It is 1:45am at your favorite local dive bar. You’ve lost track of time as the result of an in-depth, slightly inebriation induced, discussion with your BFF about last week’s episode of The Walking Dead. That’s when you hear the Ding of the bell and you know it’s your cue to make a mad dash to the bar for your last pint of Budweiser. I don’t stay out until 1:30am as much as I used to, so this scenario is only partly autobiographical. However, the scenario is generally familiar to Californians who frequent the bar scene. It is what is known as “last call” or the time that alcohol-serving establishments give patrons to buy their last drink before alcohol sales stop at 2am.
If you’re one of the people who grunts and groans at the Ding of the bell because you just don’t want the night to end yet, relief may be coming. Democratic Senator, Mark Leno of San Francisco has introduced Senate Bill 635. The bill would allow local communities to the option to allow their bars and other alcohol-serving establishments to serve alcohol until 4am.
Leno argues that, if passed, the law would boost local economies by creating jobs, generating tax revenue, and increasing tourism. Those in favor of the bill also argue that pushing the last call to 4am would place California cities with robust nightlives on par with other cosmopolitan cities like New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Miami, and New Orleans.
Supporters of the bill include California Restaurant Association, California Music and Culture Association, and the San Francisco Council of District Merchants.
Although the bill would likely increase income for bartenders, not all are on board. Richard Slifka, owner and manager of Bellvedere Cocktail Lounge told The Bakerfield Californian, “It’s Hard enough to keep people under control up to that time when they have had too much to drink. I can’t even imagine who would want to be drinking until 4am.”
Republican leader Robert Huff of Diamond Bar questions whether allowing bar patrons to drink for an additional two hours would increase DUI rates in California. Leno claims, however, that in cities with 4am last call times such as New York, Miami, and Las Vegas do not have increased DUI rates.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving, at least for now, is neutral on the bill. “We don’t think it’s right or wrong,” Said Silas Miers, program manager at the national offices of MADD. “There is not enough evidence to prove that more drunk driving is going to happen just because bars are open two more hours.”