Should Bay Area Bars Stay Open Until 4am?

A bill put forward by State Senator Scott Weiner that would let bars serve customers until 4am is headed to the Assembly for consideration.

The change was proposed to bolster local economies, support nightlife and potentially reduce demand for illegal warehouse parties, but several Oakland and San Francisco saloons Hoodline contacted aren't interested in extending their hours.

Under the proposed Let Our Cities Adjust Late-night Act (LOCAL), municipalities could create community action plans for extending bar hours that must be approved by the state's Department of Alcohol Beverage Control.

The bar at Tosca in North Beach. | Photo: Beer by BART/Flickr

Supporters hope LOCAL will drive tourism and economic activity in nightlife corridors like the Mission or Uptown, but Hoodline interviewed several bar managers who are cool to the idea of delaying last call.

"We won't participate," said Justin Ross Lee, manager for Gestalt Haus, near 16th Street BART. The area "is a mess as it is, even after midnight," he said. 

"I've talked to a few other bartenders and a few managers and no one really seems to be in favor of it," added Lee, who said the proposed law may not be aimed at neighborhood joints like Gestalt Haus that just pour beer and wine.

On the edge of the Mission, Zeitgest manager Angela Scott said later hours wouldn't significantly boost her bar's bottom line.

"We do a huge amount of business during the day. It slows down for us around midnight already," she said. Later hours would also mean higher labor and operating costs.

Daytime crowd at Zeitgeist. | Photo: Ann Larie Valentine/Flickr

"We haven't put too much thought into it. We have to consider what it'll mean for our food and staffing costs," said Scott. "If the customers are willing to be there that late, it's something that might happen."

Scott is equally skeptical of the arguments for and against the bill: "I just don't think every tourist who comes to San Francisco is coming to stay out drinking until 4am."

"They're already drunk at two," she said, laughing. "What's two more hours?"

A consideration for bars to decide whether or not to apply for extended hours is cost—not just the cost of being open, but the cost of dealing with ABC.

Inside Café Van Kleef. | Photo: Funk A Hollik/Facebook

"I think we'd probably stay open late Fridays and Saturdays, depending on the additional charge," said Rick Heggers, a manager for downtown Oakland's Cafe Van Kleef. "ABC will probably charge additional fees, taxes to be open late. We'll definitely sell more liquor in those hours—just depends on if it's enough,"

Lizzie Alford, a co-owner of Oakland's Commonwealth, said she's already struggling with the bureaucracy of getting ABC to approve extending Commonwealth's hours to midnight. She hopes the LOCAL Act can bring some more transparency around the approval process, but isn't interested in going further than that.

"We're more like a pub—if given the opportunity, we wouldn't stay open [to 4 am]. We're in a neighborhood that doesn't really need a bar to be open that late."

According to Alford, a number of Oakland bar managers reported a remarkably low turnout for the NBA Finals, an event that many thought would bring capacity crowds.

The bill has passed the State Senate and is on its way to the Assembly.

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Should bay area bars stay open until 4am