Californians can now grab a beer at a brewery or a glass of wine at a winery without buying a food item.
The California Department of Public Health announced last week that effective Saturday, wineries, breweries and distilleries are still outdoor only, but can take reservations with a 90-minute time limit at tables only with limited hours.
The state removed the requirement for brewery and winery customers to order a food item along with their drinks, and to many local breweries, this came as a welcome surprise.
The non-food guidelines will not apply to outdoor bars until the county enters the orange tier, however.
“It’s so much easier, I would say,” Ben Concilla, manager at Institution Ale Company on State Street, told the News-Press on Saturday — the first day without the food requirement. “I think we’ll have more customers now.”
Over the course of the pandemic, some brewery owners and managers expressed frustration with the food rule, saying that it caused them to lose business when they otherwise wouldn’t have.
“It’s very exciting. This is the best news we’ve heard all year,” Erin Rossow, manager at M. Special Brewing Company in Goleta, told the News-Press. “I think customers will overall just be more happy to go out.”
While it will be a while until customers are allowed to approach the bar and order their IPA or Chardonnay or mingle with other customers, the small change is another sign of restrictions lifting, as Santa Barbara County quickly approaches the less restrictive red tier, likely by Tuesday.
Joe Josiah is a bartender at Brass Bear Brewing & Bistro, at 28 Anacapa St., and he said it makes his job easier, because a lot of the frustration with the rule came from the lack of explanation for it.
“When people come here, if they just want to drink, it’s nice to not force them to have to get food as well, because a lot of people felt forced to do that,” he told the News-Press. “A lot of people didn’t understand why.”
He said many customers thought it was a business choice to require a food item, but at the end of the day, it was a state regulation.
“It’s just nice to not force people to do something they don’t want to do.”
Shane Braly runs the taproom at Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company in the Funk Zone, and when asked by the News-Press about his reaction to the news, he said that was the first he had heard of the lifted restriction. Needless to say, the news was music to his ears.
“Holy smokes! This is incredible!” he told the News-Press. “That’s some of the best news I’ve heard in months!”
Mr. Braly said he had skepticism with the rules that came from Gov. Gavin Newsom, considering the governor owns a winery himself.
“Eventually, some things got a little misconstrued and potentially twisted. I don’t know the back story, but I think it personally benefited him too,” he said. “Regardless of what the actual reasons were, it kind of screwed everyone else. We have to sell food and customers turn around and walk right out of our doors. We’ve never had to do that.”
The measure hurt him and his employees financially, Mr. Braly said, because “no one wants to order food every time they get a drink.”
“Breweries had a lot of questions that were never answered. I think that’s something important. There needs to be a ‘why,’ especially when it affects customers and employees,” he said.
Denise Meza, a server at Rincon Brewery in Carpinteria, said that in her opinion, lifting the food rule was a good idea.
“It’s nothing personal, but the way I see it, it’s better now,” she told the News-Press. “That way, customers don’t get upset at us. When this pandemic first started, we opened up again and customers would come in and get really upset at us saying it’s kind of bull. Sometimes customers come in and they’re just not really hungry.”