Senate Fails California, Passes Last-Call Bill; Time to Rally the Assembly

because more of people falling in the street is exactly what California needsIn a senseless and short-sighted 27-9 vote, the California State Senate approved SB 384, the bill that would keep bars open to 4 a.m. and undermine public safety across the state. The vote came just days after the Senate Appropriations Committee agreed, following closed-door meetings, to release the bill despite the millions in state costs it would incur. Now it is up to the citizens of California to make their Assembly members stand up and stop the bill.

“The Senate should be embarrassed that they let this bill even make it to floor,” said Michael Scippa, Alcohol Justice Public Affairs Director, “let alone that they passed it.”

Extending last call times pose a number of hazards to public well-being. First and foremost, they extend drinking times and bring the most intoxicated people together in close proximity. This leads to increases in incapacitated drivers, crashes, violence, and victimization, as well as noise, nuisance, and property damage in the neighborhoods near late-closing bars.

More subtly, it stresses the resource of ERs, medics, and law enforcement personnel, who now have to spend more time dealing with the aftermath of drinking with no time to reset. It burnishes the tax coffers of urban areas willing to extend hours while severely impacting small suburban municipalities with damage and fatalities “party commuters” driving home. And with workaday commuters traveling ever longer hours, it sends impaired drivers headlong into rush hour traffic.

Most insidious, however, is the fact that this bill really only creates a major boon for large nightlife promoters while creating a pressure for smaller bars to stay open whether or not they want to. By stripping a simple and sensible public health regulation—one that has stood for decades without any substantive complaints—California shows a willingness to crumple to the slightest pressure from wealthy lobbies even while public health services are constantly cut.

The Senate may have failed in its duty to represent the interests of California citizens, but the fate of SB 384 is far from determined. “The Senate may have ignored science and common sense,” Mr. Scippa said, “but there is still time for the grown-ups in the room to act.”

Alcohol Justice urges concerned Californians to contact their member of the Assembly and make it clear how 4 a.m. last call times hurt the community. California needs politicians to stand up against alcohol money and preserve public health and safety.

TAKE ACTION to contact your member of the Assembly and tell them to Stop 384.

READ MORE about the moral bankruptcy and manipulative cynicism behind SB 384.

READ MORE about the harms from extending last call times.