San Francisco Chronicle: 4 a.m. last call could revive San Francisco’s nightlife
By Nate Allbee and Heklina
Somewhere along the line it became fashionable to say that San Francisco’s nightlife is dead.
Media outlets worldwide ran think pieces about our famously rebellious city becoming the height of uncool because of the tech invasion. It became popular to talk about San Francisco with a “you missed it” schadenfreude, the way hipsters talk about bands that have “sold out.”
Frankly, that’s all nonsense.
While the displacement crisis is real and urgent, and should be at the center of our efforts to preserve San Francisco’s nightlife — cynicism is boring and declaring an entire city “over” is lazy.
We are a city that an earthquake literally burned to the ground and eight years later hosted a World’s Fair just to show off our rebuild. Our 170-year-old brand of irreverent, multicultural and political art is not so easily killed — and let me assure you San Francisco nightlife is putting up a fight. New efforts like the Legacy Business Registry, the Compton’s Transgender Cultural Districtand The Stud becoming the country’s first co-op nightclub are examples of our grit and innovation.
But the effort that could revive our embattled arts and music scene overnight, and even trigger a nightlife renaissance, is the LOCAL Act, endorsed by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco. Starting where former state senator, Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, left off, Wiener’s Senate Bill 384 will allow California cities the option to extend last call to 4 a.m. California is a huge state — bigger than many European countries — with the sixth-largest economy in the world. A blanket law that forces San Francisco County to have the same liquor laws as Yolo County is just bad government.
It should be a no-brainer for San Francisco to allow carefully chosen neighborhoods and bars to remain open past 2 a.m. Many venues make almost 85 percent of their revenue between 11:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. Extending last call by just two hours could almost double the gross income of these venues, allowing them to shoulder the city’s higher rents.
Struggling venues would find themselves in the black again — suddenly able to hire more bartenders, DJs, musicians, drag queens, performers and the support staff who rely on them. And legacy venues such as the Stud and Oasis, which act as stewards of San Francisco culture, would be secured for generations to come.
And it’s not just the direct employees of bars and venues who are impacted. The nightlife and tourism economy includes the taxi drivers, the restaurant employees, the workers at hotels, boutiques and convention centers, all of whom are hurt by a nighttime economy that shuts down hours before the big-city norm.
Of America’s world-class cities like New York, Chicago, Miami and New Orleans, only San Francisco and Los Angeles close their bars by 2 a.m. California’s outdated, Prohibition-era-based liquor laws are costing San Francisco’s tourism-based economy hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
If we’re going to keep our status as a city built on rock ’n’ roll, then we’re going to have to respond to this crisis by thinking big. If you support music, culture and nightlife, then you should support Wiener’s LOCAL Act.
Nate Allbee created and ran the campaign for the Legacy Business Registry and is a founding member of the Stud Collective and the Compton’s District Coalition. Heklina is an internationally recognized drag performer, nightlife promoter and LGBT activist, and is a founding owner of SoMa performance venue Oasis.
Read the original verison on the San Francisco Chronicle website