David Cooley says a crowd of a thousand or so people spills out onto the street on weekend mornings in West Hollywood when his famous gay nightclub the Abbey Food & Bar closes at 2.
Some still have time and money to spend.
That’s why Cooley supports a proposed state Senate bill that would allow bars, restaurants and nightclubs to serve alcohol until 4 a.m.
“Increased liquor sales, more employment, more tax revenue – it’s a true win all the way around,” said Cooley, who added that his nightclub makes 60 percent of its sales from alcohol. “It’s time for West Hollywood and California to come out of Prohibition and catch up with other cosmopolitan cities and join the game.”
The move would hold the potential to increase revenue at a time when the minimum wage is increasing, bringing a significant hike to overall costs.
But not everyone in L.A.’s hospitality industry shares Cooley’s enthusiasm for the bill, despite support from a state trade organization and ridesharing companies.
“I think some people are a bit naïve to think that more hours equals more profit,” said Salar Sheik, owner of Sawtelle-based Savory Hospitality Restaurant Consulting. “There’s only a certain amount people can consume in a 24-hour period.”
More hours open also would mean more hours worked, so labor costs would increase, which in turn would increase the premiums on workers’ compensation required by the state, said Michael Peattie, an insurance broker at Santa Monica-based Tegner-Miller Insurance Brokers who specializes in restaurants and bars. Liability and other insurance costs would also increase.
While details of the legislation are still being worked out, it won’t result in all businesses automatically being allowed to serve alcohol until 4. Many L.A.-area restaurants and bars are required to have a conditional use permit that dictates operating hours, and they would likely have to appeal to get it changed to remain open longer.
California restaurants and bars have been required to stop serving alcohol by 2 a.m. since Prohibition ended in the early 20th century, although they don’t necessarily have to close at that time.
State Sens. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, and Joel Anderson, R-El Cajon, who represents an area east of San Diego, introduced the bill in February, saying that it would give municipalities more control. Sen. Ben Allen, a Democrat who represents L.A.’s Westside, is a co-author.
Supporters have noted that California is behind some other states and cities when it comes to last call, including New York, where it’s 4 a.m., or Miami, where it’s 5 a.m. Businesses in Chicago can apply for a late-hour liquor license that allows them to serve until 4 or 5, depending on the day of the week.