Hayward is considering relaxing alcohol restrictions for restaurants

Beer next to a restaurant menu

Hayward restaurants may soon be able to sell more alcohol than the city currently allows.

The Hayward Planning Commission on Thursday unanimously recommended that the City Council drop the minimum food-to-alcohol sales ratio from 60:40 to 50:50 for a full-service restaurant, amend the definition of a full-service restaurant to allow partnerships between alcohol and food service businesses operating at the same location, and change the city’s allowable happy hour time from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. to 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Commissioner Aidan Ali-Sullivan was absent.

The first reading of the proposed changes is expected at an upcoming City Council meeting. The changes would go into effect if approved after a second reading at a subsequent meeting.

The state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control regulates the sale of alcohol and requires restaurants to have a Type 41, 47, 49 or 75 license in order to sell beer, wine and distilled spirits. The Hayward Police Department, which worked with the city’s Planning and Economic Development divisions, “didn’t want to give away the farm” and get rid of the 50:50 ratio altogether, said Steve Kowalski, an associate planner with the city’s Planning Division.

“We do want to make sure our restaurants aren’t kind of cheating,” Kowalski said, “and really acting more like bars and then just selling finger foods like french fries and chicken nuggets and popcorn and peanuts.”

Revising the regulations around alcohol sales is intended to support existing full-service restaurants and encourage more to open, which is part of a larger goal to grow the city’s economy, Kowalski said. The City Council made that a priority in its three-year strategic roadmap adopted at the end of January 2020.

The amendment allowing alcohol and food service providers to partner is reflective of policies the state and other jurisdictions have already adopted to accommodate businesses that might want to, for example, operate a brewery and have another business provide food. The City Council has already endorsed and provided financial support to one such business, Oakland-based Arthur Mac’s Tap and Snack, which is expanding into Hayward.

The staff initially recommended a happy hour period of 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the request of Aric Yeverino, owner of the Dirty Bird Lounge, because many of his patrons are Hayward teachers and get out of work earlier.

“They like to drink as soon as they get off,” Yeverino said. “It’s a hard job, you guys don’t really pay them that much, give them a break on cost.”

He added that if patrons are being served to the point of overintoxication, that indicates there’s a problem with the establishment, not necessarily with the happy hour.

Commissioner Karla Goodbody recommended pushing the happy hour back an hour to accommodate people who may work outside of Hayward and have longer commutes, to which no one objected.

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