It was a valiant effort that nearly slid by the foes of alcohol, but in the end there wasn't enough time and support to save a proposal to allow cities like Los Angeles to extend bars' last call serving times to 4 a.m.
Legislation that would have given municipalities the flexibility to go later for last call died over the holiday weekend in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Jeff Cretan, communications director for the proposal's author, Sen. Scott Wiener, explained what happened.
The bill's core language was replaced with a proposal to create a task force that would study the idea of extending alcohol service hours, he said via email. The new version cleared the committee and will now face the full Assembly.
Wiener wasn't pleased.
"There's no need to study anything," he said in a statement. "There's nothing radical about letting local communities decide for themselves whether to let their bars and nightclubs go later. It's embarrassing that California shuts down its nightlife so early. We're not going to give up. Nightlife matters to our economy and culture, and California's one-size-fits-all approach to closing time needs to be reformed."
Proponents argued that extending last call would make places like L.A. and San Francisco more appealing to a global tourism market. They said revenues would increase, taxes would increase, and strain on police and paramedics would decrease because drunks wouldn't all hit the streets at the same time.
The legislation, which would have given cities the flexibility to extend hours on holidays, weekends or not at all, was supported by hospitality, nightlife and hotel groups. "This bill would enable business owners like myself to provide more jobs and work with local government to provide safe nightlife options," downtown Los Angeles nightlife pioneer Cedd Moses of 213 Hospitality said in a statement last month.
But the bill's gutting came only days after Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz and other opponents, including Richard Zaldivar, chair of the California Alcohol Policy Alliance, held a news conference to oppose the proposal. Zaldivar told us in May that he believed the legislation would disproportionately impact minority neighborhoods in L.A.
"Some of these low-income communities have liquor-licensed establishments every three blocks or so," he said. "We're giving them more time to create more harm to our communities."
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According to a statement from Koretz's office last week, the "impacts of a 4 a.m. last call will not stay local. The harms and costs will spread across all of our roadways and communities, forcing all municipalities to pay the price for additional law enforcement, EMT and other costs."
Koretz added via email that he was pleased with the bill's apparent demise: "Short of shutting this bill down completely, the appropriations committee did the next best thing to turn it into a study bill. And I hope they include the costs to society and government of extra law enforcement, extra emergency services, deaths and injuries. That said, we are prepared to fight any similar versions of this bill because public safety is not for sale."
A similar 4 a.m. bill by then–Sen. Mark Leno was nixed in 2013. If there's any good news for aficionados of late-night cocktails, it's that each time this idea is broached, it gets a little closer to passing.
Updated at 4:02 p.m. Sept. 5, 2017 to include an emailed quote from Councilman Paul Koretz.