The “happy hour” will remain 2 a.m. for those worried about the possible impact of a bill that would have allowed bars to serve alcohol until 4 a.m. in West Hollywood and seven other cities.
Gov. Jerry Brown today vetoed the bill, known as Senate Bill 905 or the “Let Our Communities Adjust Late-night” (LOCAL) Act.
In a message explaining his veto, Brown wrote: “California’s laws regulating late night drinking have been on the books since 1913. I believe we have enough mischief from midnight to 2 without adding two more hours of mayhem.”
The bill was introduced by state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). It would have authorized certain cities to test extending alcohol serving hours over a five-year period. In addition to West Hollywood, those cities include Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Palm Springs, Sacramento, Coachella and Cathedral City. Each city would have the right to decide whether or how to implement the bill. For example, a City Council could have decided to extend bar hours to only 3 a.m. or to allow alcohol to be served until 4 a.m. only on weekends.
The California Restaurant Association, California Travel Association and the California Hotel & Lodging Association have supported the alcohol serving hours extension, as has the West Hollywood City Council.
However, the idea of extending alcohol serving hours provoked some debate in West Hollywood. On the one hand, WeHo is a city that depends heavily on revenue from tourists (the hotel room occupancy tax is the single largest source of revenue to the city’s general fund). West Hollywood is known as a nightlife destination, with its Boystown gay nightlife district on the west side of Santa Monica Boulevard and the many clubs on the Sunset Strip and relatively new ones such as Delilah in the Center City area.
On the other hand, West Hollywood is the city with the most restaurant/bar liquor licenses per capita in all of Los Angeles County. Based on the number of restaurant/bar liquor licenses in 2015, WeHo by the Numbers reports that West Hollywood also ranks No. 1 in all of California in licenses per square mile, with 116. An organization called the Safe WeHo Leadership Council has been formed to develop ways to reduce alcohol-related problems in West Hollywood.
City Councilmember Lauren Meister, the sole council vote against the extension, supported Brown’s veto.
“Residents living in neighborhoods adjacent to commercial zones, and I, thank Governor Brown!” Meister said. “ A 4 a.m. last call would impact these residents as well as place an unnecessary burden on public safety personnel.”
Councilmember John D’Amico, who supported the late-night serving option, said its failure wouldn’t hurt the city.
“West Hollywood will continue to provide a celebratory backdrop for entertainment and nightlife,” he said. “Weiner’s bill was an attempt at expanding the nightlife economy, creating more value by expanding the hours.”
Capt. Sergio Aloma, who heads the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station, has spoken against extending alcohol serving hours to 4 a.m., citing concerns about drunk driving. The extension also has been opposed by a majority of West Hollywood’s Public Safety Commission.