Utah cuts restaurants and bars a break, says they can serve alcohol on makeshift patios during coronavirus

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) The patio at Per Noi Trattoria in Sandy.

Restaurants and bars in several Utah cities are taking their business to the streets — creating socially distant dining rooms on parking strips and side yards as a way to expand seating during the coronavirus.

Utah liquor officials said Thursday that it will allow alcohol to be served on those makeshift patios, with certain restrictions.

During the pandemic, restaurants and bars have had to reduce guest capacity, sometimes as much as 70%, to comply with physical distancing requirements.

Salt Lake City and other municipalities have recently relaxed regulations regarding the use of public property for food service and other retail sales as a way to help businesses expand their footprints.

But businesses with state liquor licenses have been hesitant to expand patios without the OK from the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which has rules concerning alcohol service on outdoor dining spaces.

“The DABC understands the severe economic impact that the pandemic has had on local proprietors,” officials said in a statement. The agency developed the guidelines, with the help of industry lobbyists and members of the DABC advisory board “to assist licensees in conducting their business in a manner that safeguards their licenses while maintaining public safety.”

Under the guidelines, bars and restaurants can apply for “temporary outdoor extension of their premises.” If approved, they could operate in the extended space through Oct. 31.

Restaurants must follow the usual state liquor regulations, including no service to those under age 21 and requiring diners to order food when buying alcohol.

They also must do the following:

• Obtain written permission from the respective city and/or property owner to use the space.

• Buy adequate dramshop and liability insurance for the extended area.

• Dispense alcohol inside the establishment, not on the patio.

• Have a trained server on the patio at all times when alcohol is served and consumed.

• Add a fence that is either temporary (for restaurants) or permanent (for bars) to delineate the new outdoor premises.

Restaurant patios can be “contiguous to the building” or “cross public property to enter,” the guidelines say.

For bars, the patio must be contiguous to the building. “No crossing over public or private sidewalks or other public property.” Also, the entrance to the patio must be from within the building or through a door adjacent to the front door.

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