California Considers Extending Last Call to 4 A.M.

A “last call” signal means that the last drinks of the night are being served and that it is almost time to head home for anyone who has ever stayed up late at a bar.

As of 2 a.m. on Sundays in California, it is unlawful to sell alcoholic beverages anyplace in the state. This may be about to change, thanks to a bill pending in the state legislature.

Beginning in 2025, a five-year pilot program authorized by Senate Bill 930 will allow bars in seven California towns to sell alcohol until 4 a.m. San Francisco, Fresno, Oakland, Cathedral City, Palm Springs, Coachella, and West Hollywood are all mentioned in the list of destinations.

The most typical last call time is 2 a.m., but some bars in New York City and Chicago are open until 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. respectively. Adding more hours for businesses to serve alcohol, according to California State Senator Scott Wiener, would give the state’s economy a much-needed lift after a string of difficult years.

Wiener informed me, “Our nightlife establishments are severely hurting” as a result of the pandemic’s aftermath. It “may be the difference between being viable and not being profitable” for some of these tiny firms.”

The State Assembly Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on the bill next week. To become law, it would require a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress and the signature of Governor Gavin Newsom.

It is thought that Newsom, who has a winery and a hospitality business, will be more receptive to the issue than his predecessor. Governor Jerry Brown vetoed an earlier version of Wiener’s bill in 2018, citing a rise in intoxicated driving as the reason for his decision.

There have been late-night drinking regulations in California since 1913, according to a statement from Gov. Jerry Brown in his veto. “I don’t think we need to add two more hours of mayhem to the chaos that already exists from 12 to 2 a.m.”

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Alcohol-related problems such as impaired driving and assault and injury are on the rise when the window for sales is extended by two or more hours, according to a study published in the Centers for Disease Control’s Guide to Community Preventive Services.

Even though the results are over a decade old, Paul Gruenewald, a senior research scientist at the nonprofit Prevention Research Center of Berkeley, which is sponsored by the government-run National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, said the link between later trading hours and alcohol-related problems is still “as close to black and white as we can get.”

There will be more people drinking at bars if they can stay open later, or the same people will drink longer if they can stay open later, according to Gruenewald. That leads to an increase in the amount of alcohol drunk.

Gruenewald told me, “It’s not surprising: more booze, more problems.” “It’s got to be the most stupid thing I’ve ever heard of.”

If the state passes the bill, West Hollywood officials have already opted to take advantage of the later last-call times. David Cooley, the proprietor of the Abbey, a prominent bar in the city, told The Los Angeles Times that he and his colleagues had “examined and exhausted” all of their possibilities for new methods to pay their staff and keep their doors open.

According to Wiener’s proposal, communities would be able to decide how to implement the new expanded hours for alcohol sales. On a specific street or a specific day of the week, he suggested, bars could be allowed to stay open until 4 a.m.

This “one-size-fits-all closing hour at 2 a.m., whether you’re downtown San Francisco or a tiny agricultural village,” he told me. “Cities should be allowed to set their closing times. This accomplishes nothing. “No city is forced to do anything by this.”

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