This week across California, restaurants and bars are hurrying to finish more permanent alcoholic beverage to-go for when Senate Bill 389 comes into effect on Saturday.
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SB 389, authored by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa), will specifically allow any holder of a retail on-sale liquor license or licensed brewery that operates an eating place to sell alcoholic beverages for off-sale consumption for which their license permits on-sale consumption if the beverages are in manufacturer prepackaged containers. SB 389 also makes clear that all to-go sold alcoholic drinks, with the exception of beer, must be in a container with a secure cap or lid to stop it from being consumed without puncturing it to open it.
The current temporary to-go laws will thus be made more permanent, with an end-date of December 31, 2026, if it isn’t extended or made completely permanent by then.
The bill, written by Senator Dodd to help restaurants and bars recover quicker from the pandemic, was unanimously passed in both the Assembly and Senate before being signed by Governor Gavin Newsom in September. However, ever since the surge in the Omicron variant this month, many restaurants and bars, worried about a return to some COVID-19 restrictions in establishments not seen since last year, have been making more extensive preparations.
“Originally this was just an extension,” said Los Angeles bar owner Kyle Lopez to the Globe on Tuesday. “And we appreciated it. Sending out to-go drinks did keep cash flowing, and we thought still would a bit for people not yet wanting to go back in public just yet.
“But now, with Omicron, this law has taken on a new meaning. It’s not just simple extension anymore but having this ability to send out drinks is becoming a lifeline again. Every bar owner is terrified that COVID laws will come back. We do not want to go through what we did in 2020 again. And, we were all making some sort of new list for the new year anyway and updating with services of what drinks we had to-go. But we’ve had to rethink it for January.”
Others agreed with him.
“I was really passive on that thing being passed,” added Santa Barbara bar co-owner Anise Temple on Tuesday. “It was good during the pandemic, but a lot of places, like mine, cater more to people drinking inside. But with the new Omicron surge, well, we needed it again.”
“Oh yeah, we are quickly working on a new to-go menu. We didn’t have much of a thought for a new one until just before Christmas, so now we are rushing to get them printed and to update our website with a new menu. You wouldn’t believe how important this law is for us now.”
Another restaurant owner, Charles DiMatteo of Stockton, also added “We’re scared to death of being forced to limit operations again. Thank God we have this. Even if it only brings in a few hundred more a month, it can be a big difference. The law being extended, with COVID coming back up, we didn’t realize just how important this was going to be.”
SB 389 comes into effect on Saturday, January 1st.
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