Los Angeles

L.A. County eases COVID-19 restrictions for serving alcohol

Some are not sure whether they’ll take advantage.

Red Wine in Glasses (Photo by Pixabay)

Happy hour is back for USC students over 21.

Los Angeles County officials announced Wednesday plans to ease coronavirus restrictions as soon as this week by allowing customers to consume alcohol at wineries and breweries and without requiring the establishments to serve food with the drinks.

The county otherwise remains in the most restrictive tier of regulations, but the move will help wine and bar owners and customers reunite after months of quarantine.

“It makes me excited because I turned 21 over quarantine so I haven’t really had the experience to go to a lot of [wine bars or breweries],” said Janie Salisbury, a senior majoring in business major. “I’m looking forward to trying new fun places to get drinks.”

Salisbury mostly dines out with her direct roommates, but said the opportunity to “try new places” and “explore new areas” of Los Angeles excites her.

Salisbury also thinks the relaxation of restrictions will help the economic crisis many businesses are facing.

Farfalla Vinoteca e Birreria owner John Borghetti, who closed his Los Feliz wine bar in March due to the pandemic, says the measure is a “step forward” in reopening, but difficulties still persist.

Borghetti’s wine bar has limited patio space and a narrow sidewalk that can only seat a few guests. He worked with his landlord, though, and adjusted his menu to adapt to coronavirus.

Borghetti plans to reopen within the next two months and to seat guests in the parking lot next to his wine bar. He intends to add appetizers and tapas plates to his menu to bring guests back to Farfalla Vinoteca e Birreria under the new rules.

“We are going to be able to be open,” Borghetti said. “It’s not going to be easy because everything costs money and [it’s] a new challenge. So you hope that the response from our patrons and our old ones and to get new ones will support us the second time around. So that’s my message to everybody.”

While not all Los Angeles residents feel comfortable dining in yet, like USC professor Heather Fogarty, there are still ways to support wineries and breweries. Fogarty, who worked as the wine and spirits editor for Bon Appetit at Condé Nast from 2004 until 2011, said she has concerns for workers and their health, but wants to ensure her favorite wines stay in production.

“I have been supporting my local restaurants by getting takeout and whatever I can do to support them financially,” Fogarty said. “And I think the best that we can do is see if you have a favorite bottle of wine and if you want to drink it in future, the way to guarantee that is by supporting wineries and helping them to rebuild and recover.”

However, the classic wine tasting experience remains in question for some fans of wineries.

“I know a lot of wineries have an indoor cellar that you drink wine in and you’re obviously not going to be able to do that right now,” Salisbury said. “So it’s going to be interesting to see how the business world changes and how these companies are able to adapt.”

Graduate student Chiara Nonni has found her own way to support her favorite wineries. Nonni plans to participate in a “virtual” wine tasting experience through Hellen’s Wines, a wine club in L.A.

“Basically you pay, they send you a few bottles, and then there is an instructor over Zoom and you go through tasting notes and different things like that,” Nonni said. “I would imagine right now that would be kind of the most logical way moving forward.”

Students over 21 and wine drinkers alike can choose to support local wine bars and wineries in person, over Zoom or by ordering wine.

But, according to Fogarty, there’s one rule prospective drinkers should keep in mind, regardless of where they are.

“The best wine is the one you enjoy the most.”