California keeping to-go alcohol sales, outdoor dining expansion after state lifts COVID restrictions this month

California

Restaurants and bars in California can continue offering to-go alcoholic beverage sales once the state’s COVID-19 restrictions are lifted this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday as he announced an extension of relief measures aimed at benefitting a sector that was hit hard by the pandemic.

Bars will still be permitted to partner with restaurants, food trucks or catering companies to sell cocktails and other alcoholic beverages, while wineries and breweries can host virtual dinners with restaurants that feature wine and beer pairings.

On top of that, expanded outdoor dining to areas including sidewalk and parking lots is also getting a temporary reprieve through at least the end of the year, when the regulatory relief is scheduled to expire.

“California’s restaurants help create the vibrant and diverse communities that make California the envy of the world. As the state turns to post-pandemic life, we’ll continue to adapt best practices that have helped businesses transform customer experience for the better,” Newsom said in a statement released by the his office.

The state remains on track to shelve its “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” reopening plan on June 15, a move that will relax capacity limits and allow businesses and sectors to resume normal operations for the first time since the pandemic first began in California in March 2020.

To further aid the economy while protecting public health, California will keep in place some measures — like to-go alcohol sales and expanded outdoor dining — that helped restaurants and bars survive amid the closures and health measures meant to mitigate the virus’ spread.

Additionally, Newsom’s administration will urge local governments to implement zoning and other programs to support and promote expanded outdoor, takeout and delivery operations, according to the statement.

“With new opportunities and support for businesses large and small, and the California can-do spirit that has carried us through the past year, we will come roaring back from this pandemic,” Newsom said.

California currently has one of the nation’s highest COVID-19 vaccination rates, along with the lowest rate of community transmission of the virus. It’s a marked achievement for a state that was once the epicenter of the public health emergency in the U.S.

And after a winter where hospitals were overwhelmed with an influx of coronavirus patients, the state noted it will continue to encourage best practices designed to keep infections at bay — especially as variants pose an ongoing threat, and other parts of the nation and world experience surges.

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