Aug 26, 2022 - News

Push for a 4am "last call" defeated

Person ordering two drinks
Oasis bar in SoMa. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

An effort to keep bars open later in San Francisco, and other cities, was defeated in the state Assembly on Wednesday.

Context: The bill, written by state Sen. Scott Wiener and Assemblymember Matt Haney, would have allowed watering holes in San Francisco, Palm Springs and West Hollywood to serve drinks until 4am on weekends and 3am on weekdays.

  • Currently, bars in California cannot sell alcohol past 2am.
  • Sharky Laguana, president of San Francisco's Small Business Commission, told Axios the bill would have offered a three year pilot and cities could have set their own limitations, like only allowing extended hours in specific neighborhoods or on certain days of the week.

Why it matters: Advocates for the measure say that longer hours would have helped bars recover financially from the height of the pandemic, when many were forced to close for months.

  • Extending last call could have also been a draw for tourists and sparked nightlife for residents. In New York City, for instance, alcohol can be served until 4am.

The other side: Those who were opposed, expressed concern that the changes could lead to more alcohol-related incidents on the road.

  • "Extending these hours of service for people to become impaired, mixed with the fatigue factor that also is an extreme threat to public safety, is asking for death," Assemblymember Tom Lackey, who represents Palmdale, said.

Haney pushed back, saying there was "no correlation between states with later closing times and higher rates of drunk driving."

  • In a joint statement after the vote, Haney and Wiener said they were "disappointed that [the bill] came up short … after a series of misleading speeches by members representing areas that would not have been impacted by the bill."

What they're saying: "We're heartbroken. We're disappointed," Ben Bleiman, president of San Francisco's Entertainment Commission, told Axios. "It absolutely had the power to save many establishments who are on the brink of collapse from the coronavirus."

Flashback: This isn't the first time an effort to extend last call has been shut down in California.

  • Wiener crafted a similar bill in 2018, which was vetoed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, who said at the time: "I believe we have enough mischief from midnight to 2 without adding two more hours of mayhem."

What's next: After the vote, Haney requested that the bill be reconsidered at a later date. But as the LA Times noted, it's "a procedural move that offers a slim chance of success."

  • Bleiman, meanwhile, told Axios that the fight from his side will continue.
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