LA Daily News: Last call for alcohol? Let cities decide when

July 5, 2017

By the Editorial Board

In California, it is illegal under state law for Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control licensees, or their employees, to sell alcohol between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., which not only stifles the nightlife of major cities, but deprives local communities of the power to make their own choices.

At least 20 states across the nation provide local jurisdictions the flexibility to decide alcohol service hours or permit alcohol sales after 2 a.m., a misdemeanor in California. This includes major cities across the country, such as Atlanta, Chicago, Las Vegas, Louisville, New York City and Washington, D.C., which have alcohol service hours past 2 a.m. This puts cities in California attractive to tourists at a particular disadvantage.

We think it’s time to grant the same kind of discretion to local governments in California, and Senate Bill 384, introduced by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, would do just that.

The bill, which easily cleared the Senate on a bipartisan 27-9 vote in May, would make it possible for ABC licensees to sell alcohol between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. under fairly strict conditions. Cities and counties would have to develop and approve local plans evaluating, among other things, potential public safety impacts, and then have those plans reviewed and approved by ABC.

Despite these checks and balances, the bill has its opponents. Last week, groups like the California Alcohol Policy Alliance and Alcohol Justice gathered at Los Angeles City Hall to rally against it. Calling the bill “dangerous,” opponents argue that an extension of drinking hours would only exacerbate the public safety harms that come from drinking alcohol, while only serving the interests of the bar, club and restaurant owners and the alcohol industry.

While concerns over potential safety impacts certainly are valid, the bill does not require local governments to extend alcohol service hours, it only gives them the option to consider it. Those concerned most about potential public safety or other impacts will be able to register their thoughts with their local governments, should they consider extending alcohol service hours.

SB384 is fundamentally about local control. We encourage the Assembly to pass the bill and send it to the governor to sign it.

Read the editorial on the LA Daily News website