How to Let Sacramento Know You Oppose 4 A.M. Bar Closing Times
One of the worst side effects of bad policy isn't just the harm it inflicts on the community. It's the feeling of powerlessness to change things. This is not one of those times.
As SB 384, the bill that would recklessly extend bar closing times to 4 a.m., makes its way through the Senate, Alcohol Justice and the California Alcohol Policy Alliance teamed up to organize an All-State Call-In. Held Wednesday, March 22, the event brought together supporters and advocates for community health to call the California state senators who will be voting on this bill. Now, the organizations turn to the public and urge them to make their voices heard as well.
There are many arguments that need to be made. For starters, extending bar opening hours would increase hazardous driving, assaults and injuries, and place substantial stress on already taxed emergency services. Although proponents say it will increase tax revenue, not a penny is reserved to fund medics or police. Even if it were, the contribution would pale in comparison to the over $38 billion alcohol drains out of California's economy—a cost that will surely rise with the later closing times.
Indeed, it seems the real beneficiaries will be entertainment lobbies and Big Alcohol. Time and time again, we’ve seen corporate interests circumvent locally enforced regulations. In the past, it's been liquor license caps and moratoriums; alcohol sellers have found numerous loopholes or plead for special consideration to the point where those regulations are, in the words of Mission Local, "Potent as a weak drink." there’s no reason to believe that residents of the areas affected by late last calls will be any better able to push back against slick lobbies. Meanwhile, even localities that keep a 2 a.m. (or earlier) time will find more road hazards as drinkers commute to and from later-call locales.
It's time the arguments were heard by those responsible for safeguarding—or undermining—the state. On Tuesday, March 28th, the CA Senate Governmental Organization (GO) Committee will hold a hearing on SB 384. Now is the time to call in and let them know this bill is harmful, needless, and part of an upsetting trend of kowtowing to industry.
Below, find a list of Senate GO Committee members and their phone numbers. If you need inspiration, a short script is below. Go down the list and ask to speak to a policy staff person about SB 384. It will take 10 minutes to run down the list—but stopping this bill can protect a generation.
|Senate GO Committee Member phone numbers|
|Chairman Steven Glazer||(916) 651-4007|
|Tom Berryhill||(916) 651-4008|
|Steven Bradford||(916) 651-4035|
|Anthony Cannella||(916) 651-4012|
|Bill Dodd||(916) 651-4003|
|Ted Gaines||(916) 651-4001|
|Kathleen Gagliani||(916) 651-4005|
|Jerry Hill||(916) 651-4013|
|Ben Hueso||(916) 651-4040|
|Ricardo Lara||(916) 651-4033|
|Tony Mendoza||(916) 651-4032|
|Anthony Portantino||(916) 651-4025|
|Andy Vidak||(916) 651-4014|
Script to Oppose SB 384
"Hello, my name is [-----NAME-----]. I'm from [-----CITY OR TOWN------], and I urge the senator to oppose SB 384 as it reaches the Senate GO Committee next Tuesday. I oppose SB 384 because it threatens the wellbeing of my neighborhood. Extending alcohol sales hours to 4 a.m. will only benefit bar and restaurant owners, leaving taxpayers the bill for the increased public health and safety risk. This is a critical issue for our state. Thank you for your time."
Alcohol Justice and CAPA sincerely thank everyone who takes the time to be involved. California, for all its differences, is one state, and should stand as one for the health and safety of its citizens.
Most doctors will tell you it’s never too early to stop drinking. According to California State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), however, it’s never too late to keep drinking. Wiener has introduced a bill to the state senate allowing bars and nightclubs to continue serving alcohol until 4 a.m. Wiener claims the bill (SB 384) will promote tourism and generate additional income. However, existing research suggests the extra costs—in law enforcement, health and safety, and quality of life—will far outweigh any tax revenues.
Health research and common sense both suggest that later alcohol service is linked to greater alcohol-related violence, traffic incidents, and emergency room visits. This both costs money and strains emergency services, forcing both law enforcement and medical staffs to operate at higher capacities around the clock. Proponents of the bill contend the bill emphasizes “local control,” but residents of alcohol-outlet dense neighborhood will be disproportionately impacted while any revenue benefits flow up into state coffers or into the pockets of the nightlife industry. Moreover, none of those profits are earmarked for programs to counteract the harm caused by extended drinking. This gap is exacerbated by a law passed by voters in 2010 that makes it effectively impossible for local jurisdictions to generate those funds through charge-for-harm strategies—a bit of bitter irony that local control advocates conveniently ignore.
This is the second go-around for a late-night bar bill. A similar version of was introduced in 2013 by Mark Leno, and defeated thanks to the efforts of community groups and health advocates. “Nothing has changed since 2013,” said Bruce Lee Livingston, Executive Director / CEO of Alcohol Justice. “A bill to allow the sale of alcohol until 4 a.m. will create dangerous new public policy that threatens health and safety throughout California.”
California already bears a higher burden from alcohol-related harm than any other state, including 10,572 dates, 17,700 hospitalizations, and tens of billions of dollars of costs to government and the public. Moreover, researchers are only scratching the surface of the long-term health effects of alcohol. “We just don’t need additional hours of business for this substance,” Alcohol Justice Director of Public Affairs Michael Scippa told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It’s not like selling coffee and doughnuts. This is a substance which is a class one carcinogen.”
Extended bar hours have a proven potential to create lasting damage to individuals and communities, and offer few benefits to average Californians. Alcohol Justice and the California Alcohol Policy Alliance strongly oppose SB 384. Put this dangerous bill to bed.
READ MORE about Alcohol Justice and CAPA’s opposition.
LISTEN to Alcohol Justice Executive Director/CEO Bruce Lee Livingston present his opposition on KQED.
WATCH CAPA's video giving the truth on this unsafe, unhealthy bill.
TAKE ACTION to urge your elected representatives to stop SB 384.
Sheridan County Commission Fails Residents
On January 11, the Sheridan County, NE Board wasted an opportunity to address an unmitigated public health disaster in its back yard. Asked to evaluate the appropriateness of liquor store licenses in Whiteclay, NE—a tiny town of 12 that sells over 3.5 million cans of beer a year, largely to the neighboring, legally dry, Pine Ridge Reservation—the board voted unanimously to recommend reapproval.
Nebraska state government, spearheaded by State Senator Patty Pansing Brooks, has been aggressively pushing for open hearings around the Whiteclay liquor licenses. Key to this process was a recent hearing at which the liquor store owners made the case why their licenses should be renewed. Around 60 attendees made cases for and against reapproval, with the Omaha Journal-Herald reporting that the majority of arguments were against.
The Lincoln Journal-Star provided a rundown of the local ills caused by the flow of alcohol into Pine Ridge. These include unsolved murders, widespread fetal alcohol syndrome disorders, the overloading of local behavioral health and medical services, and lasting damage to the family infrastructure. “It’s in every single one of our families,” Pine Ridge advocate and Alcohol Justice ally Olowan Martinez told the Journal-Star. “No matter how educated, no matter how nice our homes and how good we live. We could be some of the haves, of have-nots, and still be affected by it.”
The Pine Ridge reservation abuts Sheridan County and bears much of the burden of Whiteclay-related alcohol harm, but the price tag is high for the county, too. The Associated Press estimated 1/3 of Sheridan County’s $5.2 million budget goes to costs incurred by alcohol use in Whiteclay. With no local police force, the town is also entirely reliant on the Sheriff’s Department, which has five officers to patrol an area the size of Delaware. This, critics say, makes the region un-policeable, further warranting a revocation of liquor licenses.
Proponents of the liquor stores argued that the responsibility for stopping alcohol harm lies with Pine Ridge and the residents who drink. They also maintained that the police presence, though paltry, was normal for a rural area. The Sheridan County Board concurred, and recommended the licenses be renewed.
The decision was slammed by the editorial staff of the Journal-Star, who called it “reprehensible” and asserted that it “ignored indisputable evidence that adequate law enforcement is absent in Whiteclay.”
The case will come before the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission on March 7, 2017. The three commissioners—Robert Batt, Janice Wiebusch, and Bruce Bailey—will make the final determination as to whether to honor the needs of the residents of Pine Ridge and Sheridan County, or to maintain the cycle of intoxication, exploitation, illness, and waste.
TAKE ACTION: stand with the people of Pine Ridge to shut down the Whiteclay liquor stores.