Bars in California can offer outdoor seating

California’s bars and restaurants can reopen for table service as long as they can provide outdoor seating, according to new measures announced this week.

The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) in California has proposed regulations for bars and restaurants that will allow them to seat diners on property that is “adjacent to the licensed premises”, such as pavements or car parks.

The ABC has previously ruled that on-trade outlets can offer take-out and home delivery to patrons so they could stay in business while the state’s lockdown measures are in place.

Pre-made cocktails and other alcoholic drinks are only to be sold as a take-out option if they are served with a meal.

California governor Gavin Newsom issued a directive to close all bars, wineries, nightclubs and brewpubs in the state on 15 March, and called for all seniors age 65 years or older to stay in self isolation, in an effort to stop Covid-19 from spreading and putting a strain on local hospitals.

The temporary authorisation only allows bars and restaurants to sell alcohol “during times in which bona fide meals are being served,” and allows them to use outdoor spaces that comply with public safety and welfare requirements.

Meanwhile, venues should still “encourage takeout and delivery service whenever possible,” according to California’s latest guidance for bars and restaurants issued last week.

The ABC updated its guidelines on 19 May, and also ruled that licensees that do not have their kitchen facilities and do not prepare bona fide meals on the licensed premises to partner with businesses that do offer meals ( a “meal provider”) to “sell bona fide meals in conjunction with to-go containers of alcoholic beverages.”

The regulations have been amended to provide relief to the alcohol industry while it is unable to operate in full during lockdown.

Some US states are already coming out of their own lockdowns, with restaurants now able to take bookings.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance for bars preparing to reopen earlier this month as coronavirus lockdown restrictions eased.

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