LOS ANGELES - While many are looking forward to the end of COVID-19 changes, like wearing a mask and social distancing, not all changes have been bad, and two, in particular, are going to stay after California fully reopens its economy on June 15, according to Governor Gavin Newsom.
"The pandemic may be going away... but your to-go cocktails don’t have to!" Newsom wrote on Twitter Thursday afternoon.
According to the governor, California will now allow to-go cocktails and outdoor dining expansions to remain in place after June 15.
"Throughout the pandemic, flexible dining rules gave customers safer & fun options to support CA’s dynamic restaurant industry," Newsom's office wrote. "Today, we’re announcing that CA will allow outdoor dining expansions and to-go cocktails to stay after we fully reopen on June 15!"
Thursday's action will also allow bars to continue to partner with food trucks, catering companies or restaurants in order to sell meals with their beverages, as required, and allow wineries and breweries to partner with restaurants to host virtual dinners with wine and beer pairings.
Outdoor dining amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Los Angeles, California. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
According to Newsom's office, local officials could still have restrictions on zoning ordinances but Thursday’s action allows for flexibility. The restriction on to go cocktails was by the state, not locals, so the decision allows for that flexibility statewide.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit the restaurant industry particularly hard, with many restaurants shuttering their doors for the majority of the past year. Nearly a third of California’s restaurants permanently closed and two-thirds of workers at least temporarily lost their jobs as the pandemic set in more than a year ago, a legislative committee reported in May.
Few business sectors were hit harder than the dining industry, which before the pandemic included more than 76,000 eating and drinking establishments employing 1.8 million people, according to the California Restaurant Association.
But with the shutdown, as many as a million of those workers were quickly furloughed or laid off, the association told the state Senate’s Special Committee on Pandemic Emergency Response.
Restaurant employment is still down one-quarter from before the pandemic, according to the latest numbers from the state Employment Development Department.
Industry leaders said they fear a lack of labor may shutter more establishments as the economy reopens.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.