Back in 2020, the California restaurant industry took a devastating financial hit when they could no longer allow customers to dine indoors. In an effort to help this industry, California, like many states, enacted a temporary law that allowed establishments that have the appropriate licenses to sell alcohol to adults with their take-out and delivery food orders.
With the industry still recovering, Gov. Gavin Newsom has now signed a law that extends this practice through 2026. There continue to be restrictions to help deal with potential safety issues. For example, the alcohol must be part of a “bona fide meal.”
How this works with California’s “open container” law
There are also restrictions on the packaging and amount of alcohol that can be sold this way. These include the following:
- The beverage must be “packaged in a container with a secure lid or cap sealed in a manner designed to prevent consumption without removal of the lid or cap by breaking the seal.”
- The containers must be labeled to indicate that they contain alcohol.
- Wine must be in “single-serve containers.”
- Drinks “shall not exceed four and one-half ounces of distilled spirits.”
- A maximum of two drinks per meal ordered may be sold.
Establishments that sell alcoholic beverages to go must have a sign posted that references the section of the California Vehicle Code related to driving with alcohol in the vehicle. This is typically referred to as the “open container” law.
The sign says, “Alcoholic beverages that are packaged by this establishment are open containers and shall not be transported in a motor vehicle except in the vehicle’s trunk or, if there is no trunk, the containers shall be kept in some other area of the vehicle that is not normally occupied by the driver or passengers.”
It’s crucial to remember that even if these drinks are sealed and may not seem like open containers, the law considers them just that. Having them where they’re accessible is not only against the law, but they can be an overwhelming temptation – especially for those stuck in traffic or waiting for someone they’re picking up.
If you find yourself facing DUI or other charges around having or consuming alcohol in your vehicle, it’s essential to have experienced legal guidance. This can help you protect your rights and your future.