Proposal to extend bar hours in California fails vote

April 23, 2013 6:34:25 PM PDT
A Bay Area lawmaker wants to boost tourism in California by allowing bars to serve alcohol into the wee hours of the morning, but opponents say his plan will put lives at risk. His opponents won the battle Tuesday so for now, bars will remain open until only 2 a.m. It's a defeat for the city of San Francisco which really wanted the change.

It looks like New York, Las Vegas, and Miami will remain the main destinations for the party crowd. After the Democratic majority struggled over which way to vote, a state Senate committee ultimately rejected a controversial proposal giving local counties and cities the authority to extend bars hours to 4 a.m.

Opponents urged lawmakers to think about public safety. When one jurisdiction closes at 2:00 in the morning while another closes at 4:00, law enforcement warned the situation would create what they call "liquor commuters."

"People driving to those other locations and then after having consumed many times a substantial amount of alcohol, driving back," explained John Lovell with the California Police Chiefs Association.

Low-income neighborhood activists pointed out there's already a big alcohol problem in the state. "You go down one block to another and you'll have three or four mom-and-pop stores with liquor licenses. We don't need an extension of the ability to drink, not in the state of California," said Richard Zaldovar with the Las Memorias Project.

However, Sen. Mark Leno, who carried the bill, insisted that cities which allow longer bar hours do not experience higher rates of alcohol-related crashes than places with normal hours. So in this 24/7 society, the San Francisco Democrat says services need to cater to all groups. "Not everyone is working 9 to 5 Monday through Friday, and for that reason, I think it makes sense to consider this extra hour or two for alcoholic services," Leno said.

Some city leaders and bar owners say the Golden State is at a disadvantage when trying to lure conventions and tourists. Robert Vinokur owns six restaurants in LA. "We're losing a lot of our people to places like Las Vegas, to New York, to Miami. People don't want to come to California, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego," he said.

With this defeat, supporters of extended bar hours are now thinking about a ballot measure so that voters can decide on the issue in 2016.


Load Comments