2017 California Alcohol Legislation Wrapup

the final win-loss tallies for ca alcohol legislationAs the 2017 legislative session wraps up, prevention advocates celebrate a handful of key victories—most notably, the defeat of SB 384, Scott Weiner's reckless 4 a.m. last call bill. But alcohol legislation remains a pressing concern, both in terms of promoting public safety and preventing reckless giveaways to Big Alcohol.

The following bills were of particular import to Alcohol Justice and the California Alcohol Policy Alliance. "Win" means AJ/CAPA supported the bill and it passed, or opposed the bill and it failed. "Loss" means a supported bill failed, or an opposed one passed.

2017 final scores 
AJ: 6 wins, 13 losses
CAPA: 3 wins, 4 losses

In addition, the legislature sometimes reserves the right to revisit bills that stalled in committee in the following year. These two-year bills are listed at the end.


Assembly Bills

AB 63 vetoed

Extends the age range for provisional drivers' licenses from 16 to 21.

AJ and CAPA supported—provisional licenses as part of a Graduated Driver Licensing program are effective at reducing underage drunk driving.


AB 297 signed into law

Authorizes alcohol sales at a wine and cultural museum in Sonoma County.

AJ opposed—if a venue needs a special permit, by definition it is in an area that is overconcentrated with alcohol outlets. New licenses should be issued according to best practices, not on a haphazard, case-by-case basis.

AB 400 signed into law

Allows alcohol sales at pre-ticketed State Capitol events intended to raise awareness of the food and wine of the Sacramento region.

AJ opposed—this bill gives the appearance that the Legislature is favoring the alcohol industry over public health.


AB 471 signed into law

Allows the City of San Francisco to add 30 alcohol licenses (5 per year over 6 years), restricted to specific neighborhoods.

AJ opposed—San Francisco is already the most overconcentrated county in California. Rather than reassign existing licenses to spread outlets out across the city, this bill simply shoehorns in even more.


AB 479 dead

Increases the tax rate on distilled spirits and uses that revenue to eliminate taxes on women's health and hygiene products.

AJ supported—raising alcohol taxes is a time-honored means to reduce alcohol harm.


AB 522 signed into law

Allows nonprofits to receive special temporary licenses in order to hold raffles involving wine or beer.

AJ opposed—alcohol company in-kind donations to nonprofits are a growing and problematic trend, giving the industry free marketing and a positive veneer while costing them less than an outright cash donation.


AB 609 signed into law

Extends an exemption to certain activities allowing licensees to provide free distilled spirits or wine to consumers at invitation-only sales or distribution events.

AJ opposed—this perpetuates the permeation of alcohol into all parts of the waking day.


AB 711 signed into law

Allows beer manufacturers to provide free or discounted rides through taxis and ride-sharing services.

AJ and CAPA opposed—while free rides for people who would drive dangerously is a good thing, these promotions are delivered before the fact—rather than help address acutely intoxicated would-be drivers, they normal overconsumption and encourage recipients to go out and drink dangerously.


AB 997 signed into law

Allows patrons of wineries and/or breweries that are physically adjacent to bring alcohol from one onto the grounds of the other.

AJ opposes—alcohol sellers are supposed to be aware of how much they are serving their patrons. This bill vastly compounds the difficulty of that task.


AB 1046 dead

Classifies soju or shochu of 24% ABV or less as a wine.

AJ opposed—these are very high ABV, nearly tasteless "wines" that are most often used as a cocktail base. This bill lets any distilled spirit producers sell their product at qualifying wine-licensed outlets just by labeling it soju/shochu.


AB 1054 dead

Exempts the use of "palcohol" (powdered alcohol) for certain uses in "nonpowdered products".

AJ and CAPA opposed—this bill tears holes in last year's palcohol ban.


AB 1221 signed into law

Establishes a statewide Responsible Beverage Service training program for California, requiring that all on-sale retailers complete the training. Provides both an overview of state laws and regulations and of the physiological effects of alcohol.

AJ supported—individuals at points-of-sale can play a key role in reducing the harms from alcohol overconsumption. Moreover, these trainings help ensure staff follow existing laws.


AB 1722 signed into law

End prohibition on the issuance of a license, other than an on-sale beer license, for premises situated more than one mile outside the limits of an incorporated city and within 2 miles of any camp or establishment of men, numbering 25 or more, engaged upon or in connection with the construction, repair, or operation of any work, improvement, or utility of a public or quasi-public character.

AJ and CAPA opposed—this was an opaque bill that changed form several times. In the end, however, it increases the number of alcohol outlets, and that will always have a negative impact on public health.



Senate Bills 

SB 65 signed into law

Makes driving, boating, or flying while drinking an alcoholic beverage punishable as an infraction.

AJ and CAPA support—this is a common-sense intervention aimed at reducing drinking and driving (or drinking and boating, or drinking and flying).


SB 228 signed into law

Allows beer on the grounds of a public schoolhouse if it is part of an instructional program in brewing.

AJ opposed—public schoolhouses are primarily intended for the education of children. Allowing alcohol on premises promotes the product and normalizes its consumption. In addition, this bill makes no effort to include public health and safety or RBS training as part of a curriculum directly involving tasting and making alcoholic beverages.


SB 384 dead

Allows local jurisdictions to extend last-call times in bars and restaurants to 4 a.m.

AJ and CAPA opposed—our positions have been made clear elsewhere. Suffice to say that pushing back last-call times creates a more dangerous driving environment; stresses already overtaxed emergency and law enforcement systems; merges early-morning commuter traffic and late-night partier traffic; and creates a lasting environment of overconsumption in a state that has yet to establish a consistent, comprehensive late-night transit plan in any city.

WIN, but this bill will absolutely come back

SB 461 signed into law

Extends a loophole allowing distilled spirit shippers to own certain hotel and motel on-sale stores.

AJ opposed—this extends an existing violation of tied-house laws. Liquor manufacturers should not own on-sale establishments.


SB 582 signed into law

signed into law

Allows for the alcohol industry to purchase advertising space in the new Los Angeles Chargers football stadium, as well as the adjacent performance venue.

AJ and CAPA opposed—alcohol permeates the sports world, and sports advertising is a prime channel for delivering alcohol advertising to kids. Moreover, this bill would allow manufacturers to purchase space from or for on-sale locations, in clear violation of the three-tier system.


SB 611 signed into law

Improves on 2016's legislation requiring ignition interlock devices for individuals convicted of certain forms of driving under the influence.

AJ supported—these laws improve on ignition interlock devices, a smart idea for preventing DUI.


SB 664 signed into law

Allows alcohol manufacturers to purchase advertising on behalf of on-sale licensees at AT&T Park in San Francisco and the Chargers' stadium in Inglewood.

AJ opposed—as with SB 582, sports advertising gives the alcohol industry unfettered access to an underage audience. Moreover, it violates the three-tier system.



Two-Year Bills

These bills will be revisited by the legislature in 2018.

AB 330 

Authorizes the court to order a person convicted of driving under the influence to enroll and participate in, and successfully complete, a qualified “24/7 Sobriety” monitoring program during probation.


AB 629

Allows art galleries to give away wine or beer to patrons.

AJ and CAPA opposed—like last year's dry-bar bill, this would put alcohol in more places where it doesn't need to be. Gallery employees would be furnishing alcohol without any licensing, training, monitoring, or enforcement. The likelihood that this would lead to underage drinkers getting access to alcohol is close to 100%.

SB 254

Allows for companies to deliver alcohol and tobacco, if licensed by ABC.

AJ opposed unless amended—home delivery of alcohol and tobacco is dangerous and depressing, but it already occurs in California. This bill does not specify how delivery personnel will be trained, how age will be verified, limits on time of delivery. Enforcement would be very difficult, a major problem in California's current "easier to ask for forgiveness than permission" business culture.

SB 378

Enhances ABC's ability to investigates violations and take action—including suspending licenses—against alcohol sellers on conditions of imminent threats to health and safety.

AJ and CAPA supported—ABC neeeds greater authority in bringing action against problem retailers. However, the list of threats to health and safety should be extended to include illegal alcohol sales.


 NOTE: Although SB 384, the 4 A.M. bar bill, was gutted and amended and no longer has a bill number, its sponsor, Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) has threatened to revive it in the second year of this session. Though this proposal flies in the face of legislative tradition, we take his threat seriously and urge all allies to remain vigilant. Check for news, updates, and action alerts.

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California’s 4 A.M. Last Call Bill 86’d for Now

Public health & safety grassroots advocacy trumps nightlife industry’s push for greater profit.

CAPA and AJ advocates celebrate the deferral of the late last call billSAN FRANCISCO, CA (September 22, 2017) – California Alcohol Policy Alliance (CAPA), and Alcohol Justice are breathing a hard-fought sigh of relief as the 2017 California legislative session draws to a close because at least one bill was notably, and mercifully, absent—the 4 A.M. Bar Bill.

State Sen. Scott Wiener's SB 384 was a dangerous piece of legislation that would have striped away the standard protections of a normal 2 a.m. closing time. But by the time the bill hit the Assembly floor it had been completely gutted and recast as a bill seeking to reform the state sex offender registry. All reference to the hazardous, entertainment-industry-backed assault on public health and safety laws was gone. It appears that for at least a few more years, bars will close at their normal time.

Even for a bill that seemed destined to be the apple of Big Alcohol’s eye, SB 384 was shrouded in controversy. A resurrection of a failed bill from 2013, SB 384 drew the ire of local health, prevention, and recovery groups as well as MADD and law enforcement organizations that rallied at every opportunity to express strong opposition. They drew the attention and support of a steadily growing chorus of elected representatives, determined to call out the damage their constituents would suffer from an ostensible “local control” bill. Their voices were heard.

Then there were SB 384 supporters’ missteps. Sen. Wiener (D-San Francisco) first tried to compare the opportunity to party late to the struggle of African American communities, appropriating the slogan “Night Life Matters.” He then reinforced the tone deaf approach with red-herring arguments that a 4 a.m. last call could’ve prevented the Ghost Ship tragedy.

With the help of shoddy science and a flurry of amendments that were hidden from the public until well after the bill was voted on, Wiener ushered SB 384 through the State Senate and the Assembly GO Committee. However, it would go no further as the 4 A.M. Bar Bill.

“While Senator Wiener did a masterful job in the Senate at pulling the wool over his colleagues’ eyes, he ran into the truth in the Assembly Appropriations Committee,” said Jorge Castillo, spokesperson for the Los Angeles Drug and Alcohol Policy Alliance. “His denial of peer reviewed research on increasing alcohol-related harm and his constant crowing about the virtually worthless ‘local control’ process were finally challenged.”

The end came in two steps. First, the bill was held up in the Assembly Appropriations committee. The committee had real concerns over its projected costs—both in terms of government spending and lives lost—and dramatically reshaped it into a task force intended to study the long-term effects of state-sanctioned early-morning drinking.

“Smart minds prevailed … in the Assembly Appropriations Committee as SB 384 was gutted, and gutted well for very good reasons,” said Richard Zaldivar, Executive Director of The Wall Las Memorias Project and Chair of CAPA. “That bill was bad for California residents, their public health, and public safety. The people of California won.”

Next, possibly alarmed by what a new task force could find, or possibly deciding he had more urgent legislative priorities, Sen. Wiener then withdrew all alcohol-related language from the bill (he later told the San Francisco Chronicle, “There is nothing to study”); the gutted-and-amended SB 384, now addressing problems with the sex offender registry, passed both chambers.

Unfortunately, the end for the bill this year does not mean the end for the struggle to contain alcohol harm. Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle, Wiener said he was, “…not giving up on this bill. We are going to bring the bill back next year and limit it only to cities… that want the ability to make the change.” According to Wiener those cities are San Francisco, West Hollywood, Long Beach, Oakland, and Sacramento.

“That’s just ridiculous,” said Bruce Lee Livingston, Executive Director/CEO of Alcohol Justice. “California cities aren’t islands. Dangerous driving, assault, fatigue, and health problems will have no problems crossing city limits into every neighboring community.”

In those respects, then, Sen. Wiener is partially right: in this era of rampant deregulation, Alcohol Justice and the California Alcohol Policy Alliance do not need a new study to know they need to fight to keep common-sense public health protections in place, including a uniform, normal, statewide 2 a.m. last call.

Senate Fails California, Passes Last-Call Bill; Time to Rally the Assembly

because more of people falling in the street is exactly what California needsIn a senseless and short-sighted 27-9 vote, the California State Senate approved SB 384, the bill that would keep bars open to 4 a.m. and undermine public safety across the state. The vote came just days after the Senate Appropriations Committee agreed, following closed-door meetings, to release the bill despite the millions in state costs it would incur. Now it is up to the citizens of California to make their Assembly members stand up and stop the bill.

“The Senate should be embarrassed that they let this bill even make it to floor,” said Michael Scippa, Alcohol Justice Public Affairs Director, “let alone that they passed it.”

Extending last call times pose a number of hazards to public well-being. First and foremost, they extend drinking times and bring the most intoxicated people together in close proximity. This leads to increases in incapacitated drivers, crashes, violence, and victimization, as well as noise, nuisance, and property damage in the neighborhoods near late-closing bars.

More subtly, it stresses the resource of ERs, medics, and law enforcement personnel, who now have to spend more time dealing with the aftermath of drinking with no time to reset. It burnishes the tax coffers of urban areas willing to extend hours while severely impacting small suburban municipalities with damage and fatalities “party commuters” driving home. And with workaday commuters traveling ever longer hours, it sends impaired drivers headlong into rush hour traffic.

Most insidious, however, is the fact that this bill really only creates a major boon for large nightlife promoters while creating a pressure for smaller bars to stay open whether or not they want to. By stripping a simple and sensible public health regulation—one that has stood for decades without any substantive complaints—California shows a willingness to crumple to the slightest pressure from wealthy lobbies even while public health services are constantly cut.

The Senate may have failed in its duty to represent the interests of California citizens, but the fate of SB 384 is far from determined. “The Senate may have ignored science and common sense,” Mr. Scippa said, “but there is still time for the grown-ups in the room to act.”

Alcohol Justice urges concerned Californians to contact their member of the Assembly and make it clear how 4 a.m. last call times hurt the community. California needs politicians to stand up against alcohol money and preserve public health and safety.

TAKE ACTION to contact your member of the Assembly and tell them to Stop 384.

READ MORE about the moral bankruptcy and manipulative cynicism behind SB 384.

READ MORE about the harms from extending last call times.

Major UK/Australian Report Confirms: Nothing Good Happens After Midnight

Restricting access to alcohol—including limiting hours of sale—changes both the physical access and the psychology of alcohol use, researchers say.

Cover graphic for the FARE/IAS report on alcohol access best practices

The United States faces constant erosion of alcohol access policies thanks to the political influence of the alcohol industry. American legislators are not alone in facing this soft-power onslaught. In 2005, England and Wales allowed 24-hour liquor sale licenses, a dramatic change from their previous 11 p.m. last-call times. Meanwhile, the Australian parliament is spinning its wheels trying to enact liquor law reforms, with most meaningful legislation coming at the local level. A powerful new joint report from the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) and the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) lays out some straightforward and effective access policies for Australia and the UK. These policies do not just set a practical standard for alcohol regulation in those countries, they encompass a set of best practices for all regulators worldwide.

FARE/IAS make the important case that alcohol access restrictions' power do not derive from denying alcohol to interested purchasers. Instead, they change the context of alcohol use. If customers have to go to a specific store to buy liquor, as opposed to purchasing gin along with their Cheerios, it both reduces impulse purchases (and consequently impulse use) and creates a psychological firewall that can reduce overall drinking. Moreover, access laws meant to address one alcohol harm often bleed over on to others. The report notes that policies meant to address intoxicated driving also seem to depress domestic violence—the awareness of drinking as potentially dangerous inspires self-control.

With this in mind, the authors recommend certain forms of alcohol sale limitations as "best buys," including:

  • ending the sales of alcohol for off-site consumption at 10 p.m.
  • ending sales for on-site consumption at midnight
  • stronger regulation and monitoring of off-site sales, including "quarantining" alcohol away from other food products
  • improve community access to regulators and licensing bodies
  • requiring alcohol license applicants responsible for proving their business will cause minimal harm, rather than having to wait until harm occurs to pull a license
  • replacing industry-designed and industry-sponsored voluntary "regulations" with evidence-based policies

The report also includes a scorecard of existing policies throughout Australia and the UK, grading policies on body of evidence for effectiveness, resource intensiveness, and ease of institution. As the authors point out, the answers are there, if politicians will just show the will to embrace them.