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Coronavirus US: California lists non-meals for dining guidelines

California says chicken wings, cheese sticks, fried calamari and french fries are not considered meals as it cracks down on outdoor restaurants that are offering drinks without food as the state battles a surge in COVID-19 cases. 

The state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control agency has issued guidelines on what constitutes as a ‘meal’ after Governor Gavin Newsom reversed reopening measures last month by ordering all bars to shut.

While bars are now closed, restaurants can still offer outdoor dining across the state. 

The alcohol agency posted guidance on its website to help licensed venues adhere to requirements amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

On the list are snacks including pretzels, nuts, popcorn, pickles and chips.

More substantial food that also does not count as a meal includes items ordinarily served as appetizers or first courses, such as cheese sticks, fried calamari, chicken wings, pizza bites, egg rolls, pot stickers, flautas and cups of soup.

French fries, onion rings and desserts are also not considered meals, according to the agency.  

Pre-packaged sandwiches and salads don’t meet the requirement but the agency said it does recognize that many sandwiches and salads are ‘substantial and can constitute legitimate meals’. 

‘Given the tremendous variety of foods available at the many different licensed premises, this definition provides necessary flexibility to look at the totality of the circumstances in determining whether or not the food service provided by a licensee is a legitimate offering of meals in a bona fide manner,’ the agency’s website reads. 

‘Although multiple courses are not required to constitute a meal, in order for the patron to be served a meal there should be a sufficient quantity that it would constitute a main course in a multiple-course dining experience.’   

California initially succeeded in slowing the spread of the virus but has had a sharp reversal with COVID-19 infection rates climbing sharply in recent weeks. 

The most populous US state recorded 413,579 cases on Wednesday after adding a record 12,807 spike in new daily infections to its tally. 

California residents starting in March were urged to stay home as much as possible and state health orders shut down all but essential businesses such as grocery stores.

Throughout May and June, California reopened much of its economy, and people resumed shopping in stores and dining in restaurants. 

But infections began to surge and a new round of business restrictions were imposed, including a ban on indoor dining in restaurants and bars.  

California’s Governor Gavin Newsom last week rolled back some of his reopening plans for the state by announcing the closure of some indoor venues that attract crowds such as bars, restaurants, movie theaters, zoos and museums. 

He also ordered gyms, churches and hair salons to close in the 30 hardest-hit counties of the state. 

The state’s latest COVID-19 figures means it now has 5,000 more cases than New York – the original epicenter of the nation’s outbreak. 

New York currently has 408,181 total infections throughout the state. 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday tightened the state’s outdoor dining rules to order bars to sell substantial amounts of food, and not just snacks, with drinks.

Outdoor dining resumed in New York City on June 22. 

Last week, Cuomo tightened the rules to force bars and restaurants to serve food with drinks.

The bars responded with $1 or 50-cent menus, offering items like ‘Cuomo chips’ in a bowl or peanuts to meet the new rules..

Cuomo clamped down again this week, ordering that they have to serve a ‘substantial’ amount of food to people to be able to stay open.

He also said he never gave bars the green-light to offer outdoor service in the first place. 

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