Governor Newsom Could Change the Odds on 4 a.m. Last Call Bill

EATER SF by Caleb Pershan
May 28, 2019

State senator Scott Wiener remains determined to stay out past 2 a.m., hoping to finally pass legislation to allow but not require some cities to extend last call beyond California’s current statewide limit. His latest effort in the matter has pundits wondering if chances have improved under governor Gavin Newsom, the kind of politician citizens feel like they could get a drink with — in part because he used to run a wine shop.

This latest round of speculation comes after Wiener’s current bill cleared the state senate last week with bipartisan support. The latest version of Wieners’ bill would allow 10 California cities — San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Sacramento, West Hollywood, Long Beach, Coachella, Cathedral City, Fresno and Palm Springs — to decide for themselves on when to hold last call through a five-year pilot program. Next up: A vote in the state assembly, then, potentially, the Governor’s desk.

Wiener, the former Castro District supervisor, has been trying his luck with an extended last call bill since he was elected to the state senate in 2016, getting closer with each attempt. The goal, he says, is to let cities like San Francisco, whose nightlife and hospitality industries are pillars of the local economy, choose how late to let bars remain open at the local level. While 4 a.m. last call might not be appropriate in Orinda, it might be just the ticket in the Castro, the thinking goes.

Wiener’s first bill to extend last call stalled out in 2017, when it was reduced to a task force to study the issue instead. A second attempt got the thumbs up from state legislators, only to be 86ed with a veto by outgoing governor Jerry Brown.

“Without question these two extra hours will result in more drinking,” Brown wrote in a scolding letter at the time. “I believe we have enough mischief from midnight to 2 without adding two more hours of mayhem,” Brown added.

With Newsom already elected to succeed Brown, senator Wiener wasted no time in introducing a new version of the bill. “Third time’s a charm,” he said at the time.

Newsom hasn’t taken a position on the last call bill, but his experience might well align him with bar and restaurant operators. His sister Hilary Newsom and cousin Jeremy Scherer operate the Plumpjack Group, which he co-founded: Its San Francisco businesses now include bars like Wildhawk, the Balboa Cafe, and White Rabbit. While Newsom doesn’t participate in the day-to-day operations of those businesses, they stand to benefit from his decision on the matter.

Of course, the final word for 4 a.m. last call will be made in cities themselves. Will San Francisco politicians rally around the cause locally?

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