Food & Drink

There’s another push to keep bars open until 4 a.m. Here’s why this one could work.

Could this be the year Sacramento bars get state approval to stay open until 4 a.m.?

State Sen. Scott Wiener’s bill to push bar closing times two hours later passed out of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee by a 10-4 vote last week and could soon be up for a Senate vote.

If signed into law, Senate Bill 58 would let bars in Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Long Beach, West Hollywood, Fresno, Palm Springs, Cathedral City and Coachella sell alcohol until 4 a.m. from 2021-26 as a test run for the rest of the state.

A similar bill authored by Wiener, SB 905, made it to Jerry Brown’s desk last year before the governor vetoed it, writing “I believe we have enough mischief from midnight to 2 without adding two more hours of mayhem.” Wiener also authored a 2017 bill to allow bars in every California city to stay open until 4 a.m., though that failed to reach Brown’s desk.

With Gov. Gavin Newsom now in office, though, Wiener, D-San Francisco, is giving his proposal a third shot. He’s even hedged a small step back toward his original all-inclusive proposal: Fresno is a new addition from last year’s bill, at Mayor Lee Brand’s request.

Newsom’s reputation as San Francisco mayor and Board of Supervisors member was generally nightlife-friendly. As mayor in 2004, he supported a similar bill by the city’s then-Assemblyman, Mark Leno. Newsom also co-founded the PlumpJack Group, which now owns nine Northern California restaurants, bars and wineries, before placing the businesses in a blind trust once elected governor.

After Brown vetoed SB 905, Wiener sent the veto message to then-Lt. Gov. Newsom with a message: the same bill was coming Newsom’s way next year. The two talked briefly about it and Newsom didn’t state a position, but Wiener walked away with a positive impression, he said.

“Gov. Newsom certainly understands the importance of nightlife given his time in San Francisco and his own experiences,” Wiener said. “As mayor and supervisor, he was always very supportive of nightlife. I think the governor gets it.”

The respective city councils for each impacted municipality would also have to vote for the extended hours, and could confine them to certain entertainment districts. Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg spoke out in favor of last year’s bill, saying it would boost tourism and economic growth.

Most bars would still close around 2 a.m. or earlier if the limit was pushed back to 4 a.m., said Constanza’s bartender Scott Wike said. Nightclubs would stay open later, as would a handful of downtown and midtown bars. Wike predicted most of the late-late-night crowd would be industry employees whose restaurants and bars keep their 2 a.m. closing times, or others who might stay out until 4 at a house or apartment party.

“It’s not going to be the quiet neighborhood bar next to your house that’s staying open until 4,” Wike said. “It’s going to be the people who were staying out until 4 a.m. already ... and they’ll be somewhere where people are watching how much they drink.”

Detractors say letting bars stay open until 4 a.m. would cause drunk driving and other intoxicated behavior to bleed over into other people’s morning commute. Extra hours could also force bars to hire more employees, no easy feat given the service industry’s tight labor market.

SB 58 must still pass out of the Senate Appropriations Committee before going to the floor for a vote. Last year’s bill passed out of the Senate by a 28-8 vote and out of the Assembly 51-22.

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