Assembly bill proposes outdoor dining expansions
A new bill that would expand outdoor dining across California is making its way through the State Legislature.
Last week, Assembly Bill 61 received approval from the Senate Health Committee, getting the bill one step closer to the governor’s desk. The bill was authored by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, D-Woodland Hills, and co-authored by a group of 21 bipartisan lawmakers.
The bill, if passed, would empower local jurisdictions and the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control to provide regulatory flexibility to aid the hard-hit restaurant industry. This regulatory flexibility includes temporarily waiving requirements for fully enclosed kitchen and service areas, extending ABC regulatory relief and providing ABC the discretion to allow changes to existing liquor licenses.
In addition, AB 61 builds upon provisions created during the pandemic that allowed restaurants and establishments to expand outdoor dining options.
“I was proud to support Assembly Bill 61, which will provide much-needed regulatory flexibility as our restaurant industry continues to recover,” Sen. Monique Limón, D-Santa Barbara, said in a statement to the News-Press. “This bill temporarily extends the flexibility to provide outdoor dining spaces in local communities while ensuring safe operations. Small neighborhood restaurants are the backbone of communities across California, and I will continue to support legislation to ensure they continue to thrive.”
Nationwide, the restaurant industry was one of the hardest hit sectors as a result of the pandemic. According to a report from the National Restaurant Association, the restaurant industry lost nearly $120 billion in revenue in just the first three months of the pandemic.
While many restaurants are now reopened for in-person dining, the restaurant industry is still facing a long road to recovery. With the creation of this bill, legislators are hoping the bill will bring much needed relief and protection to the industry.
“As restaurants begin the long process of recovery from the pandemic, I am strongly supportive of the additional time AB 61 gives for restaurants to expand their outdoor dining options,” Assemblymember Steve Bennett, D-Ventura, said in a statement. “I know many patrons also enjoy the increased outdoor space – and with the glorious weather we often have on the Central Coast, it certainly allows for many more options for restaurant owners and diners alike.”
The bill includes an urgency clause, meaning it will be put into effect immediately once it is signed by the governor.