County lays down the law for brewery opening

By Terry Miller

After months of frustration for local breweries, Los Angeles County has finally listened to these businesses that have suffered great losses since the coronavirus hit our economy.

While not perfect, Los Angeles County has cleared the way for breweries and wineries without in-house kitchens to offer outdoor service provided they have a partnership with a third-party food provider.

Not everyone is delighted with the new ordinance. In fact, Wingwalker Brewery’s David Robkin is “Furious, flabbergasted, frustrated, and fatigued” by the new regulations.

“The County Health Department has laid additional regulations on breweries that require all in-person customers to make reservations 24 hours in advance for seating. They have also required that we obtain a catering permit, which I see as a stalking horse for LACDPH to begin inspecting breweries and regulating them as restaurants with associated requirements. The ABC requires a physically signed contract with a food truck delivered in person. It took 15 minutes for them to finally acknowledge that I could have multiple vendors and that the truck did not have to be parked in my lot 24/7,” he wrote in an email.

“People are pretty dense when it comes to changing their behavior in this pandemic. I am beginning to believe that 75% of the blame for the length this disaster has gone on lies in the laps of incompetent government staff. There’s a sea chanty about this,” Robkin quipped.

For the record, the county ordinance says, “Breweries and wineries that are not food facilities and possess the following state alcohol licenses, #20, #23, #40, #42, and #61, may conduct for outdoor dining operations under certain conditions.”

Furthermore, alcohol must be purchased in the same transaction as a bona fide meal at breweries and wineries, and restrooms that were available to customers must continue to remain available.

The county adds a number of strict conditions that breweries must adhere to. Breweries and wineries with certain state alcohol license that do not have a moderate risk or high risk restaurant public health permit may offer food and drinks outdoors so long as they follow all the protocols for restaurants detailed in the ordinance, adhere to the additional requirements, and enter into one of the following arrangements to offer meals with on-premises beverage sales:

“1) The Facility may contract with a caterer or restaurant that has a valid Los Angeles County Health Permit to offer a bona fide meal with alcohol under the host facility requirements outlined in the California Retail Food Code, provided that the Facility obtains a health permit from the Environmental Health Division at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health prior to operating in such capacity. ALCOHOL MUST BE PURCHASED IN THE SAME TRANSACTION AS A BONA FIDE MEAL. The catering operation must provide Standard Operating Procedures to the Environmental Health Division at EHmail@ph.lacounty.gov prior to operating in such capacity; or

“2) The Facility may work with a mobile food facility (i.e. food truck) permitted by the Los Angeles Department of Public Health to provide bona fide meals. For all arrangements, ALCOHOL MUST BE PURCHASED IN THE SAME TRANSACTION AS A BONA FIDE MEAL. The Facility shall notify the Environmental Health Division at EHmail@ph.lacounty.gov prior to operating in such capacity.

“’Bona fide meals’ are defined as a usual assortment of foods commonly ordered at various hours of the day, that would be considered a legitimate meal; the service of prepackaged food like sandwiches or salads, or simply heating frozen or prepared meals, and appetizers and snacks shall not be deemed complaint with the bona fide meal requirement. The “Facility may only seat customers who have made a prior reservation for a table at least one (1) day in advance for outdoor dining operation in order to ensure there is no gathering and sufficient area for physical distancing of 6 feet or more.

“The Facility may not serve any beverages or food to customers that are not seated, and customers are not allowed to consume food or beverages unless seated at a table. The Facility may not operate between the hours of 12:01 AM and 11:30 AM.”

This is a developing story. We will update with comments from other local brewers on how the new ordinance will affect them.”

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