Legislation to Expand Outdoor Dining Statewide Passes Key Senate Committee, Gains Waiver for Immediate Implementation

Legislation to Support Struggling Neighborhood Restaurants Now Includes Urgency Clause Providing for Immediate Implementation

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO, CA — Yesterday, the Senate Health Committee approved legislation that would greatly expand opportunities for outdoor dining across the Golden State. Authored by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Woodland Hills) and 21 bipartisan co-authors, Assembly Bill (AB) 61 would empower local jurisdictions and the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) to provide much-needed regulatory flexibility to neighborhood restaurants struggling with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. AB 61 now includes an urgency clause, meaning the measure will go into effect immediately upon signature by the Governor.

“Neighborhood restaurants are the backbone of communities across California, but too many are barely hanging on by a thread,” said Assemblymember Gabriel. “Outdoor dining offers a lifeline that can help keep these establishments afloat, but we must do more to assist them during these challenging times. Our bill will provide much-needed regulatory flexibility so that restaurants can safely expand outdoor dining and continue to serve the communities they call home. We have made great progress in addressing the pandemic, but must do more to protect these beloved small businesses.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the restaurant industry particularly hard. During the first three months of the pandemic alone, the restaurant and food service industry lost around $120 billion in sales, and the National Restaurant Association reported 2.5 million jobs lost in 2020. Many proprietors say that a rebound will take 2-3 years.

AB 61 would provide much-needed regulatory flexibility to restaurants, including temporarily waiving requirements for fully enclosed kitchen and service areas, extending existing ABC regulatory relief, and providing ABC with flexibility and discretion to allow for changes to existing alcohol licenses.

"The changes we made to support outdoor dining during the pandemic saved countless jobs and businesses, and Angelenos have been clear that they want to see these improvements stay in place for good,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “I am proud to support Assemblymember Gabriel's legislation that will enable us to make outdoor dining a permanent feature in Los Angeles and across the state."

“The restaurant industry has been hit hard by the pandemic. With indoor dining rooms still closed in most places, outdoor dining has become an important lifeline for restaurants,” stated Madelyn Alfano, Chair of the California Restaurant Association Board of Directors and owner of Maria’s Italian Kitchen, a neighborhood Italian restaurant with several locations in the San Fernando Valley. “AB 61 will help to address issues restaurants face as we have created outdoor spaces to continue to serve our customers. Nothing is more important to me than the safety of our customers and the ability to continue to provide delicious meals for my community.”

"Hundreds of thousands of businesses have shut down and millions of workers have lost their jobs and livelihoods, with restaurants being the hardest hit,” said Stuart Waldman, President of the Valley Industry Commerce Association. “AB 61 is a critical step to help bolster our food service industry and the 1.8 million Californians it employs."