Anyone who has spent a late night at a bar has heard the echoes of “last call,” the signal that the final drinks of the night are being served and that soon it will be time to head home.
In California, the warning typically comes just before 2 a.m., after which it is illegal to sell alcohol anywhere in the state. Now a proposal in the State Legislature wants to change that.
Senate Bill 930 would allow seven cities in California to serve alcohol until 4 a.m. as part of a five-year pilot program beginning in 2025. The places included are San Francisco, Fresno, Oakland, Cathedral City, Palm Springs, Coachella and West Hollywood.
Nationwide, the most common last call is at 2 a.m., but bars in New York City can serve until 4 a.m. and some in Chicago till 5 a.m. State Senator Scott Wiener, who wrote California’s proposal, said extending the hours that businesses can offer alcohol would provide them an economic boost after an especially tough few years.
“Coming out of the pandemic, our nightlife venues are really hurting,” Wiener told me. “For some of these small businesses, this could be the difference between being viable and not being viable.”
The bill is scheduled for a hearing next week before the State Assembly Committee on Appropriations. To become law, it would need majority approval from both the Senate and Assembly as well as a signature from Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Though similar bills in the state have failed in the past, Newsom, who owns a winery and hospitality company, is expected to be more sympathetic than his predecessor. In 2018, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed an earlier version of Wiener’s bill, which would have included Los Angeles and Sacramento, and cited a potential increase in drunken driving.
“California’s laws regulating late-night drinking have been on the books since 1913,” Brown said in his veto statement. “I believe we have enough mischief from midnight to 2 without adding two more hours of mayhem.”
Increasing the window for alcohol sales by two or more hours is associated with a rise in alcohol-related harms, such as driving after drinking and alcohol-linked assaults and injuries, according to an analysis in the Guide to Community Preventive Services from the C.D.C.
The findings are more than a decade old, but the connection between later trading hours and alcohol-related problems is still “as close to black and white as we can get,” said Paul Gruenewald, a senior research scientist at the nonprofit Prevention Research Center of Berkeley, which is sponsored by the government-run National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Allowing bars to stay open later means that more people will be coming to bars to drink each night, or the same people will drink for longer, Gruenewald said. Either way, that results in more alcohol being consumed.
“It’s not at all surprising: more alcohol, more problems,” Gruenewald told me. “It’s got to be one of the most bone-headed things I can imagine.”
In West Hollywood, city officials have already voted to take advantage of the delayed last-call times if the state approves the measure. “Many of us have explored and exhausted our options for innovative ways to continue paying our employees and keep doors open,” David Cooley, owner of the Abbey, one of the city’s most popular bars, told The Los Angeles Times.
Wiener pointed out that under his proposal, cities could decide how to put the extended alcohol sale hours into effect. Keeping bars open until 4 a.m. could be allowed only on a certain street, or on just one day of the week, he said.
“It’s absurd that California has this one-size-fits-all closing time at 2 a.m., whether you’re in downtown San Francisco or a small farm town,” he told me. “We should give cities flexibility to decide what closing time works for them. That’s all this does. It doesn’t force any city to do anything.”
What you get
For $1.5 million: A Spanish-style home in Altadena, a Craftsman bungalow in San Francisco and a midcentury ranch house in Santa Barbara.
Where we’re traveling
Today’s tip comes from Anita Baron, who recommends the city of Richmond in the Bay Area:
“I love climbing the hills in Wildcat Canyon, the artifacts and history presented in the Rosie the Riveter Museum, the fascinating World War II shipyards, the coastal trails and paths for hiking and biking, the various parks and wonderful shoreline access, the road that takes us out to Point Molate, the waterside community at Point Richmond, the Point Isabel dog park with running, frolicking dog trails along the bluffs … I go back to Richmond more and more. I like it.”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
Before you go, some good news
Even in the scorching summer heat of Altadena, Seriina Covarrubias’s front yard feels cool and inviting. Two years ago, she tore out her lawn and replaced it with mostly drought-tolerant plants native to Southern California.
Birds now flock to her garden. So do lizards, ladybugs, praying mantises, bees and caterpillars. “I thought it was going to take longer for a natural habitat to materialize,” Covarrubias told The Los Angeles Times.
Covarrubias said that working in the garden helped her process the loss of her father, her “best friend,” who had been living with her before his death in June 2020.
“It gave me something to take care of that wasn’t myself so I could focus on that when I was too far into grief,” she said.
Her father had always wanted her to put money into her house. Now, she honors his memory by planting sweet-scented roses that he cherished.
Read the full story from The Los Angeles Times.
Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya
Correction: Yesterday’s newsletter misstated the location of the Oak fire. It was near Yosemite National Park, not within it.