SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – California State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) announced legislation Friday that would allow seven California cities to allow bars to remain open till 4 a.m., instead of the current statewide closing time of 2 a.m.
Wiener, speaking at the Beaux nightclub in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood, said the cities that would be granted this special permission in the bill are San Francisco, Oakland, West Hollywood, Fresno, Palm Springs, Cathedral City and Coachella.
“We know nightlife is so incredibly important,” Wiener stated, adding it’s “really a part of our cultural heart here in San Francisco and elsewhere. When you think of people who move to cities, there are many reasons, and one of them is vibrant nightlife.”
This is the third time Wiener has attempted to push last call later into the morning. A bill that passed the legislature in 2018 was vetoed by then-Governor Jerry Brown, who stated in his veto message that he believed the bill would lead to more drunken driving.
“I believe we have enough mischief from midnight to two without adding two more hours of mayhem,” Brown stated.
In 2019 the bill failed in the State Assembly.
Wiener said he does not know Gov. Gavin Newsom’s position on the issue.
Wiener’s co-sponsor is newly-minted California State Assemblyman Matt Haney (D-San Francisco), who represents the city’s eastside in that body.
“A few more hours, in many cases, will mean the difference for them as to whether they’ll be able to survive,” Haney said of bars. “This isn’t requiring anyone to do anything. It allows seven cities including ours to have the option to do what works for them.”
Rafael Mandelman, who represents the Castro and Noe Valley neighborhoods on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, framed the issue as one of local control. What makes sense in a rural part of the state may not make sense in a more urban area, he said.
“Coming out of the pandemic, as we think about what the future of San Francisco is, about the future of our cities — cities around the world have nightlife that go past two in the morning,” Mandelman said. “As a local elected official who sometimes chafes against the folks in Sacramento who want to take power away from me, I am delighted.”
Mothers Against Drunk Driving has opposed legislation that extends the sale of alcohol, such as a 2017 Colorado bill that also would have made it possible for different cities to have different closing times. MADD did not respond to a KRON4 request for comment as of press time.
Wiener said “it’s odd” that California has a 2 a.m. closing time, and indeed in many locales last call is later, such as in New York City where closing time is 4 a.m. Wiener said his aunt was killed by a drunken driver when he was a child and so the issue is very sensitive to him.
“If someone is going to drunk drive, they are going to take their reckless step” no matter what time the bar closes,” he said.