City Councilman Paul Koretz renewed his opposition Tuesday to a state bill that would allow bars in select cities to remain open until 4 a.m., pointing to a report concluding the move would cost Los Angeles millions of dollars a year in public-safety and other costs.
“There are a lot of arguments being thrown around and even some making the case that drinking for two additional hours makes them safer drivers, which is about the most absurd thing that I’ve ever heard,” Koretz said. “While we want our local businesses to thrive, no good can come from serving alcohol until 4 a.m.”
The bill, SB 58, introduced by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, would create a five-year pilot program, beginning in 2022, that would allow bars to remain open until 4 a.m. in Cathedral City, Coachella, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Palm Springs, Sacramento, Fresno, San Francisco and West Hollywood. Existing law prohibits the sale of alcohol from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m.
At a City Hall news conference, Koretz discussed the results of a report by the Alcohol Research Group and Public Health Institute that found if 5 percent the city’s bars stayed open until 4 a.m., it would cost Los Angeles $50.2 million annually due to public safety needs and other social burdens. It estimated the cost could rise into the billions, if 20 percent of the market participated over five years.
The study compared hypothetical percentages of the market that could be open until 4 a.m. with Centers for Disease Control-sponsored “cost-per-drink” studies to calculate the costs.
In California, the CDC estimated excessive drinking cost the state more than $35 billion in 2010, which translated into $940 per person or $2.44 per drink. In Los Angeles, that amount is closer to $2.58, said Bruce Livingston, the executive director of Alcohol Justice, a nonprofit watchdog organization.
Koretz and Councilman Greig Smith introduced a resolution in March that asks the council to formally oppose SB 58.
“This bill fails to protect the health and safety of our community. This bill will endanger the lives of all the people that will be going to work in the early hours,” said Brenda Villanueva, the co-chair of the Los Angeles Alcohol and Drug Policy Alliance.
According to a legislative analysis of the bill, it would cost the state at least $2 million to $3 million just to implement the program, along with a $500,000 allocation for the California Highway Patrol during the first year. But net revenue statewide from excise taxes could be about $1.6 million to $3 million annually during the pilot phase, according to the analysis.
Authors of the Alcohol Research Group and Public Health Institute report said they disregarded any of the bill’s claims of economic benefit, saying the same employment opportunities could be put to better use and at better hours.
Koretz said the proposal for extended bar hours just keeps coming back in Sacramento.
“Once again we’re here fighting a bill that has been so persistent that it’s earned the nickname the `zombie bill’ because we keep killing it, but it just won’t die,” Koretz said.
Wiener has proposed the 4 a.m. last call bill three times. One of his previous bills died in committee, and another was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown. But Wiener continues to push the effort.
“California’s century-old, rigid 2 a.m. closing time, which applies equally in large urban areas and small farm towns, stifles our nighttime economy,” Wiener said earlier this year. “We should embrace nightlife and give local communities the ability to tailor their nightlife to their own needs.”
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