3-Feb-2004 (Tue) Wherein we indulge in the fantasy of a 3:30AM last call.

It would seem that steps are being taken to make it be legal for SF bars and clubs to move their last call time from 2AM to 3:30AM. I've been hearing about this for a while now, and my initial assumption was that there was no way in hell it could happen -- it involves changing a state law, after all -- but it seems that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is likely to vote to push for this change from the state legislature. How about that.

That still sounds like a rather involved process, but apparently there's a lot of support for this from the tourist industry (conference centers, hotels, and so on.)

It would also be great news for us, of course. We make almost all of our money selling alcohol, and we sell almost all of our alcohol between 11:30 and 1:30 on fridays and saturdays. That's only four hours a week! Adding even a little bit to that would help a lot.

There's a hearing about this on Feb 5 (Thursday.) The text of the proposed resolution is on the Board's site as a PDF of a fax, but it's pretty unreadable, so I've converted it to HTML here. The statistics about last-call times in other cities and states are pretty interesting:

    3AM:   Indianapolis, Memphis, Nashville, West Virginia.
    4AM:   Miami, Jacksonville, New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, San Antonio, Fort Worth, Dallas, Honolulu.
    24/7:   New Orleans, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, London.
This is what SFLNC had to say about it in email (I would just link to this info on the SFLNC site, but such info is never actually on their site until it is at least six months out of date... You'd think they'd have heard of teh intarweb by now.)

Supervisor Aaron Peskin has introduced a resolution encouraging State Assemblymember Mark Leno to develop legislation that could extend the last call for alcohol in bars, restaurants and nightclubs in California's largest cities. This will give San Franciscans and visitors to our City similar rights to those enjoyed in New York, Chicago, Miami, New Orleans and other large cities that allow alcohol sales after 2am. This will also provide a much needed boost to our local entertainment scene and economy.

In your email to our elected officials, it is crucial to include in the subject line the words "Support Later Last Call Hours". Supervisors do not always read every email but they do count those for and against an issue. If you wish to contact your District Supervisor by phone or fax, contact info is available on the Board of Supervisors web site.

Here are some important points about this proposal:

  • Later last call hours will help to keep San Francisco a world class city;

  • Later last call hours will create additional revenue for the city and the state of California;

  • San Franciscans should have the same rights as those in other major cities;

  • National Traffic Safety Association data indicates that later last call hours do not increase and may actually decrease the number of alcohol related traffic fatalities;

  • This proposal applies only to on-site alcohol sales at restaurants, bars, or nightclubs;

  • This proposal does not allow alcohol sales after 2am in supermarkets or liquor stores;

  • This proposal applies only to restaurants, bars or nightclubs in districts zoned for late night businesses;

  • This proposal does not override any local zoning controls.

My understanding of this is that you'd still need to have an "extended hours" permit to take advantage of this: that is, bars and restaurants whose permits only allow them to operate until 2AM will still have to close at 2AM. But places that are allowed to stay open later would also be allowed to continue serving. That's what it sounds like to me, anyway.

25 Responses:

  1. malokai says:

    They're doing this in vancouver, along with extending the hours to 4am.

    The cops don't like it one bit.

    • jwz says:

      The function of cops is to not like things like that.

      For a cop, a perfect world is one in which everyone stays inside their homes at all times, keeping the streets empty and quiet and safe.

      Fortunately, that's not so good for the economy.

      • bitwise says:

        In Minneapolis they extended last call from 1am to 2am last summer, and the cops made the same arguments: more alcohol means more drunk drivers.

        The counter-argument says that the later you're open, the less likely you're going to push the drunks out the door (many places don't bother staying open past last call), and the more likely they'll sit around and sober up a bit before heading home.

        In the end, it passed and didn't seem to have much negative impact at all.

      • malokai says:

        They whine and bitch constantly. But everything in vancouver needs the business, and they only do it two nights a week.

    • robflynn says:

      They just did the opposite here. They changed the 4am last call to a 2am last call because somebody got shot. Yeah, smart move. Now people will just get shot at 2.15a instead of 4.15a. It had nothing to do with the closing time, the shooting happened in a bad area anyway.

  2. Actually, the last call time for normal liquor licenses in Chicago is only 2am (3am on Saturdays). It has been this way for quite a long time, but I don't know how long exactly. Somewhere between 10 and 20 years.

    Quoting from an article I found regarding the regulations for a late-hour license, which is 4am (5am on Saturdays):

    "A late-hour license requires an extra fee. If at least 50 percent of the buildings within 500 feet of the licensed location are residences, the license applicant must also provide an affidavit stating that legal voters are notified by certified mail about the application. The applicant must then attach the signatures of a majority of legal voters within the 500-foot area to the license application."

    You can probably guess how successful any late-night-aspiring club is in trying to get such an application through, if they don't have a grandfathered-in license. I've read your description of the red tape you had to go through to get the licenses for the DNA.

    In practice, all the 4am clubs are old clubs, open for 20 years or more. A new club simply will not get approved, since the owners of the existing clubs are in bed nice and tight with the aldermen, and they don't look kindly on fresh competition.

    Fortunately, Club Neo, the main goth/industrial club, such as it is (roughly equivalent to SF's Jezebel's Joint) does have a late-night license, and the club is sufficiently run-down and seedy that there isn't much point in the owners trying to spruce it up and turn it into a hip place.

  3. greyface says:

    That's good news, even for me and the freeloaders... I mean... non-drinkers... like me.

    If the clubs can sell liquor later into the night, the chances of them staying open later in the night improves exponentially.

    *indulges in daydream fantasies of longer nights leading to required increase in set-variance, rather than the massively more probable increase in time-to-played-out*

  4. nester says:

    I love it...

    24/7: New Orleans, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, London.

    New Orleans... 24 hour debauchery. liquor is a must.

    Mississippi - Gambling
    Nevada - Gambling
    New Jersey - Gambling

    Do they have gambling in London? Or is it just lots o' sex?

    • babysimon says:

      24/7: [...] London


      Most pubs in London close at 11:30PM. The rules are different for clubs, but it's a shock seeing London mentioned as a 2/7 city.

      Do they have gambling in London?

      Yeah, but not in the same way as Nevada - the rules on gambling are the same across the UK.

      • insom says:


        There are other Londons you know. A hint would be that the article mentions *American* cities exclusively - what with being American law.

        • babysimon says:

          From the fax:

          ...WHEREAS, London and many other large international tourist destinations allow venues to sell alcohol 24 hours to entice global travelers; and...

          Which London do they mean then?

      • jwz says:

        Who cares about "most"? And who cares about "pubs" versus "clubs"? The point is that it's possible in London, and it's not even remotely possible here. Things would be clearer were you to read the actual document I linked to instead of just my three line summary of it.

        culture.uk.gov FAQ on 24 hour alcohol.

  5. msjen says:

    I wonder if I will start to get automatically tired at 3:30 then instead of at 2:00. When I lived in Boston it was 1:00 on the dot.

    Well, anyway, here's to more money spent on booze at your establishment, hopefully.

  6. baconmonkey says:

    I wonder if a later last callwill just mean people go out later. I've generally found in my various travels, that in general, the time when "everyone starts to show up" is about 2 hours before last call.
    The biggest potential advantage for late-night clubs would be that later last-call means shorter time til sales are allowed again.
    Generally, I've found that the percentage of people who have deemed themselves no where near drunk enough after last call, is pretty small. and of that small percentage, many are probably pretty close to being ejected.
    Though for those who show up more than 2 hours before last call, that would give them more time to pace out their drinking, and they'll probably down at least an extra drink.

    • jwz says:

      Probably so, eventually, but that might give us an opportunity to double-book more often; if the saturday night dance club doesn't even open until 11:30, you can pretty easily do three bands between 8 and 11. (And the genres don't have to match, because they're totally different events.)

      • dfb says:

        How does this work? Do you kick everybody out between events? Or are the events sufficiently different that the crowd from one event wouldn't stick around for the other?

        • jwz says:

          I suppose it would depend on the events, but it's safe to say that, for example, very few Yngwie Malmsteen fans are going to stick around for Thump Radio.

  7. _uriel_ says:

    I think that the later last call would help in one way.
    We (Bacon,myself,anyone who works at a bar/club) people freaking out at last Call and dowining multiple shots,ordering 'one more' long island etc...in an attempt to put a big boozy last minute spin on their evening. If the LC was 4am, they wouldn't have that panic response to the sign (maybe they still would, they are sheep, after all...). Folks wouldn't feel the need to drink 3 Liquid Cocaine shots at 1:35...
    Remembering those 3 little chinese girls who did it and were carried out about 10 minutes later. Blech.

  8. gths says:

    The busier pubs and nightclubs around here (.au) shut around 3am, with the odd 5am or 24/7. If they're going out after dinner, rather than straight after work, most people tend not to hit the pubs until after 10pm, unless it's to see the first band on a bill or something.

    Of course, it was 6pm(!) closing in Sydney until 1955 and Melbourne until 1966, hence the six o'clock swill and sly grog shops. Things have loosened up a bit since then.

    From what I've heard, London (and the rest of England) have that crazy 12 hour law where you can open any 12 hours of a day, but only for those 12. So I imagine most pubs have 11am-11pm hours when the traffic is heaviest, though then there's also "lock-ins".

    • thealien says:

      They have an alleged FAQ, but "What the?" isn't a question on it. I imagine that has to be one of the more frequently asked ones.

      • editer says:

        I believe the answer would be, "If you have to ask, you'll never understand."

        I once met a woman at a party who had her own adult website and sometimes did "custom" photo sets. She said a guy once wrote in asking for pictures of her foot on the accelerator pedal of a fast sports car. No full-body shots or anything like that, just her foot on the pedal. OK, whatever.

  9. holywar says:

    Atlanta just cut back to a 2:30 last call with a 3 AM closing, effective 1/1/04. For some reason city council seemed to think that an earlier closing time would stop the rash of fights and shootings that have been happening after closing. They'll review it after a year, but it's currently not 4 AM any more.

  10. sketchthecow says:

    As alluded to by msjen, it is an embarassment to even come to this discussion if you live in Massachusetts and Boston; for some strange reason this little nugget of city has some of the most restrictive policies on last call and for that matter 24/7 establishments I've ever seen. Certainly the last time I checked a few years ago, there were essentially three (yes, three) 24/7 food establishments within the city. And last call is actually 12:45, and any place that serves alcohol HAS to be closed by 2am.

    What this leads to, basically, is that the only entities that can really function in this manner in Boston are near-monopolistic ones; hence pretty much all the nightclubs are owned by the same people, since they can leverage different places against each other.

    It makes me ashamed.

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