Soapbox

Why a 4 a.m. last call at California bars would be a really bad move

In case you haven’t heard, Senate Bill 905 – which could allow some bars in California to stay open until 4 a.m. – is still alive and kicking. As residents of communities that would be directly affected, we’re pleading with Gov. Jerry Brown to consider the well-being of his constituents before signing any such bill.

Under the bill approved Wednesday by the state Assembly and Thursday by the state Senate, nine cities – including Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco, Oakland, Long Beach and West Hollywood – would be allowed to extend alcohol sales at bars, nightclubs and restaurants to as late as 4 a.m.

We believe this five-year pilot program would eventually be extended statewide. Those of us who live in bustling neighborhoods would feel the impact of this bill first-hand. Instead of loud music, traffic, screaming and fighting until 2 a.m., our families would be subjected to this behavior until 4 or 5 a.m. just because we live within shouting distance of a restaurant or bar.

Supporters of this bill will say we’re overreacting. However, our fears are backed by a large body of evidence that says extending bar hours will lead to a 17 percent increase in assaults every hour business is extended. Who would want this in their neighborhoods and in their community? Not us.

This bill would also place additional burdens on police and EMS, which could be detrimental to residents who need these services for true emergencies. If one of us called for help because of a heart attack at 2 a.m., the delay in an ambulance reaching us could be the difference between life and death.

Supporters also claim the bill would increase tax revenue. However, studies have repeatedly found that does not happen in communities with expanded bar hours.

When we host local forums on ways to improve the local economy, alcohol almost never comes up. When thinking of ways to improve our communities, we first need access to fruit and vegetables, more banks to help stem predatory payday lending, clean and safe streets and ways to address our growing homeless population. None of these issues will be solved by keeping our local bars open until 4 a.m.

Gov. Brown has the opportunity and power to place community health and safety above any potential revenue from the alcohol industry. He must veto this bill.

Scott Suckow, Farrah Douglas and Veronica Labeau are executive directors of the American Liver Foundation’s California divisions in San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively. They can be contacted at SSuckow@liverfoundation.org, FDouglas@liverfoundation.org and VLabeau@liverfoundation.org, respectively.

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