Why California's pandemic induced 'Al Fresco" dining could be here to stay
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California’s legislature has approved two bills, that if signed by the Governor would allow California’s outdoor dining model to continue beyond the coronavirus pandemic.
Last year, the state forced thousands of businesses to halt nearly all indoor operations. Retail and restaurants were especially hit hard since a majority of their business models before the coronavirus pandemic were focused on customers visiting in-store.
Through a series of emergency orders, California lawmakers and Governor Gavin Newsom rolled back some regulatory barriers that allowed for curbside pick-up, expansion of outdoor dining and food preparation, and even to-go alcoholic drinks.
“These neighborhood restaurants, they’re the backbone of our communities across California and a lot of them are barely hanging on by a thread right now,” said Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D) of Woodland Hills, CA.
Gabriel says he would support Al Fresco or outdoor dining indefinitely. He is a co-author of Assembly Bill 61, one of the bills that would expand outdoor dining across the state, at least for several years.
The bill is set to run out one year after the Governor’s State of Emergency ends, or until 2024.
“This is a bill that would give them a lot of regulatory flexibility,” Gabriel said. “It would allow them to use their own space in more creative ways, they could taking advantage of their parking lots in different ways, it would allow them to do food service and preparation outdoors without a lot of bureaucratic hurdles.”
Businesses hit hard by the pandemic, say this could be just what they need to help lift them out.
“A big help for businesses, I think there’s a lot of customers that want to sit outside, enjoy the weather,” said Juilian Cervantes Jr., regional manager of his family-owned restaurant chain in Elk Grove called Super Tacos.
Super Tacos has expanded out onto the sidewalk at their Laguna Drive location. The patio was filled with customers on Friday.
There has been no widespread opposition to either bill, both have been sent to the Governor’s office for review. The single group to oppose the measure is Alcohol Justice.
"If passed AB 61 will expand availability of alcohol to locations, events, and public spaces, thus extensively threatening public health and safety," the group's statement reads.