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What to Know About the New Laws That Will Impact California Restaurants and Bars

California made the chanterelle its official state mushroom, plus more laws affecting food and beverage businesses

Forest chanterelle mushrooms Photo by: Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Dianne de Guzman is a deputy editor at Eater SF writing about Bay Area restaurant and bar trends, upcoming openings, and pop-ups.

With the beginning of a new year comes a series of new laws and amendments that take effect in California this year. Several new laws should affect the food and beverage industry, including an increase in the minimum wage for fast food workers and the formal allowance of Japanese shochu sales in the state. Here are the biggest new laws impacting California restaurants and bars:

Minimum wage increase

In September, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1228, a groundbreaking law to protect fast-food workers. Features of the bill include a significant increase in hourly wages. Specifically, base pay will increase from $15.50 to $20 at fast-food chains with more than 60 locations across the country. The minimum wage increase goes into effect as of April 1, 2024.

Fast food chains are already responding to the law; Pizza Hut franchises in California will eliminate staff delivery driver positions in February, leading to 1,200 lost jobs. McDonald’s and Chipotle will also reportedly raise menu prices in response to higher operating costs.

Paid sick leave increase

With the passage of Senate Bill 616, part- and full-time California employees will receive 40 hours or 5 days of paid sick leave per year starting January 1, 2024. The law includes both hourly and salaried employees.

Outdoor dining extension

Under AB 1217, California will update some of the pandemic-era relief outlined in AB 617, including allowing outdoor dining to extend past its previous 2024 expiration date. Under the new law, outdoor, patio, and al fresco dining will be allowed until July 1, 2026.

Shochu sales legal under Type 41 license

Establishments with a Type 41 liquor license, which allows for the sale of beer and wine but not hard alcohol, can now sell Japanese shochu with an ABV of 24 percent or less under AB 416. Previously, shochu could only be sold so long as it was (mis)labeled as soju — a distilled product from Korea that was given an exception back in the 1990s. Under the new law, shochu can be labeled and sold as such.

Single-user restroom signage update

Businesses in California are now required to update the signage on all single-user restrooms and identify them as “all-gender toilet facilities,” according to AB 783. Business owners will be notified of the required update at the time of filing for or renewing a business license.

Junk fee ban to roll out in July

Eater SF followed the passage of California’s SB 478, otherwise known as a “junk fee” ban, which targets extra charges by hotel, car rental, and ticket sale companies. Although restaurants weren’t specifically included in the bill, its passage caused concern in the restaurant industry over whether service charges — which sometimes provide workers with higher wages — would also be banned. The law goes into effect on July 1, 2024, and the Department of Justice promised to meet with industry groups “to discuss implementation of the law” before then.

Updated “Entertainment Zone” rules

When outdoor festivals take place in neighborhoods, previous rules did not allow restaurants and bars inside the festival area to sell alcoholic beverages. SB 76 proposed by Sen. Scott Wiener changes that, and allows customers to purchase alcohol at licensed businesses if they are within festival boundaries.

The bill also allows music venues to sell and serve alcohol at private events not open to the general public, regardless of whether a live performance occurs.

A new state mushroom rises

Foragers and mushroom enthusiasts, listen up: California designated Cantharellus californicus, or the California golden chanterelle, as the official state mushroom thanks to AB 261. “Recognition of a state mushroom honors the manifold cultural, economic, and ecological roles mushrooms play in California,” the passed bill reads.