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California lawmakers reject a bill to extend bar hours to 4 a.m. in three cities

California lawmakers on Wednesday rejected legislation that would have allowed West Hollywood, San Francisco and Palm Springs to authorize weekend alcohol service until 4 a.m. at bars, nightclubs and restaurants.

Senate Bill 930 by state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) would have allowed each city to extend alcohol sales until 4 a.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and some holidays and until 3 a.m. all other days. Under current law, those businesses can sell alcohol until 2 a.m.

“SB 930 is a local control bill that lets cities decide what nightlife works best for their communities and small businesses,” Wiener and Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) said in a statement after the bill was defeated in the Assembly. “We are assessing whether there is a path to pass the bill off the Assembly floor.”

Wiener has said the extended hours would have helped small businesses that have been struggling to get back on their feet after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. He also said that the added nightlife would have helped unify the LGBTQ communities in West Hollywood, San Francisco and Palm Springs. Leaders in all three cities had asked to be included in the pilot program.

In 2018, Wiener introduced a similar bill, which was vetoed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown.

“I believe we have enough mischief from midnight to 2 without adding two more hours of mayhem,” Brown wrote in his veto message.

Wiener tried again in 2019 with a bill that would have allowed extended alcohol sales in 10 cities, but that failed to pass in the Assembly. On Wednesday, the Assembly rejected his latest version, which had passed overwhelmingly in the Senate in May.

Republicans and Democrats spoke against the bill during a debate on the Assembly floor, expressing concern that extending serving hours would lead to more alcohol-impaired drivers on the streets.

“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. I promise you that there will be death, needless death, if we pass this bill,” said Assemblymember Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale), a retired California Highway Patrol sergeant.

Wiener and Haney called that argument “misleading.” Haney who argued in favor of the bill on the Assembly floor, said research shows no increase in drunk driving cases in states, including New York and Hawaii, where bars and nightclubs serve alcohol beyond 2 a.m.

“We found that there was no correlation between states with later closing times and higher rates of drunk driving,” Haney said. “We need to reexamine our one-size-fits-all, top-down approach to nightlife in our state. It restricts business; it harms economic activity.”

After the bill was defeated, Haney requested that it be allowed to come up for reconsideration later — a procedural move that offers a slim chance of success.

California allows the sale of alcohol from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. for bars, nightclubs and restaurants. Those rules have been in place for more than 80 years.

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