California Bars Won't Stay Open Until 4 A.M.

Photo by christinielsen

In New York, bars stay open until 4 a.m. In Chicago, while most bars have a 2 a.m. curfew, a handful own the necessary license to keep from closing their doors until 4 a.m. It only makes sense, then, that a city like Los Angeles should also be allowed to have the extra two hours a day to drink.

That was the prevailing thought when news started circulating about California SB 635, a bill that would allow "bars, nightclubs and restaurants statewide to seek permission to remain open an extra two hours," was proposed. Supporters of the bill claim the extra two hours would allow California to "compete with other world-class cities in attracting tourists, conventions and conferences from around the world." Those who came out against the bill, meanwhile, brought up the fact that it may not be the best idea to have sauced up folks driving the streets at the same time as early-morning commuters.

Tuesday, the bill was voted down 6-4, meaning everyone's going to have to be content to keep hearing the bartender yell out "last call!" right around 1:30 in the morning. And I, for one, couldn't be happier about that.

(At least, as far as L.A. goes. What no one seemed to mention was that this bill's a bit too far-reaching. Anyone who's ever been to both L.A. and San Francisco realize the two are dramatically different cities that should be governed in dramatically different ways.)

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Now I'm no teetotaler. I love drinking. Beer, wine, whiskey, vodka, whatever you got. I'm the guy Chumbawamba was talking about. I may not be drinking as I write this post, but that's due to the fact that my home Internet is on the fritz, my nearby Wifi-capable bars have yet to open, and the L.A. Public Library system has a policy against open alcohol containers. And more than drinking, I love bars. In this age of virtual lives and people staying inside to surf the Internet or obsessively watch TV shows about dragons, there are few better ways to meet new people, be introduced to new social circles, and obtain opinions outside of your self-administered echo chamber than at the bar. If you ever see me at one, please, buy me a drink.

That said:

Los Angeles is simply not a city set up for that kind of late-night/early-morning drinking. Public transportation lines are getting better, but as this important back-and-forth between L.A. mayoral candidates shows, the city's still in a state of flux regarding how to correct the people-moving problem. (How the candidates answer this question, to me, is one of the most important issues in the upcoming election.) And while the creation of a later curfew may force the MTA to adapt more quickly than they'd like -- just as the revitalization of downtown forced them them to extend weekend rail service hours -- is it really a smart idea to add an extra two hours of drinking in a city that almost forces residents to drive drunk?

There are certainly ways around this problem -- for instance, only giving those late-night permits to establishments within a few blocks of a Metro stop -- but that kind of addendum needs to be clarified before the bill gets my support. In the meantime, two in the morning is late enough.

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