On Saturday, the new California law making to-go cocktails a fully legal and legit thing statewide will take effect — and it will stay in effect for five years, pending extensions.
But this isn't the 'It's New Orleans everywhere' sort of law that some of you may have wanted — and nor is it even as permissive as the pandemic-era rules that it was intended to extend. No, in the way of bureaucracies and asinine, convoluted liquor laws across this great nation, the new SB 389 that goes into effect January 1 will be useful only to restaurants that both have a full liquor license and do a lot of in-person takeout.
You see, there were already laws in place that let restaurants, wineries, and brewpubs sell sealed containers of beer and wine. But during the pandemic, bars selling craft cocktails could jar up their goods for takeout or delivery, and restaurants could offer their signature drinks on third-party delivery apps as well.
Will any of that be possible under SB 389? Cue the wah-wah horns, because no.
SB 389, which was voted into law back in October, is of course a watered-down version of the pandemic rules, and it leaves out bars that don't serve food entirely.
Starting Saturday, restaurants can sell their jarred craft cocktails or adult juice-bag concoctions only to customers who are ordering takeout in person — and only to those customers ordering a full, "bona fide" meal. The ABC even provides a description of what that is, and it does not include most sandwiches, salads, cups of soup, onion rings, flautas, egg rolls, pretzels, chicken wings, macaroni salad, or any "Food ordinarily served as appetizers or first courses."
That means that any cocktail bar that might serve cocktail snacks will not be able to take advantage of this law unless they provide a full entree of some kind, as defined by the ABC, with "sufficient quantity [of food] that it would constitute a main course in a multiple-course dining experience."
The law also disadvantages restaurants that have drinks that have been popular with customers via third-party delivery apps — delivery is no longer allowed for cocktails.
Korey Reynolds, who oversees all of Tacolicious's locations, tells Mission Local this week that he wasn't even aware that they would have to stop selling delivery margaritas as of Saturday. He added that this change will be "detrimental" to business overall.
"Being able to offer to-go cocktails lends us an opportunity to staff additional people and gives us an opportunity to ensure that families are taken care of," Reynolds tells Mission Local. "If there is any sort of pullback on that, that impacts not just businesses, but all of the people who work for those businesses as well."
SF Bar Owner Alliance President Ben Bleiman, the owner of Teeth bar on Mission, doesn't mince words, calling the new regulations "a bunch of bullshit."
As he tells Mission Local, "It's awful for bars. It’s really sad and I don’t know why they cut us out, basically, but it actually makes life worse for us, not better."
Did we expect anything less when the ABC got involved and the pandemic seemed like it might end soon?
Anyway, do your best to go buy some to-go drinks, in person, at your favorite establishments that sell bona fide meals in the coming weeks.