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Restaurants and alcohol retailers in the South Bay may see many public health and safety measures to prepare for increased demand for alcohol to-go orders with the passage of a new California law.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed State Bill No. 389 in December 2021 to put in place new regulations for businesses, including the requiring of the use of tamper-proof con trainers or seals on alcoholic beverages until Dec.31, 2026. At a recent press conference, Coronado Police Chief Charles Kaye who is vice president of the San Diego County Chief’s and Sheriff’s Association reminded the public that alcoholic drinks must be stored away from all passengers while driving, as required by state law. 

“As we move to expand food service into the area of cocktails to-go, it is important that we do so with our communities’ safety in mind first and foremost,” Kaye said. “By creating strong, visible, and material reminders about the responsibilities involved in alcohol sales and consumption, we hope to create an environment that can benefit businesses and keep our communities safe.”

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, alcohol consumption has increased considerably—observed increases in consumption of up to 25 percent have been recorded in small samples, according to data from a national survey of U.S. adults on their drinking habits.

Restaurant owners and bars have undergone stress in the past two years due to the pandemic. In turn, many expanded their to-go dining options as alcoholic beverages make up a significant portion of profits at restaurants. 

Introduced as an economic relief measure for restaurants and bars in 2020, SB 389 allows restaurants and bars to sell to-go wine, beer, and cocktails, provided the drinks were served with food. 

“This law is an important support for restaurant and bar businesses, as it allows them to continue a service that allowed many businesses to survive the pandemic,” Director of the Responsible Hospitality Coalition Marian Novak said. “It ensures that businesses have the tools they need to follow the law and protect their customers, staff, and the communities they serve.”

With increased alcohol consumption, fatality rates of people driving under the influence in San Diego County hit record levels in 2021, the highest levels in more than a decade.

“That’s 37 lives senselessly lost due to recklessness on our roads. These tragedies must serve as a catalyst for change,” said Stacie Perez, co-chair of the Alcohol Policy Panel of San Diego County. “As bars and restaurants continue to serve cocktails to go, their cooperation and support for community safety will be invaluable. Likewise, the commitment and support of local communities is a necessity if we are going to rid San Diego of DUI incidents.”

The Third Avenue Village Association (TAVA) in Chula Vista has begun meeting to develop an action plan in addressing public safety concerns. These meetings include Chula Vista Councilmember Jill Galvez, the Chula Vista Police Department, the Third Avenue Village Association (TAVA), and the Institute for Public Strategies (IPS) South Bay.

IPS South Bay and the Responsible Hospitality Coalition said they are exploring the relationship with TAVA in order to host in-person Responsible Beverage Service training for the business owners on Third Avenue and promote the online training for all servers and managers. Community benefit of strengthened alcohol policies (including RBS) will be highlighted by IPS South Bay to assist businesses in the city by preventing youth access to alcohol. 

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