Hayward eases alcohol restrictions for local restaurants

Beer next to a restaurant menu

HAYWARD, Calif. — The city of Hayward has made changes to its alcohol policies in an effort to boost business in the downtown area and beyond.

The Hayward City Council unanimously voted on Tuesday to increase the amount of alcohol that restaurants can sell from 40% of their gross sales to 50%. The council amended the definition of a full-service restaurant to allow partnerships between alcohol and food service businesses operating at the same location. The city’s happy hour period was also moved up an hour; it now runs from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Councilmember George Syrop suggested eliminating the food-to-alcohol sales ratio altogether, pointing out that other cities in the region do not impose any similar restrictions. Councilmember Angela Andrews supported the decision, citing the difficulty of starting a restaurant and the need for innovative thinking to support economic development in the city.

Before the vote, the city had a 60-40 food-to-alcohol sales ratio, although some restaurant owners said it was difficult to survive trying to adhere to that ratio. The ratio was approved by a prior council that was concerned about alcohol consumption in the city.

However, Mayor Mark Salinas said the brewery scene can be a powerhouse of economic development, as exemplified in other communities along the state’s Central Coast. For that reason, he also supported the amendment, noting that it would both recruit restaurateurs and business owners to the area and give the city’s current restaurants the space to get creative.

However, Councilmembers Francisco Zermeño, Julie Roche, Dan Goldstein and Elisa Márquez did not support the amendment, though they supported the original recommendations that were ultimately passed. The changes being suggested deviated from what was posted on the agenda significantly enough to cause concerns about lack of community input, they said. Roche added that she did not want to simply establish “a new way of having a bar.”

“I appreciate the reason behind it,” Roche said, “but I would actually want a little more input from the community on that amendment before I would be OK voting for that amendment.”

Restaurants still need to be “a bona fide public eating place,” as defined by the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which regulates the sale of alcohol, including issuing and regulating alcohol licenses for restaurants.

The council’s decision is expected to potentially increase sales tax revenue, which is used to fund city services, by boosting business at both existing and new restaurants.

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