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City Cracks Down on Alcohol Outside Restaurants

Apr 25, 2020 09:07AM ● By Jeanne Fratello
No more sidewalk drinking gatherings: That's the message that Manhattan Beach delivered on Friday with a new emergency order.

The order requires establishments that serve food and alcohol for takeout to transfer alcohol purchases to customers only at the same time food is transferred to the customer.

The aim is to prevent people from consuming alcohol while they wait for their takeout orders, and to prevent gathering opportunities for people at or around restaurants.

“The city continues to encourage our community to support local businesses during this time; however, we need to exercise that support in a responsible and safe manner," said Mayor Richard Montgomery in a statement. "This order reinforces and clarifies the goals of the public health orders, by addressing a possible loophole that made it difficult for social distancing to be abided by at our local restaurants. Transferring alcohol at the same time food is being picked up, supports restaurants that we all love, responsibly."

Photo Draws Complaints

The new regulation came about at least in part due to a widely circulated photograph of a group of people drinking outside a downtown Manhattan Beach restaurant, ostensibly waiting for takeout orders. That photo drew widespread criticism and frustration from residents as well as City Council members, who discussed the issue at their April 20 meeting.

(The photo, which appeared on, is printed here with facial identification blocked out.)

Councilmembers expressed concern that the gathering took place on a wide-open street in downtown Manhattan Beach with no apparent face coverings, social distancing, or police enforcement in sight.

"If people see something [like this], pick up the phone and call the police, and let them know," said Montgomery at Monday's City Council meeting.

Current law already prohibits opening and consuming alcohol in public places (the "open container" law). During the COVID-19 pandemic, the state Alcohol Beverage Control Department has allowed restaurants and other establishments to sell alcohol for off-site consumption “when sold in conjunction with meals prepared for pick-up or delivery.”

Manhattan Beach's new order clarifies that restaurants cannot give customers their drinks to consume while they wait for the food. 

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