Say what you will about state Senator Senator Scott Wiener, he has been indisputably steadfast in his commitment to passing a bill extending last call at bars and nightclubs to 4 a.m. — even if it's just in SF and a couple of other cities.
Hopefully that commitment hasn't been fully destroyed by the latest rejection of the latest bill, which was framed as a way to help nightlife businesses in a few select cities recover from two years of pandemic-related revenue loss. It was just voted down in the Assembly on Wednesday, as the LA Times and KRON4 reports.
The latest draft legislation, co-authored by new Assemblymember Matt Haney and introduced by Wiener in June, was Senate Bill 930, and it would have launched a pilot program to bring 4 a.m. weekend last calls and 3 a.m. weekday closings to bars in seven cities: San Francisco, Oakland, West Hollywood, Fresno, Palm Springs, Cathedral City, and Coachella. This was subsequently revised to include only three cities, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and West Hollywood.
But opposition from Republicans in the legislature and police unions in general has been strong ever since other versions of this legislation were introduced a decade ago by former Sen. Mark Leno. Another version of the bill authored by Wiener that included more cities, actually passed both state houses but was vetoed by former Governor Jerry Brown in 2018, citing the potential for "mischief and mayhem."
SB930 passed the state Senate in May, and passed in two Assembly committees this summer, but then failed in a 31-25 vote on Wednesday on the Assembly floor.
Several Los Angeles city councilmembers remain staunchly opposed — even though the city of Los Angeles is no longer part of the pilot program — and that city's influence may be at play here, but there were also 24 assemblymembers who either were not present or didn't vote.
L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz told local station KESQ in early August, "I believe the bill's authors figured if they took L.A. out, that we would simmer down and not oppose it," Koretz said. "But let me be clear: This bill still threatens our public safety, perhaps even more than before."
Wednesday's defeat in the Assembly, Wiener suggests, may just be a temporary setback. But it could be months or years before we see this floated again.
"Senate Bill 930 is a limited pilot program to allow three cities — each of which asked to be included — to work with local stakeholders, including law enforcement, to decide locally whether to extend nightlife hours," Wiener said in a statement after Wednesday's vote. "SB 930 is a local control bill that lets cities decide what nightlife works best for their communities and small businesses. We are disappointed that SB 930 came up short on votes today on the Assembly floor after a series of misleading speeches by members representing areas that would not have been impacted by the bill. We are assessing whether there is a path to pass the bill off the Assembly floor."
As KRON4 notes, a longtime opponent of these later-last-call bills, the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, issued a statement in opposition to SB 930 saying, "With bars closing near the (morning) commute hour, there will be more drivers on the road and the likelihood of drunk driving accidents will increase substantially."
San Francisco nightlife advocates and club owners have faced an uphill battle on the topic of extending last call for decades, even despite political support locally. San Francisco allows clubs to be open after 2 a.m., but they have to shut off alcohol service between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.
Cities and states across the country have different rules around how late bars and clubs can serve alcohol. 2 a.m. is a common standard, but Chicago issues late-night licenses to some businesses that can serve as late as 5 a.m. on Saturday night/Sunday morning; New York City has long had a 4 a.m. last call; and New Orleans has no such regulations, with bars permitted to be open and serving 24 hours. Maine and New Hampshire have 1 a.m. last calls. The earliest last call is midnight in parts of Mississippi, but several cities have their own rules there, and bars in Biloxi are open 24 hours, like New Orleans.
Photo: Alexander Popov