor seating opportunities, encourage healthy choices and obviously economic opportunities," Newsom said at a press conference outside Tommy's Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco.
Before the pandemic, it was often difficult for restaurants to legally set up outdoor tables in areas like parking lots and curbside street lanes with a state alcohol permit, officials said. But during the worst moments of the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities took emergency action and relaxed rules to allow alcoholic beverage service outdoors and for takeout, a lifeline for businesses when indoor restaurant dining was prohibited.
In a letter to local governments, Newsom also urged officials to allow temporary dining areas, expanded takeout and delivery options, and work with restaurant owners to operate in spaces not ordinarily consistent with local zoning laws. He pointed to Los Angeles' "L.A. Al Fresco" and San Diego's "Slow Streets Programs" as among models for other cities.
Now, in places like L.A. and San Francisco, outdoor dining spaces have become part of the urban landscape.
"They have opened all over the city, and they've made the city just a little bit brighter, and more fun," San Francisco Mayor London Breed said at the press conference. "People are out enjoying San Francisco like never before."
Newsom said he's hoping in the coming months to pursue state legislation that will make it easier for local governments to retain outdoor dining if they so choose as the pandemic recedes.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.