Later last call keeps money tap open for local bars

by Staff

Dustin Michelson, Senior Staff Photographer

For many years now, major cities, including New York, Chicago and Las Vegas, have allowed alcohol to be readily purchased at bars throughout the night and into the early hours of the morning. However, this isn’t the case in San Diego…yet. Current California law prohibits late-night service past 2 a.m., but San Francisco Democratic Sen. Mark Leno is hoping to break these boundaries. He is the author of Senate Bill 635, which would allow local establishments to expand their alcohol services until 4 a.m.

“This legislation would allow destination cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego to start local conversations about the possibility of expanding nightlife and the benefits it could provide the community by boosting jobs, tourism and local tax revenue,” Leno said in a statement.

At this point in the global economy, the U.S. has moved from manufacturing to the service industry; tourism and nightlife are now a huge part of the revenue for large cities. Leno said the bill is largely economically based and would allow these cities to compete with other major metropolises for the large tourism market.

Take a trip to the Gaslamp Quarter or Pacific Beach and you’ll see they’re popular bar and club scenes. More often than not, people are jam-packed to the walls, drinking and dancing away into the night. When you consider that current California law prohibits establishments from serving alcohol past 2 a.m., this means bar goers are leaving at around the same time.

This general closing time puts unnecessary stress on numerous parts of the San Diego infrastructure, including transportation and police resources. With all the bars’ clientele leaving at the same time to drive or hail a taxi the city is forced to invest a significant amount of time and resources into mass DUI checkpoints and responding to traffic accidents as a result of the large rush of people. Allowing bars to stay open later would effectively deter some of these problems.

If bars are granted later hours, people would trickle out, rather than leave in a mass exodus. It would put significantly less strain on the police force. Some argue putting potentially drunk drivers on the road at 4 a.m. rather than 2 a.m. is a terrible idea because these drivers would be a risk to early morning work commuters.

In response, I suggest some sort of Breathalyzer test for the patrons leaving the bar after a certain time, and any that don’t pass get a taxi called. It would be a minor inconvenience for the patrons, who would know ahead of time. It would be somewhat obnoxious, but it’s a middle ground I think could help promote safety. Besides these possible benefits, there’s also employment.

Bars or clubs that are allowed or choose to extend their service hours are going to need additional employees. This could mean either more hours for current employees or, if that becomes too much, new hires. This bill not only helps the thirsty patrons, but helps employees too. More employees or hours worked means less unemployment and money that will go right back into our local economy.

Even though this bill is new to California, it’s not a new concept in itself. We have seen it successfully enacted in other cities, to the cities’ benefit. California is generally considered to be an innovative state, always pushing the limits or trying the newest things first, and it’s about time California caught up.

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