CA Lawmakers Kill 4 a.m. Last Call Booze Bill—And the Dreams of 3 Cities

California legislators rejected a bill to let grownups drink later in some cities, fearing Golden State adults can’t handle the freedom

In early June, legislators led by California State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) announced Senate Bill 930, a proposal to allow seven California cities to try a pilot program that would extend the nearly century-old 2:00 a.m. last call to 4:00 a.m., separating the Golden State’s metropolises from such provincial backwaters as Boston by allowing them to join adult cities like New York in enjoying a civilized 4:00 a.m. final beverage.

West Hollywood, Coachella, Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Oakland, San Francisco and Fresno all asked to be included as part of a five-year pilot program, Wiener said at the time. This initial group was eventually winnowed down to include just West Hollywood, San Francisco and Palm Springs, with WeHo’s City Council voting to adopt the measure on June 30.

But, as of Wednesday, all hope is lost for the initiative that would have allowed adult libations to be served until 4 a.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and some holidays, and until 3 a.m. all other days, the Los Angeles Times reports.

“SB 930 is a local control bill that lets cities decide what nightlife works best for their communities and small businesses,” Wiener and Assemblyman Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) said in a statement after the bill was defeated in the Assembly. “We are assessing whether there is a path to pass the bill off the Assembly floor.”

In June, Wiener said, “For too long, we’ve had a one-size-fit-all rule that all alcohol service should end at 2 a.m. We know nightlife is so incredibly important for our culture and for our economy. When you think of why people move to cities, one of them is that they want to have a vibrant nightlife, be able to have fun and enjoy themselves.”

Haney said when the bill was proposed: “Now is the time to get this done. We are not a city without nightlife. In many cases, these businesses were the first to close and the last to open. Giving them a few more hours, in many cases, will be the difference for whether or not they survive.”

When West Hollywood voted to join the program, Mayor Pro Tem Sepi Syne cast his lot against the measure, explaining to Wehoville, “I know we always say, look, if you go live by the Rainbow District, then you already knew what you were buying into. But what you were buying into was a 2 a.m. closing time. We already have issues of safety; we have nightlife safety that we’re trying to figure [out]. We’re still trying to figure out issues with druggings. Increasing the time of bars being open to 4 a.m. in my opinion is too much for our residents.”

Still, even now it’s hard to imagine Wiener giving up on securing for the people a more credible closing time.

In 2018, he introduced a nearly identical measure, SB 905, which passed through both the Assembly and Senate, but was ultimately vetoed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, who said such legislation would lead to “mischief & mayhem.”

Wiener countered that the extension of nightlife hours “won’t lead to mischief & mayhem. But it will lead to better, more diverse & more interesting nightlife in the cities that decide to participate. It will also help the nightlife sector, which has been battered by the pandemic.”

Wiener tried to extend hours again in 2019 with SB 58, which would have permitted overnight alcohol sales as part of a pilot project in 10 cities. That bill passed the Senate with a 28-6 vote, but was killed in the Assembly.

Haney has requested that this latest bill be allowed to come up for reconsideration later—a quixotic procedural move that is likely going nowhere, according to the Times.

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