A bill under consideration in the state Legislature that would allow alcohol to be sold in bars past 2 a.m. in seven cities including West Hollywood was opposed Monday by Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz and a group of activists who said it could lead to more drunk driving accidents and other problems.
The bill, SB 905, is set to come for a vote before the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday and has the support of most of the mayors of the cities it would impact, which include Los Angeles, Long Beach, West Hollywood, Palm Springs, Oakland, San Francisco and Sacramento.
Koretz was joined by members of the California Alcohol Policy Alliance, Alcohol Justice, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and actor Kurtwood Smith at a news conference at Los Angeles City Hall today to speak out against the bill.
“The authors of the bill are claiming that each locality has the right to decide for themselves, but Los Angeles is right next to cities like West Hollywood, which has an abundance of nightclubs and restaurants and bars, and plans to extend their drinking hours,” Koretz said. “Resulting DUIs and alcohol-related deaths and injuries are not going to stop at the borders of that 1.9-square-mile city; it will affect all the hundreds of square miles of Los Angeles.”
SB 905 would create a five-year pilot program for the cities to extend the hours of alcohol sales from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m., but participation would be up to the individual cities. The bill was authored by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, who has argued that the current last call time of 2 a.m. is not in line with other major cities and hurts the economy.
Smith, who co-starred in the Fox-TV sitcom “That ’70s Show,” where one of his character’s popular lines was to call his son a “dumbass,” brought the catch phrase back when talking about the bill.
“Only a dumbass would value nightlife over all life and vote yes on Weiner’s dangerous seven-city, five-year experiment,” Smith said.
Koretz and the activists gathered at City Hall pointed to studies that suggest extending the bar time would threaten public safety. The groups said California already suffers from over 10,500 alcohol-related deaths and the bill would cost cities and the state more money in police budgets and emergency room bills.
Wiener proposed a different version of the bill last year to allow cities all over California to allow bars to serve alcohol until 4 a.m. but it did not gain enough support to pass.
“Nightlife is vital to many of our cities throughout California, and we need to do more to let these cities find ways to promote and support nightlife,” Wiener said in June. “This bill gives cities the ability to extend hours wherever and however it works best for them, whether that’s in limited neighborhoods, certain nights a week, or only on a few nights a year. By taking this nuanced approach to empower — but not require — local communities to extend alcohol sales hours, we can support nightlife in California.”
Wiener’s office argues that a 2015 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found no correlation between DUI fatality rates and states with later alcohol sales, while the bill’s opponents point to other studies that find later alcohol service leads to higher consumption and more related problems, such as violence, drunk driving and deaths.
Under the bill, participating cities and the California Highway Patrol would have to submit reports outlining the impact of later hours on the community and public safety.
The City of West Hollywood and the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce were among 26 registered supporters of the bill when it was under consideration in the state legislature in April. It also has been endorsed by the City Council, with the exception of Councilmember Lauren Meister.
However, the city’s Public Safety Commission has opposed it and Capt. Sergio Aloma, head of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station, also has expressed concern about its impact on public safety.