California is on the verge of changing legislation which has been on its books since the end of Prohibition. Since that time, California alcohol businesses have been banned from operating between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., statewide. If Senate Bill 384 (SB 384) passes, select businesses will be permitted to operate until 4 a.m. If passed and signed by the Governor, SB 384 would serve as an amendment to the current Business and Professions Code (changing Section 25631 and adding to Section 25634). Its purpose is to create a system for some businesses to serve alcohol until 4 a.m. To do this, the legislation allows for an additional license via the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC).
ABC will not have complete control in determining which businesses can operate until 4 a.m. Under SB 384, local governments will be permitted to restrict businesses from receiving an extended license, as each new license requires a local plan for the premises. Furthermore, businesses are prohibited from receiving a license with extended hours if there is an existing license on the premises. In other words, an established business with an existing alcohol license must cancel their license before receiving an extended-hours license.
Outside of these restrictions, SB 384 will allow extended-hours licenses to be administered in much the same way as traditional alcohol licenses have been given to businesses for years. To receive an extended-hours license, the business would need to apply for a license in the same manner as years past. The only additional requirements to an extended-hours application are:
(1) explaining the public convenience or necessity will be served by the additional hours;
(2) identifying the area that will be affected by the additional hours and demonstrates how that area will benefit from the additional hours;
(3) showing that residents and businesses within the additional hours service area support the additional hours;
(4) including an assessment by local law enforcement regarding the potential impact of an additional hours service area and the public safety plan;
(5) showing that transportation services are readily accessible in the additional hours service area during the additional service hours; and
(6) including programs to increase public awareness of the transportation services available in the additional hours service area and the impacts of alcohol consumption.
After the application, the business would then need to publicly post a notice, in order to allow any protests to be filed. From there, the business may or may not need to attend a public hearing on the issue. If the application is approved without conditions, the business will then be able to operate until 4 a.m. More likely, an application will contain further conditions based on the needs of the area, and the business must then operate within these conditions.
SB 384 is not without opposition. Some, like the Alcohol Policy Alliance, argue the bill will lead to higher rates of alcohol-related deaths, illnesses, and injuries. Specifically, there is a concern for greater levels of drunken driving statewide.
Others, however, argue that later closings will actually decrease traffic fatalities, citing other states and instances. Additionally, some cities and businesses see SB 384 as an opportunity for increased tourism, tax-revenue, and entertainment. While recognizing the concerns for alcohol-related issues, proponents think that these issues will be limited by a business’s need to be supported by both local government and the ABC before being allowed to operate with extended hours. They view this as an opportunity for California cities’ entertainment to further compete with national entertainment cities like New York City (4 a.m.), Chicago (5 a.m. on Saturdays), Washington, D.C (3 a.m.), and Atlanta (4 a.m.).
Regardless of its overall impact, SB 384 stands primed to increase the variety of beverage service businesses.