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California’s Booze Bosses Won’t Block Plans to Allow Drinking in Parking Lots and Streets

Also: A slew of restaurants shutter in San Jose, and more news to start your day

Drinking outside is no big deal in San Francisco’s Belden Place, and that privilege could soon expand to every other sidewalk, street, and alley in California.
Photo by Bruno PEROUSSE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

California’s alcohol regulators have paved the way for loads of new outdoor drinking zones.

One of the questions posed by Berkeley’s plan to close city streets to create open-air cafes, or similar proposals in a multitude of Bay Area cities, including Mountain View, Menlo Park, and San Jose (the latter of which is holding a vote on the notion today), is how that would work with the current regulations imposed by the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC). The ABC calls all the shots regarding when, where, and how bars and restaurants can sell and serve booze, and they’ve typically been wary of loosing up standards — at least, until the pandemic hit.

Once it became clear that the statewide shutdown would devastate the restaurant industry, the ABC suddenly got real cool with some activities that were previously verboten. That’s how we suddenly ended up with to-go cocktails in March, and how, as of Friday, bars and restaurants in counties permitted to allow sit-down dining got the green light to serve alcohol in “adjacent sidewalks, parking lots, and in city streets,” Eater LA reports. It’s a loosening of regulations that answers a lot of those questions about how, say, Berkeley might allow an area establishment to serve a Long Island Iced Tea to a diner at a picnic table in the middle of Telegraph.

This fourth “notice of regulatory relief” from the ABC would allow establishments in counties that have entered the latter half of Phase 2 of reopening (that is, the “you can open dining rooms if you follow these new guidelines” one) to apply for a Temporary Catering Authorization (TCA) from the ABC that would allow them to serve drinks in areas near their restaurants: spots like parking lots, sidewalks, and “other areas within close proximity to the licensed premises that are immediately accessible to the licensee, and that are secured by and under the control of the licensee.” To be approved, the restaurants will have to come up with a diagram of the space they’re taking over, proof that they’ve let local law enforcement know about the plan, and a $100 application fee. Because, even during a pandemic, the ABC needs those Benjamins. (You can read the full text of the ABC’s new order here.)

The ABC is taking the “T” in TCA pretty seriously, saying that this program will likely end when the pandemic does (whenever that is!), and that a spot’s permit can be suspended if it’s determined that the new outdoor drinking zone causes “disturbance of the quiet enjoyment of nearby residents.” In other words, see you on Nextdoor!

And in other news...

  • A nonprofit food pantry is the primary source of food for residents of Treasure Island. [KQED]
  • Local cookbook writers explain how they work with chefs like Juhu Beach Club’s Preeti Mistry and Aziza’s Mourad Lahlou to translate their work in their kitchens to the page. [San Jose Mercury News]
  • A program called Great Plates Delivered SF will use state funding to pay local restaurants to prepare food for 6,000 San Francisco seniors every day. [KRON 4]
  • Restaurants in the East Bay are modifying recipes to work with the nation’s suddenly unstable food chain. [Berkeleyside]
  • San Pedro Square Market reopened in San Jose Monday, but some of its longstanding vendors are missing: The leases have expired for Chocatoo (a dessert bar), Blush Raw Bar Lounge, Konjoe Burger Bar, and an ice cream stand called Treatbot’s, so they’re closed for good. [San Jose Mercury News]