State officials hold virtual press conference on efforts to expand outdoor dining across California

Today, as small restaurants across California struggle to remain open, Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel and Senator Scott Wiener held a virtual press conference to discuss legislative efforts to expand outdoor dining and provide much-needed relief to struggling neighborhood restaurants.

The legislators, who authored Assembly Bill 61 and Senate Bill 314 to expand outdoor dining options across California, were joined by small business owners and advocates from across the state.

Both bills have passed through the state legislature with strong bipartisan support and are currently awaiting action on California Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk. Both include an urgency clause, meaning the measures 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 Gabriel. “Outdoor dining offers a critical lifeline that can help local restaurants keep their doors open during these challenging times. Our bills will provide much-needed 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 we must do more to help these beloved small businesses.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated small businesses across the state — particularly in the restaurant industry. 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.

“Outdoor dining has become an essential and enjoyable part of going to restaurants and bars across the state,” said Wiener. “We need to do everything we can to help small businesses — particularly in the hospitality industry — recover from the economic challenges posed by COVID-19. Expanding outdoor dining is a no-brainer, and I am proud to have worked with Assemblymember Gabriel to ensure that it’s here to stay.”

“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, Immediate Past 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.”