Photo by Torrey Bailey
Gossip Grill, part of Mo’s Universe restaurant group
By way of Senate Bill 384, partying now has bi-partisan support. San Francisco Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener has reintroduced the concept of extending California’s alcohol-serving hours until 4 a.m. And on March 9, local GOP state Sen. Joel Anderson of District 38 became a joint author.
“I’ve been downtown, and I’ve been told I have to go home at two o’clock,” says Anderson. “Me and my friends from out of town, we weren’t ready to go home… [Under this law] we won’t be ushered out at 1:45. We can stay for a couple more hours, maybe have another beer and have some more fun.”
If passed, a 4 a.m. last call wouldn’t automatically blanket communities. The decision is a multi-tiered process left to each city’s discretion, which is why the legislation is called the LOCAL Act, or Let Our Communities Adjust Late Night. San Diego City Council would first decide whether to allow extended hours and in which neighborhoods. Then, councilmembers pick a last-call time, either before or at 4 a.m. Finally, the Alcoholic Beverage Control board would approve the city council’s plan and issue extended-hours licenses submitted by bars, restaurants and nightclubs within the allotted areas. On March 28, the Senate Governmental Organization Committee will be the first to vote on the bill’s fate. Sen. Wiener envisions boosts for small businesses and particularly the LGBT scene statewide.
“As a gay man, I grew up in the bars and the clubs,” he says. “In the LGBT community, our nightlife helps us find community.”
Some struggling gay bars in San Francisco have told Wiener that the extra hours could be the difference between staying open and shuttering. And while business is good for Hillcrest-based restaurant group Mo’s Universe, Marketing Director Lukas Volk says they support the bill.
“[We view] the extension of hours as an obvious benefit to businesses all over San Diego,” Volk wrote in an email. “Longer hours mean more sales and, in turn, more taxes for the city.”
Drunk driving is a main concern for opponents, but Anderson says restaurants and bars will be held to the same responsibility standard.
When Cape Coral, Florida introduced a yearlong, extended-hours pilot program in 2015, bars reported a 30 percent increase in revenue but twice as many DUIs within the first six months, according to USA Today Network.
“You always run the risk of DUIs whether it’s 4 o’clock in the morning or 2 o’clock in the morning or 3 o’clock in the afternoon,” Anderson says. “I think you can stay out past 2 a.m. and not overdo it.”