Could drinking alcohol on sidewalks help California's economy?

04 December 2021, Berlin: An empty bottle of beer stands in front of a bar in Berlin Mitte while people queue up at the entrance to the 2G Kotrolle. Bars and pubs are allowed to stay open for now. Dancing in Berlin clubs is banned as of Wednesday. Ph

Could drinking alcohol on city sidewalks help boost California's economy? One state senator thinks it could. 

Democrat Scott Wiener has introduced legislation that would allow cities to create outdoor entertainment zones where bars and restaurants could sell alcoholic drinks that people can consume on public streets and sidewalks… similar to New Orleans and Las Vegas. 

According to Wiener, establishing new entertainment zones would help boost business in downtown cities that struggled to rebound after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"Getting people back out in the streets is key to the economic recovery of cities across California. By creating Entertainment Zones, we’re giving people a reason to go back to areas where recovery has been slow while creating a vital new revenue stream for bars and restaurants," Wiener said in a statement online. 

He said the COVID-19 pandemic devastated foot traffic to downtown businesses and by adding outdoor events it would help bring people to downtown areas. 

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"These events bring critical boosts in tourism that many small businesses rely on to push them over the edge into profitability. The benefits and the increased spending spill over into non-tourism related industries as well, helping lift the entire economy," the statement read.

Under current law, businesses may set up booths to sell alcoholic beverages to-go, but restaurants and bars are forbidden from doing so. Senate Bill 969 would allow cities to designate temporary entertainment zones which would allow bars and restaurants to sell alcohol to-go on equal footing with the festival’s licensed vendor.

If SB 969 passes, it could go into effect as early as January 1, 2025. The bill is sponsored by The City of San Jose, The City and County of San Francisco, and CalNight.