In hopes of benefitting the tourism and entertainment industries and providing businesses with flexibility, Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) has proposed a bill that would give municipalities the option to expand their alcoholic beverage service hours until 4 a.m. Currently, the state allows for beverage service from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m.
The legislation, SB 635, would allow communities to partner with the state to create plans that could expand beverage service hours, if approved through a full public process. The bill is expected to be heard in the spring.
“It’s very arduous, and it’s completely optional,” Leno said of the process.
He said the bill doesn’t impose anything on anyone; it merely gives cities an opportunity to consider creating a plan for extended beverage service. The plan would be reviewed by the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), and would include “many significant hurdles before another drop of alcohol is served,” Leno said.
He said community stakeholders, such as law enforcement, healthcare providers, business owners and transportation advocates, would have to decide if they want to submit a plan to the ABC.
If they did and it was approved, establishments in the area — likely in a zoned area for after-hour entertainment — would apply for a permit, which would be subject to a public process, Leno said.
He said 24 other states and several international capitals have extended alcoholic beverage service hours, or offer the option to pursue such hours.
“It’s really California which is the odd state out,” Leno said.
He said the bill could give the state’s travel tourism and entertainment industry, which is certainly not “an insignificant industry” in California, a boost. It could allow bars, restaurants and other entertainment venues to stay open later, Leno said.
“It really would create an expanded culture of entertainment,” he added.
Leno said potential public safety issues are of “serious” concern to him, and they would be considered in the creation of the local plan. He cited a study done by the police chief in Seattle, which showed that there is a greater risk to public safety when all the establishments close at the same time, pushing all the patrons on to the streets at the same time. Leno said the chief concluded that it was more practical to have bars and other venues close at staggered times.
Michael Zimmerman, a bartender at Frolic Room in Hollywood, said he and bar owner Bob Nunley had just discussed the bill and concluded that it would not be beneficial for Hollywood.
“It’ll be the worst thing that could happen to the boulevard,” Zimmerman said. “We’re really hoping that the bill doesn’t pass, because we feel it will be detrimental to a lot of things going on in the city.”
He believes that Hollywood does not need people walking on the boulevard at 4 a.m. Zimmerman said California residents aren’t accustomed to drinking until 4 a.m., and people already drink their fair share by 2 a.m.
“I really don’t see anything but trouble happening after that,” he added. “It would be like lowering the drinking age to 18 almost. Nobody is going to know how to handle this.”
As a bar employee, Zimmerman said it could also be detrimental to his work. He also works at another bar, and said he routinely gets home at 3:30 a.m., only to return to the other job by 11 a.m. Additional service hours would cut into that precious resting time.
“All it’s going to do is cause more problems for the bar,” Zimmerman said. “If we want to make more money, we can open earlier.”
However, Angelo Vacco, who owns the Little Bar at La Brea Avenue and 8th Street, said he would like to have the choice to stay open later. He has seen both sides of the coin, having bartended in New York and Los Angeles.
“It would be nice to have the option to stay open until 4 a.m., but it would be based on customer demand,” Vacco said.
He said nightclubs would probably be quite excited about the bill, as they often get a later start than area bars. Vacco said he wasn’t sure many of his customers would still be awake at 4 a.m., but some customers — especially East Coast transplants — object to the 2 a.m. closing time.
“Almost every weekend, there are some unhappy moans at last call time,” he added. “It’s inevitable.”
Vacco said the additional hours could possibly serve as a “buffer” for people to relax and enjoy themselves — instead of feeling obligated to be done drinking by a certain time. He said the extended hours could benefit L.A.
“It does lack compared to other cities … because you do have to have everything wrapped up,” Vacco said.
He said it would be especially nice for bars to have the opportunity to stay open later during special events and on holidays, such as New Year’s Eve.
“It’s not like it’s going to be an automatic green light for anyone to keep their doors open for two hours,” Vacco said, adding that neighbors and community groups would have a chance to voice their concerns. “I’m kind of interested to see, as a business owner, how it will play out. If anything, it could just spread out the evening more.”
For information, visit sd11.senate.ca.gov.
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