LOS ANGELES — A proposal that would allow bars in select cities to remain open until 4 a.m. should be cut off, Los Angeles City Council members declared Aug. 27 as they passed a resolution opposing the bill pending in Sacramento.
“I’m looking to my council colleagues to support this resolution as a critical vote for public safety,” said Councilman Paul Koretz, who authored the resolution. “This is a bill that puts not only consumers of alcohol in danger but all the innocent bystanders that will suffer, if it passes.
“Today’s resolution is an opportunity to tell Sacramento legislators the people of Los Angeles are not guinea pigs in an experiment likely to kill and maim many of its residents,” Koretz said.
The bill, SB 58, introduced by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, would create a five-year pilot program beginning in 2022 that would allow bars to remain open until 4 a.m. in Cathedral City, Coachella, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Palm Springs, Sacramento, Fresno, San Francisco and West Hollywood. Existing law prohibits the sale of alcohol from 2 to 6 a.m.
“This bill has evolved over time. Even in its current form, if it’s enacted, it will endanger the people of Los Angeles,” Councilman Paul Krekorian said. “It’s not like this is a situation where the people of the city have been clamoring [for the extended time].”
The City Council passed the resolution 10-2.
“We are the second biggest city in the country,” Council President Herb Wesson said. “When the state legislators want to do something in this city, they should talk to us before they make proposals so we can be engaged, so I will be supporting Mr. Koretz because I think it’s important that our colleagues in Sacramento respect this council.”
Several public speakers said they support the bill because it could be locally regulated and enforced and bring the city more revenue.
Councilmen David Ryu and Joe Buscaino opposed the resolution, saying that while they are concerned about alcoholism and drunken driving, the city would have control over how the law would be enacted in Los Angeles.
“I think we would have that opportunity locally to figure out whether this is a bill that would help or hurt,” Ryu said. “I think this gives us more local control. I want to see how to use this bill to make sure … our streets are more safe.”
Koretz reiterated the results of a report released in July by the Alcohol Research Group and Public Health Institute that found if 5 percent of the city’s bars stayed open until 4 a.m., it would cost Los Angeles $50.2 million annually due to public safety needs and other social burdens. It estimated the cost could rise into the billions if 20 percent of the market participated over five years.
The study compared hypothetical percentages of the market that could be open until 4 a.m. with Centers for Disease Control-sponsored “cost-per-drink” studies to calculate the costs.
According to a legislative analysis of the bill, it would cost the state at least $2 million to $3 million just to implement the program, along with a $500,000 allocation for the California Highway Patrol during the first year. But net revenue statewide from excise taxes could be about $1.6 million to $3 million annually during the pilot phase, according to the analysis.
Authors of the Alcohol Research Group and Public Health Institute report said they disregarded any of the bill’s claims of economic benefit, saying the same employment opportunities could be put to better use and at better hours.
Wiener has proposed the 4 a.m. last call bill three times. One of his previous bills died in committee, and another was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown.
But Wiener continues to push the effort.
“California’s century-old, rigid 2 a.m. closing time, which applies equally in large urban areas and small farm towns, stifles our nighttime economy,” Wiener said earlier this year. “We should embrace nightlife and give local communities the ability to tailor their nightlife to their own needs.”
The bill is slated to be heard once again in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, and Aug. 30 is the last day the bill can be heard in the Legislature.
By ERIC HEINZ
City News Service