California legislators are in the process of determining whether or not six cities, including Long Beach, will be given the ability to allow alcohol sales until 4 a.m. At least two city leaders are in favor of the proposal as outlined in Senate Bill (SB) 905 – with one stipulation.
“I don’t support 4 a.m. hours citywide, I don’t think that works. I think that would be very disruptive to a lot of the neighborhoods,” Mayor Robert Garcia told the Business Journal. “But there are instances in the entertainment district downtown where there are special events or other types of activities where there has been interest in the past to have an event go later.”
Aside from Long Beach, the bill identifies Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco and West Hollywood. If passed by the state legislature, SB 905 would enact a five-year pilot program from January 1, 2020, to January 1, 2025, in which each of the six jurisdictions could create its own unique ordinance related to alcohol sales. These guidelines could be as overarching or specific as the cities choose, including allowing 4 a.m. alcohol sales only on certain days of the week, at certain special events or in specific areas of the city.
“If the state passes this bill then it would come to the council, and I think we’d have a pretty robust debate about whether it works for us or not,” Garcia said. “We obviously don’t ever want to do anything that would constrain resources. We want to make sure that it’s done in a way that’s controlled.”
The Downtown Long Beach Alliance (DLBA) has discussed the proposal with Garcia, as well as with State Sen. Ricardo Lara, who represents the state’s 33rd Senate District including most of Long Beach and who is a co-author of the bill. Kraig Kojian, president and CEO of the DLBA, said he agrees with the mayor’s assessment that downtown entertainment areas are best suited for extended alcohol hours.
“If, in fact, this does come to downtown, that doesn’t mean that every establishment would be given the right to do that. I think it’s important to note that not every establishment would even want to serve until 4 a.m.,” Kojian said. “There are establishments today that don’t want to serve until 2 a.m. We recognize that. So this is not for everyone. But given the authority that the state is willing to relinquish to these six cities, I think that’s huge.”
In terms of benefits SB 905 could bring Long Beach, Garcia said having extended hours for controlled and responsible entertainment would create jobs and increase the tax base, which would then be reinvested back into the community. Aside from benefiting the daily consumer, Kojian explained that the six cities in the pilot program would be elevated to the same level as a New York or Chicago when it comes to being competitive in attracting conventions and special events.
Garcia and Kojian each noted that there are obvious challenges that would come with such an ordinance, including issues of public safety and transit options. Both said the city should not do anything to put pressure on already-strained resources, such as police. Discussions have already begun with the Long Beach Police Department to gain insight about any concerns it might have with the proposal.
The bill is still in the committee process. The Senate Governmental Organization Committee voted 8-2 to pass the bill with several amendments in mid-March, sending the bill to the Senate Committee on Appropriations. But Kojian said it’s not too early for discussions about the challenges and opportunities the legislation could bring to the city. He added that, if passed at the state level, the city’s residents would not be left out of the process of forming a local plan.
“This is a process that we will be working with our community. We will be reaching out to the community, working with them and understanding that there are going to be some challenges and some concerns,” Kojian said. “If this opportunity does present itself, we will take full advantage of it and work with our community to ensure that we are doing the right thing for Long Beach.”