SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — For businesses who have grown fond of offering to-go cocktails to customers, California will allow to-go cocktails and outdoor dining expansions to stay after the state's reopening.
During the pandemic, some businesses utilized to-go cocktail and beer sales to generate revenue when closures impacted capacity over the last year. For some businesses, it was one of the only sources of any revenue.
Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said to-go alcohol, as well as outdoor dining expansions, will be allowed after the state drops its reopening tiers on June 15 and through 2021.
"New: The pandemic may be going away ... but your to-go cocktails don’t have to! CA will now allow to-go cocktails and outdoor dining expansions to stay after we fully reopen on June 15th," Newsom posted on Twitter.
"We are extending the opportunity for restaurants to operate as they have by allowing them the take out not just of food but the takeout of cocktails, extend that and to allow that at least through January first of next year," Newsom said at a press event in San Francisco Thursday.
Newsom also said the state is waiving the Franchise Tax Board fee for those starting new businesses and that the state would back off, and allow cities to regulate the use of restaurant parklets.
"It has revitalized neighborhoods in many respects and advanced the entrepreneurial spirit," Newsom said.
Newsom also reminded restauranteurs of the still available $25,000 direct relief grants, the waiving of ABC licenses for two years, and a new proposal for rent assistance.
"If you have been directly impacted by COVID-19, the state of California is proposing in our new budget to take care of 100% of your rent. Back rent going back into the previous year and helping you move forward. 100%," Newsom reiterated.
Scott Slater Californiaire Tacos and Head Lettuce in La Jolla. He is also a week away from opening Understory Cocktail Lounge in Carmel Valley.
"Almost all of 2020 we owe back rent. So that's a huge hurdle to climb even with a busier restaurant, so very happy to hear the news," Slater said of the Governor's announcement.
While Slater saw the state's new proposals as a great help, he hoped local governments step up too.
"The biggest help that any local government can do right now is to expedite inspections," Slater said.
He said delays in permits and inspections during the pandemic caused him to push back the opening of Understory multiple times.
"It's great that they are waiving some fees, but I would much rather have it that $2,100 going to having an inspector coming in to inspect in my construction site so I can open up and get people employed," Slater said.
This year, state Sen. Bill Dodd introduced a bill to make to-go cocktails permanent in California. According to the National Restaurant Association, about one-third of takeout customers over the age of 21 said they’d order an alcoholic beverage to-go with their takeout meals and will continue to do so while the offer is available.
"Keeping small businesses alive while they do their part to observe COVID-19 restrictions is of paramount importance," Dodd said in a statement in February. "If allowing restaurants to sell carry-out cocktails alongside a meal helps keep their doors open, we must do it. Ultimately, it’s about preserving jobs and getting our economy back on track."
According to Dodd, restaurants nationwide have lost more than $165 million since last March when the pandemic forced lockdowns and restrictions on dining. Last year, the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control loosened some restrictions to help businesses generate revenue off alcohol sales, allowing alcoholic drinks to be sold to-go if accompanied by food.
Outdoor dining expansions have also helped businesses weather the impacts of capacity limits. Last month, the City of San Diego extended permits for outdoor dining expansions through July 13, 2022, allowing restaurants to continue using facilities built out or placed in parking lots, on sidewalks, and in streets.
As of May 18, San Diego had issued 427 outdoor permits to businesses.