Last Call For California Closing Time Bill


The third time was not the charm for a California lawmaker who is attempting to get a later closing time for bars in the country’s most populous state.

The California State Assembly last month voted down state Sen. Scott Wiener’s third try to establish a pilot project to give some California cities the ability to extend last call at bars, restaurants and clubs from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. (the original bill sought a 4 a.m. closing). He came close last year when the assembly approved a 4 a.m. closing bill which was subsequently vetoed by outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown in December.

Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat, has said the extra hours would boost small businesses and add cultural vibrancy, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

“Nightlife is very important in our cities,” the newspaper quoted Wiener when he reintroduced the Let Our Communities Adjust Late-Night Act shortly after Brown vetoed his previous bill. “We have this rigid, 100-year-old rule in California that all alcohol sales shall end by 2 a.m., whether you’re in downtown San Francisco or Los Angeles or in a small farm town.”

According to the Chronicle, Wiener’s efforts are based on input from leaders of a number of California cities, including Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Oakland, Long Beach and San Francisco, who have indicated they would be interested in participating in a five-year pilot project to gauge the impact of a later closing time not only on bars but also their communities.

It’s interesting to think that Ohio, with its 2:30 a.m. closing time for bars with the right permit, is more progressive in that area than California. In fact, all or parts of at least 10 states allow bars to stay open later than those in California, led by Nevada, where on-premises alcohol flows 24/7, according to

At least two states — Illinois and South Carolina — allow municipalities to decide when bars close, similar to Ohio’s local option elections and not unlike the pilot project Wiener proposes in California. Who better to decide what is right for its citizens than the local government? Particularly in a state the size of California. Just like sensibilities differ between Ohio’s rural areas and its big cities, so too do might those who live in the coastal regions of Los Angeles and San Francisco view alcohol consumption differently from people who live in the state’s northern and eastern regions.

Yet anti-alcohol groups, which have fought Wiener’s proposals from the beginning by claiming they would create more problems and cost the state money, are applauding the defeat of his latest effort to let local elected officials decide what is best for their constituents.

“We stopped the attempt by the nightlife lobby to harm our communities,” said Richard Zaldivar, co-chair of the California Alcohol Policy Alliance. “Thank you to the members of the legislature that voted for people over special interests.”

While groups such as CAPA and Alcohol Justice continually blame “big alcohol” for any proposal to expand sales or loosen regulations, a look at those who support such efforts paints a different picture. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Wiener’s bill was supported by San Francisco Travel, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, and ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft, all of which recognized the benefits businesses would realize by extending bar closing time by an hour.

While California’s battles over alcohol sales have little or no bearing on what goes in the Buckeye State, it is at least comforting to know that Ohio’s lawmakers long ago made the right decision to balance what is good for business with the safety and well-being of its citizens.