A bill that would allow Long Beach to implement a pilot program extending alcohol sales until 4 a.m. has passed the state legislature and has been sent to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, who can choose to veto it, sign it or take no action and let it become law.
The legislation provides Long Beach, Los Angeles, West Hollywood and six other cities the opportunity to adopt a five-year pilot program to extend alcohol sales from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m.
Before choosing to adopt an ordinance and create a pilot program, the City of Long Beach must conduct community outreach to residents, law enforcement and business owners. The city must also prove that accessible transportation services will be available for the extended hours, and include programs to make the public aware of those transportation services, according to the bill. The city would also have to consider how adopting this ordinance would affect surrounding communities and their law enforcement departments.
Kraig Kojian, president and CEO of the Downtown Long Beach Alliance, told the Business Journal that the first step should be to gauge if and how the community wants to implement the pilot program. “I think we have to consider how we’re going to engage the community in this dialogue,” Kojian said. “It’s all about evolving as a community.”
Kojian also stressed the importance of understanding every aspect of what adopting the pilot program would entail for the city before moving forward. He questioned, “Would it put us on the same competitive level from a convention and visitors perspective as other cities that have extended hours, or is this something that is more of an inconvenience?”
Kojian stated that there are still many questions to address. He said that, in order to answer those questions, the city must understand the perspectives of the community, business owners and law enforcement.
Some Long Beach legislators have voiced concern, including Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell, who voted against the bill on the assembly floor. “They need to be careful about how this bill is implemented. I’m confident Long Beach will experience the mother of all community uproars if it is not handled appropriately,” O’Donnell said.
As to whether or not he would continue to oppose the proposal, O’Donnell said he would not interfere with local implementation if both the legislature and governor have spoken for it.
First District Councilmember Lena Gonzalez had concerns about the bill, too, expressed in an e-mail to the Business Journal. “At this time, I’m not supportive of this item. I would really like to gain more community input. But overall, there are many public safety concerns in the district that need attention first and foremost before we begin discussing what the bill’s impacts would be locally,” she said.
Third District Councilmember Suzie Price also took issue with the bill. “I cannot imagine a situation where I would willingly allow a permit of this nature in our district,” she stated in an e-mail. In regard to 2nd Street in Belmont Shore, Price said, “Perhaps there is some application of this legislation that makes sense in other areas of the city. It does not in my district, given the proximity of businesses to homes.”
If the city adopted a pilot program in a certain area, businesses within that area would be required to apply for a special license and pay an initial application fee of $2,500. If SB 905 becomes law, the city can pass an ordinance as soon as January 1, 2019, and interested businesses can then begin applying for licenses. The ordinance would not go into effect until January 1, 2021, per SB 905.
If the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control in California grants an applicant a license, that business would have to pay an annual fee of $2,500 to maintain the license. The fees for business to obtain and maintain an extended alcohol sales license are deposited to the Alcohol Beverage Control fund from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverages.
Gov. Brown has until September 30 to decide to sign the bill or veto it. The City of Long Beach would then have until 2021 to decide if and how to implement the pilot program to extend alcohol sales hours until 4 a.m.