Coronavirus: State agents field complaints about dine-in restaurant service

California’s Alcoholic Beverage Control agency says it has received more than 100 reports from across the state of restaurants and bars re-opening dine-in service in violation of coronavirus-closure orders.

Complaints in recent weeks of illegal openings of licensed restaurants and bars spanned 43 counties — including Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Cruz and San Francisco — and 111 establishments were reported to have been serving dine-in food or alcohol despite various state and local public-health orders banning on-premises service, an agency spokesman said.

Agents from the ABC contacted all 111 businesses to tell them to shift to take-out dining and quit serving food or alcohol on-site, spokesman John Carr said in an email. “Most have complied with the requests made by ABC agents,” Carr said. “ABC’s preference is education over enforcement. However, we are prepared to move forward with disciplinary action against those businesses that are in violation of stay-at-home orders.”

The agency has begun disciplinary action against three establishments, Carr said. He declined to provide any additional details and said information would be released later. Disciplinary actions can result in suspension or revocation of alcohol licenses.

Because of the “great economic stress” the pandemic has imposed on restaurants and bars, the agency has suspended enforcement of a number of prohibitions, including a ban on to-go sales of alcoholic beverages, Carr said.

The agency could not provide a breakdown of how many restaurants and bars in which counties were reported to be operating illegally, Carr said.

Agents this week contacted restaurants in Sutter County, the location of Yuba City, where some restaurants opened this week after Sutter and Yuba counties jointly adopted an order allowing dine-in service in defiance of state closures. Agents told businesses to switch back to take-out and curb-side pickup.

“Everyone is being told the same thing,” Carr said. “The stay at home order is still in place. So far compliance around California has been good.”

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Author: Ethan Baron

Mercury News Business