While most of the world’s great cities wouldn’t dare close down an adult libation destination any earlier than 4 a.m., California in its timid wisdom has long sent revelers in even its most sophisticated metropolises packing by two in the morning, as if people dreamed of going West to end up in Boston.
Well, that could all change as last call for drinks at nightclubs, bars, and restaurants in select California cities may soon be extended to 4 a.m. under a new proposal.
State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) announced Senate Bill 930—a proposal that marks his attempt at the change—on Friday. The bill would permit the sale of alcohol from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. at nightlife establishments in seven cities: West Hollywood, Coachella, Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Oakland, San Francisco, and Fresno. Each of the cities asked to be included as part of a five-year pilot program, Wiener said.
“For too long, we’ve had a one-size-fit-all rule that all alcohol service should end at 2 a.m.,” Weiner told reporters at a Friday news conference in San Francisco, according to the Los Angeles Times. “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.”
Currently, the Golden State allows the sale of alcohol from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. for nightclubs, bars, and restaurants—a regulation that has been in place since 1935, two years after the 21st Amendment ended Prohibition.
But Wiener’s bill would give participating cities full control over how to apply the alcohol rules. City officials would have the discretion to limit those extended hours to certain neighborhoods or streets, specific days of the week, or during special events only. Each establishment that decides to participate must seek a permit to extend hours and undergo review by California’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
The latest bill marks Wiener’s third attempt to extend last call in the state.
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.”
But according to Wiener, 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 as opposed to seven under his latest proposal, the Times reports. This bill also passed the Senate with a 28-6 vote, but was killed in the Assembly.
“Now is the time to get this done. We are not a city without nightlife,” San Francisco Assemblymember Matt Haney told the Times. “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.”
Wiener and advocates say the extension of nightlife activities would also unify marginalized communities.
“Nightlife has been a haven for the LGBTQ community. It has been our living rooms, our space, where we come together, and even find our partners,” Honey Mahogany, a partner at the Stud, a historic nightlife venue that is temporarily closed due to COVID pandemic, told the paper.
Others say it will also impact the state’s tourism, which was nightmarishly derailed by the pandemic.
“When we have people traveling from out of town and we tell them they have to leave for the night, they cannot believe it,” Ben Bleiman, a partner at Tonic Nightlife Group, told the Times.
Opponents of the bill have raised concerns about a possible uptick in drunk driving and sexual violence incidents as a result of the two-hour extension on nightlife.
“It seems like adding two more hours of potential harm to a community that is already struggling to keep its constituents safe is not a good idea,” Democratic state Sen. Dave Cortese, whose district encompasses much of Santa Clara County, told the Times. He said that he hasn’t decided on how he will vote on the bill this summer.
Despite these concerns, Wiener said he remains hopeful that Governor Gavin Newsom, a former mayor of San Francisco with a background in the restaurant industry, will be open to the proposal if it reaches his desk.
Now, we’re sure you noticed that neither Los Angeles nor Los Angeles County cities—aside from WeHo—are currently on the pilot list, but Wiener said that he’d be happy to add more cities if they request it. “So advocate away at your City Hall,” he tweeted.
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